Reach those 2013 Goals without goal setting

Happy New Year! It’s always great to launch into another year; put the last behind and start afresh – of course, remembering what worked last year and learning from what didn’t – kicking off the New Year with renewed ambition and a whole new set of targets. It will be great to pull the team together and lay out the grand battle plan; 2012 was good but now let’s set the bar higher and get everyone working towards bigger goals – it’s an exciting time!

Now for the bad news – goal setting just doesn’t work.

Let me qualify that. Of course every good sales manager sets goals and of course these goals need to be communicated to the whole team concerned with achieving them. However these goals or sales targets in themselves have very little potential to generate the behaviour required to achieve the goals. If I can talk a little about the psychology of selling – after all that’s my main game! – sales targets have very weak motivational power for sales representatives who are experienced and capable; these representatives are in a comfortable space (relatively speaking,) and simply setting a larger sales target for them will not influence their work methodology greatly.

After all, what generates more leads and sales? Prospecting; and prospecting is seriously hard work. As a task in itself prospecting isn’t a huge amount of fun; it requires effort, discipline and resilience to stick with it until results start to flow from it. When a representative starts out fear of failure is a massive motivation to keep on prospecting hard. The situation of having no leads, no sales, no network of referrals or existing clients is extremely fear provoking and exerts a powerful pushing force upon the representative. Once a representative becomes more established, builds networks and has momentum from previous work generating ongoing sales then they find themselves in a safer place. They have moved some distance from the source of their fear which is no longer a powerful motivator. Motivations are now primarily about maintenance of this happy state.

How to encourage a representative in the “happy” zone to achieve more? Goal setting only provides a weak pulling force on the representative’s behaviour – not a pushing one. Anyone with a mechanical bent will know that it is much easier to push things than pull them.

In my sales training program Emotions in Selling I explain the Action Continuum to describe the process of motivation as it applies to understanding how prospects move to a decision to purchase. The psychology of this process also applies equally well to understanding how sales representatives make a decision to change their existing practice and perceive their own goals or “wants.”

Just as I train representatives to understand how and why prospects do or don’t make decisions to buy or in effect move from the position they are in I also like to help sales managers understand what motivates – and also demotivates – representatives from moving from the selling space they are in.

Those who have taken my Emotions in Selling course will readily understand why it can be difficult to motivate individuals to take a course of action which will actually benefit them – you are in effect asking the individual to cross a barrier; possibly even two barriers. And as is the case with prospects, even experienced sales professionals are subject to these same emotions and barriers.

Understanding why goal setting doesn’t work (or perhaps more fairly, why goal setting is a weak change driver,) is the first step. Knowing how to transform those goals into powerful change mechanisms is, of course, the answer to the $64- question; that’s a story for another blog ….


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