Sales Effectiveness : How to Always Reach Your Goals!

Antoni Girod

Published : 8 January 2018
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The title of this article sounds like a beautiful promise… maybe even too beautiful for your critical thinking. How could we always achieve our goals in the current context!? In the midst of so much competition, surrounded by increasingly demanding customers and with political uncertainties threatening to upset entire industries overnight, this promise is indeed hard to believe. However, let me reiterate. It is possible to do just what the title suggests. You only need to aim at the right targets. There are goals over which you don’t have control and goals over which you can have control. It all comes down to the distinction between outcome oriented goals and process oriented goals.


Traditional outcome goals are outside of your control



We all know the technique of increasing the business achievements of the previous year by 10% to set new business goals for the year to come. This way of doing things is quite understandable. When you run a business it’s hard to settle for the status quo. That’s because in the long run, the company will sink without a minimum of growth. It is therefore natural for the average CEO to ask their troops, year after year, to seek additional turnover and/or market shares.


Three problems with outcome goals



First, their achievement does not depend only on the talent of those attempting to reach them. In sales the result as such is not controllable. You could be a world class seller, if your customers decide to say no, they will say no. In addition, macroeconomics or politics can impact your market and therefore your results – in one way or another – without talent having much of anything to do with it.

  • Think, for example, of the people who sold protective masks during the bird flu epidemic … They had great results but it did not have much to do with their talent.
  • Now take the example of sales people selling products whose legislation changes overnight and are taken off the market. They will have bad results but it will probably not have much to do with their talent either.

Let us also keep in mind that once out of the Big Boss’s office, these outcome goals cascade down to the lower levels, from middle managers to local managers, and are eventually translated into individual goals for salespeople working on the field. Security margins will be taken along the way and the sum total of these individual goals will end up being greater than the initial goal… That’s how ambitious goals end up turning into unrealistic goals. In sales, success stories happen when people get results far exceeding their objectives. Their goals were set well below what they eventually achieved. If they had only settled for their initial goals, they would have missed out on much better results. Bottom line:

  • Sales results as such cannot be controlled
  • Goals set too high can be daunting
  • Goals set too low can be meaningless


Setting proper outcome goals is extremely difficult and the impact they have on the people supposed to reach them varies a great deal.


Long live process goals!



The best athletes, especially in individual sports, focus primarily on the process, i.e. on how to execute their movements and techniques. Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson, two very famous golf coaches have this expression:

Perfection is a succession of achievable things brought together with so much continuity that their simplicity is lost in the magnitude of the result.

If you went over it too fast, read this sentence again. With excellence being their subject matter, the authors still put forward the notion of simplicity. To win a professional tournament you have to be really good. And that’s because this type of goal is so ambitious that these two coaches do everything to get the minds of their students away from the result. The result will only be the consequence of a perfectly executed process, repeated over and over. Contrary to a reflex common in the corporate world, high level sport does everything to put the focus first and foremost on the process. Once athletes manage to take their thoughts away from the scoreboard and their mind is 100% set on executing the task at hand, they are finally focusing their attention on something they can control.

What goals for salespeople?

In summary, outcome goals point to a desire and a destination, but it is not enough. Obsessing over these goals will not help you reach them. On the other hand, once your ambition is delineated, the key questions to ask are:

  • What should I accomplish to get there?
  • What are the systematic actions that I need to implement?
  • What skills are needed to do it?
  • How should I organize myself?
  • What types of actions should I focus my energy on?
  • What should I not do anymore?
  • etc.

Asking these questions about all the key aspects of your business formula is constructive, reassuring and stimulating.

Constructive because you will have to carefully consider the steps needed to succeed. You probably know them, but are you actually putting them into practice? Are you implementing them thoroughly and in a professional way? Are you sure you are not sidestepping any of them?

Reassuring because once things are put on paper, organized in a logical and systematic way, the mirage of the inaccessible dissipates. Clearly seeing the way, the steps and the organization to follow gives us serenity and reinforces our ability to do what must be done to stack the odds on our side.

Stimulating because by setting the right goals, you can aim for excellence. It is exciting to discover that in business, as in sports, excellence is the consequence of a succession of achievable things brought together with so much continuity that their simplicity is lost in the magnitude of the result! (I love this quote…)

Now it’s all up to you!

What’s your business formula?

What are your process goals?


Have a great sales day!

Antoni Girod

© copyright Halifax Consulting


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