Setting Annual Sales Goals are a Waste of Time
How about that shocking headline? Did it grab you? Well, there is some meat behind the sensationalism. Buckle in and let’s go…
I recently was interviewed by Print+Promo magazine for one of those Executive Perspectives columns, and one of the questions was about setting annual sales goals with my sales force. My answer probably wasn’t what he was expecting. I said:
For a couple of decades, I was a fierce goal setter and insisted my sales people set and strive for specific annual goals. We’d meet in early January each year, review print-outs of sales reports with monthly sales broken out for key clients and go through each one, making copious notes about who booked what and how much and when, and discussed the likelihood of repeat business, of account penetration, of hitting certain numbers in down months and we added all these up for each client, compared them with previous results and arrived at a mutually satisfactory annual sales goal based on past history and account prospecting plans with a modest increase. Lots of brain power, lots of calculating. And lots of completely wasted time. Because at the end of each year, what actually ended up happening bore little resemblance to what we set out to accomplish 12 months earlier. Clients were promoted or terminated or died, budgets were slashed and accounts were lost and gained… life happened. And life is unpredictable.
I eventually realized that setting annual sales goals is a complete waste of time, and this is a kind of shocking perspective for a sales manager to have. I don’t set sales goals with my team any more. The time and effort expended in this area are better used looking inward, gauging attitudes and capabilities, striving to better and to improve who you are to your clients, at strengthening the relationships and beginning new ones.
At the opposite end of this spectrum are those who are completely oblivious to what they are booking annually… which makes their potential limitless! Last year I hired a new account executive for HALO in the spring and asked her how much she books annually in sales. “I don’t know,” she said, which always baffles me, but she honestly didn’t know. She had worked for a small distributorship that didn’t tally up and release that info. They merely paid out the commission and it seemed to be enough for her, so she plugged along, working hard and being excellent. I put her down for a minimal $150,000 in sales per year and if it happened to be more, I would adjust my numbers later. After one week at HALO, I called her and asked her if this week had been unusual or if she always booked that many orders. She told me it was a typical week for her and I told her that she was at least a $500K producer. She was pleased with that, and I was pretty thrilled too. After the first month, I called her again and again asked if this first month with us was at all out of the ordinary and she again confirmed this had been a “business as usual” month. That's when I told her she was a million dollar producer. She booked $850K with us last year, and this year – her first full year at HALO – she’s heading toward that million.
Not knowing what you are capable of means you are capable of anything. Now that she knows she’s a million dollar producer, she’ll book a million dollars every year, year in and year out. But I have to wonder, if I didn’t identify and label her, if she may have booked $2 million this year or next year?
That’s kind of crazy, isn’t it? I have a bunch of $400,000 producers. They know they are $400,000 producers, and that’s how much they produce. They don’t grow too much, they don’t shrink too much. If they lose one client, they find one new client. They do what is expected of them. They’ve been categorized and identified, and this is who they are.
Don’t kill yourself setting goals and limiting who you are. Each day is an opportunity for excellence—to be better than yesterday, to reach out and help someone and find a solution and make the world a better place for branded merchandise. Goals are wishful thinking based on what happened last year and what might happen this year. Go out there and be superb. Help your clients, find new clients and help them, be better today than yesterday, be better this week than last week, than last month, than last year. Kill it every single day. You’ll find immense satisfaction in being the primary resource of promotional products and brand expansion for your best clients. The dollars will come quickly and easily if you are that person to those people, you are always positive, always moving, always growing—like a shark.
That’s the goal each of us needs, and if that’s still shocking, so be it.
Be Bold. Be Different. Be Memorable.
Rick Greene, MAS, is the western regional vice president of HALO Branded Solutions, a past president of SAAC and on the PPB Editorial Advisory Board. His comic fantasy novels “Boofalo!” and “Shroom!” are available on Amazon.com. Buy one! Or Both!! Or all three, even!