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6 Steps to Setting and Achieving Sales Goals

Your 6-Step Guide to Setting and Achieving Sales Goals

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Written by John Doerr
Co-Founder, RAIN Group

Achieving your goals isn't a slam dunk. Can you do what it takes to meet them?

I recently started going to a personal trainer. At the beginning of our very first session, she asked, "So, what are you trying to accomplish?"

"To get in better shape?", I hesitantly answered.

"Well, without a clear goal, you will not be able to see your progress, you will lose momentum, and we won't be able to see if the training is paying off."

"In that case, to fit in my suits from last year and to grab rebounds in my basketball games without getting pushed around."

"Now, we are talking."

Over the years I've seen many salespeople (and sales managers and companies) get goal planning, action planning, and commitment right, and I've seen many fall short. Without a clear goal, they don't know where they're headed. Any path will get them there.

Free Download: Goal Setting Worksheet

In my experience, only two things set apart those who live by goals and those who don't. Salespeople who live by goals:

  1. Know where they're headed
  2. Commit to a goals routine

First, people who have goals know where they want to go. You might be thinking, "I wish it were that simple…I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up, and never have." It's not my purpose here in a short blog post to guide you in discovering your inner purpose, although mine is to work with a gentle breeze blowing across my keyboard as I gaze out at the shimmering waters of the Atlantic.

Read: 8 Tips for Beating Your Sales Goals this Year

If you're searching for your destination, contrary to what you might read in others' writings about goals, you don't have to sort out your entire life purpose in order to achieve in sales. All you need to do is set a target for yourself—that can be as simple as an annual sales target—and to have a good answer for the question, "Does my entire being scream with a desire to achieve this goal? Will I be in agony and turmoil until I do?"

If the answer is yes, then you're in great shape to get started. (Perhaps you don't need all the angst and agony, but salespeople who are not dissatisfied with where they are don't often make it to the next level.) Here are several goal setting examples. 

The second similarity is they commit to a goals routine.

6 Steps to Achieving Sales Goals

Here's a roadmap we suggest you follow:

Sometimes when we're working with salespeople to craft their goals and actions they get hung up on having "the right template" or detailed tracking mechanism, and since they don't have it, they don't even get started. Don't fret too much about the tracking sheet, but do concentrate on taking a step toward your goal every day. If you're looking for a template, you can download our Goal Setting Worksheet.

6 Ways to Stay Motivated Over the Long Haul

Accountability is huge when it comes to meeting sales goals. That's why so many of these steps revolve around reviewing progress and getting back on track if you're slipping. It's all about sustaining long term motivation.

The challenges are real: distractions and interruptions are everywhere, you have less structure around your day, and it’s easy to procrastinate and fall into bad habits. The good news is these are challenges you can address. You can build your motivation like a muscle to achieve your sales goals.

1. Plan actions weekly

Get clear on the tasks you’re going to complete and plan for them. It’s called task clarity, and a study published in Harvard Business Review reveals it’s the most motivating factor among those studied. Your actions might be prospecting, writing proposals, learning how to collaborate with buyers online, and so on. Spending 20 minutes a week planning your weekly actions is enough to provide focus, give you task clarity, and help you feel motivated to take action.

2. Calendar your investment time

We know from psychological studies and our own client work that if you put something on your calendar, you’re much more likely to do it.

Block out time to devote to your investment activities—the actions that will bring you closer to achieving your goals. For example, this could be conducting an online collaboration session with stakeholders at your top account, or doing prospect outreach, or building an interactive virtual proposal presentation to win a major opportunity.

What’s investment time for you will depend on your goals. Putting investment activities on your calendar will reduce procrastination and help you get started.

3. Put your greatest impact activity (GIA) first

Don’t just calendar your investment time, put your most important activity first in your day. This is the one activity that, should you do it consistently at high quality, will get you the greatest eventual return on your time investment. Put your GIA first and you get it done. It also tends to lead to more time focusing on investment activities and less time spent elsewhere.

4. Talk to yourself with positive self-talk

Sometimes what’s holding you back from being proactive is…you. To change a belief, change how you talk to yourself. This can be as simple as reframing what you’re telling yourself.

For example, instead of, “I’m terrible at leading virtual sales meetings,” tell yourself, “Joe, you need to learn what a great sales meeting looks like, then you can learn to lead one.” (Using the third-person format of the positive statement is even more effective than first-person.) If you think you can’t, you won’t even bother to start. But if you think you can, you’re more likely to do it.

5. Say “3… 2… 1… Go!” to get started on any task

Positive self-talk can get you in the right mindset and rapid activation talk can help you start. As soon as you think about an important task that you should be doing, say “3… 2… 1… Go!” and immediately get started.

You have a short amount of time to begin before your brain tells you “that’s too hard.” The counting interrupts that shutdown and once you get started on the task, you’re more likely to continue.

6. Say “When I, Then I” and add “Will I?” to change your habits

For example, you might say, “When I turn on my computer in the morning, then I will get started immediately on prospecting and not read the news stories.” If this an important habit for you to change, ask yourself in the morning, “Will I actually focus on my greatest impact activity and avoid the news stories when I begin work?” Adding “Will I?” to the “When I, Then I” makes the practice even more powerful.

As I write this post, I still can't fit into those suits, but Dwight Howard has nothing on me under the boards.

Last Updated August 21, 2023

Topics: Sales Performance Improvement Extreme Productivity