How to set the right goals

This is a guest post by Timo Rein, the co-founder and CEO of Pipedrive. Every self-help book, motivational seminar and sales training weekend hammers the idea of goal setting into us. The reason for this is that setting a solid goal adds tremendous power to your efforts - whether it be growing the number of customers you have at your startup, or setting a number for how many new conversations you need to start next month.

I’m 90% sure that you’re setting the wrong type of sales goals - and so did we in the past. What do I mean by that? Most companies set result-oriented goals. While you need to keep an eye on how you perform, you shouldn’t put the result-goals in focus, because they simply won’t help you grow your business. Here’s why.

There are good and bad goals

Did you know that more than 80 percent of companies set the wrong kinds of goals for their sales staff? Goals that you can’t possibly meet? In a recent study, it was shown that setting results-oriented goals made achieving those very results nearly impossible.

Think about it, if a VP of Sales could directly manage revenue, then every salesperson in the world would be filling their bathtubs with gold coins. Of course, and rather unfortunately, this doesn’t happen. The reality is that we can’t control results - we can only manage our own actions.

The good news is you can achieve astounding sales results by setting activity goals. In fact, the results that come out of carefully planned and managed activities can far exceed any results-oriented goal you may have set in the past. If you’ve set up a sales management system for yourself and your team, you can easily measure the difference activity goals make.

A blast from the past

Imagine a bookseller who sets a goal to sell $1,000 in books each day. What if he sold nothing after talking to 17 people? What if prospect number 17 happened to be a very harsh rejection? It would get you down and make it harder to keep going. Take it from us, before we founded Pipedrive, we got our start in sales in exactly this way.

Now, what if the same bookseller had an activity goal of talking to 20 prospects each day. Even if 17 were to say no, it wouldn’t matter - he would only have three prospects left to talk to.

Ironically, when you take your focus off the results and put it on activities, you start feeling better, and become more effective. Take Michael Phelps as an example. When he dives into the Olympic pool, his mind is not on the gold medal at the other end. His focus is on getting every move right - exactly like he’s done it a thousand times before during training. If he gets every move right, only then will the gold be in his reach - and that much he knows.

You get results by focusing on the things you can do, not on the things you can’t do anything about

Everyone you start a sales conversation with will not end up buying from you. It’s a matter of putting the right number of conversations into the front end of your pipeline and managing them along the way to ensure the right number of closed deals come out of the far end. It’s not that you never think about your desired results, it’s just that you don’t let them monopolize your focus.

So instead of worrying about a specific result, set an activity goal to initiate 10 new conversations and make 4 demos every day, for example. You don’t know which of the 50 people in your sales pipeline will end up converting into a sale. The goal is to focus on making a powerful and effective presentation to each and every prospect, instead of worrying about what may or may not happen with the conversion.

Setting solid activity goals will build your confidence and reduce the sting of rejection. When you take your focus off of what might happen and put it on the activities that you can do, you’ll find yourself exceeding any expectation of results you could ever have hoped of achieving.

Start setting activity goals now

There are two things you can do already today to get started with setting activity goals:

  1. Count the average number of your key activities including meetings, emails, follow-up calls, new conversations initiated per week, or per day, etc.
  2. Set yourself daily and weekly activity goals based on how you’re doing compared to your current business and revenue results. You can use the Sales Pipeline Calculator for this.

One final tip I have for you is to start tracking your progress and the impact the activity goals make by making use of a web based CRM we built for SMEs and growing businesses. If you have comments or questions, feel free to post a comment below, or get in touch via twitter.

About the author: Timo Rein is the co-founder and CEO of Pipedrive. Timo has 15+ years of sales pipeline experience as a salesman, sales manager, and software entrepreneur. Before co-founding Pipedrive he helped to build a leading sales and management training house in the Baltics and was among the top 1% of door-to-door salesmen with Southwestern Company.