Every year, right after Christmas, Christina Richter heads down to her local craft store and purchases what she calls her “vision board.” It’s really just a big yellow poster board, but she immediately starts filling it with goals she wants to achieve in the coming year.
“I write down ideas and cut out photos from magazines that help me visualize what I want,” explains Richter, who is director of business development at CRI, a recruitment outsourcing firm. In the past, she has pasted $100 bills on the board to remind her of her financial goals. She has included a picture of a man and woman holding hands on a beach to emphasize what she’s working toward: a dream trip to Costa Rica with her husband. She has even jotted down words like “serenity” and “peaceful” to prevent her from getting consumed by the ceaseless demands of her sales job.
“I look at the phrases and images on my vision board every day,” says Richter. “It keeps me focused and reminds me why I get up every morning.”
Keith Rosen, an executive sales coach and author of Time Management for Sales Professionals, believes it is essential for salespeople to begin each year by creating “a personal navigation system” similar to Richter’s vision board. “It’s the system you use to navigate through life, which encompasses your vision, goals, and routine, providing you with a clear sense of purpose and direction,” he says. “Having the end result clarified in your mind and on paper before you become consumed by your daily responsibilities will make the process of reaching bigger goals easier and more enjoyable.”
Here are seven vital strategies for setting and achieving your sales goals for 2010:
- Get Rid of Old Goals. It’s very tempting to recycle the same old goals, especially ones you haven’t reached. “I seriously suggest just letting go of recycled goals you’ve had for several years, because they become like a ball and chain, holding you back,” says Kimberly George, author of Coaching into Greatness: 4 Steps to Success in Business and Life. She suggests that these goals might be unrealistic to begin with, like saying you will achieve $1 million in sales when you have never surpassed $100,000 in your life. Or they might be goals you have inherited from a boss or colleague that are not right for you personally, causing you to consciously or subconsciously resist them.
- Set a Manageable Number of Goals. A resolution, notes Keith Rosen, is defined as the process of reducing to simpler form. “That brings us to the paradox of resolution,” he says. “Instead of simplifying our lives, we wind up dumping more tasks, goals, or projects on our to-do list thinking that our lives will be more fulfilling and successful in the new year.” What we are left with, though, is the sense of being overwhelmed. “I typically set no more than five goals each year just to keep things simple and focus my energies,” says Lori Richardson, president of Score More Sales, a sales effectiveness organization.
- Clearly Define Your Goals. It’s great that you want to make more money and be more successful this year, but the problem is there is nothing specific behind those goals. “I recommend establishing a set of daily, weekly, and monthly benchmarks that help you measure and manage your ultimate goal,” says George. For instance, if you have a sales target of $1 million, don’t focus on the actual dollars, but rather on the activities that will help you reach that mark. Identify and measure several key success indicators, such as the number of follow-up appointments you’ve made this week or the number of networking events you’ve attended, as a way of knowing where you are right now and where you need to go.
- Establish an Effective Routine. Let the daily actions you take toward achieving your goals be the reward, not just the end result. This will allow you to actually enjoy the journey and not just obsess about the future. “Design a weekly routine that complements your goals so you can focus on the activities that support your objectives and enhance your lifestyle,” suggests Rosen. He adds that a well-planned routine will keep you focused, eliminate distractions, reduce stress, and enable you to manage the daily tasks that will bring you to your goals.
- Make Your Goals Public. When you share your goals with others, you become more vested in their outcome and ultimate success. “We break commitments to ourselves all the time, but once we inform friends, family, and colleagues of our goals, the stakes are instantly raised,” says Lori Richardson, author of Change the Way You See Sales — for Women — Through Asset-Based Thinking. You’re less likely to back away from your goals without giving it a lot of thought and reasoning first. What’s more, by trusting others with your goals, you acquire a support group that can spur you on to success.
- Don’t Set Goals Longer than a Year. It’s all too easy to lose momentum if your goals exceed a year. As humans, we tend to lose interest in things that are too far in the future. “Life moves exceedingly fast, and we need to be equally responsive” says Rosen. “When we set our goals, we have all the intention in the world of following through with them, but life gets in the way and things change very quickly.” He believes you can overcome this by setting concrete, focused goals each year and building a set of daily actions that allows you to achieve them.
- Alter Your Goals When Necessary. Don’t hesitate to reassess your goals on a quarterly basis. That should give you enough time to gauge whether the desired results are showing up, and help you avoid frustration and constantly second-guessing yourself. “Think of your goals as if they were a sail of a boat,” says Richardson. “You can alter the course while still heading in the same general direction.” For example, if your goal is to set up ten face-to-face meetings each month, but you are only getting eight meetings, that might be okay if it turns out you are closing a higher number of deals than anticipated.
For expert advice from Keith Rosen himself on meeting your sales goals, check out Meet Your Sales Goals by Learning to Honor the Process.