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How to Use Goals to Create a High-Performance Sales Culture

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Download his white paper, "Aligning Culture and Talent with Strategy."



Most sales organizations are constantly setting new goals. Setting goals is one thing, but achieving them is another. In fact, we at LSA Global have yet to meet a sales leader who is totally happy with his or her team’s performance against stated goals.

Research about high-performance cultures has shown that, in order to be effective, goals must meet four criteria:

1) The goal must be simple enough to be clearly understood.

Overly complicated or ambiguous goals are doomed from the get-go. If your team members can’t understand what the goal is, they’ll never latch on to it.

Don’t confuse simplicity with easily accomplished. . Sir Edmund Hillary’s goal was to be the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest – simple and clear, but certainly not easy to accomplish.

2) The goal must be (just) achievable.

If goals are too easy, they’re not very useful. On the other hand, if goals are seen as impossible, your team will only end up discouraged and frustrated. Remember that goals are not one-size-fits-all. What is achievable for one person or team may be out of reach for another.  While reaching the summit of Everest is certainly achievable with the right preparation, determination, skill, and support (658 people summited last year), it is not an achievable goal for the vast majority of the population.

3) The goal must be meaningful.

People look to leaders for a vision and to help them become part of something bigger than they could achieve alone. If you cannot tie your goal to anything meaningful, you won’t inspire the necessary enthusiasm among your team to struggle to achieve it.  To have a fair chance at conquering Everest, where 1 in 10 people loses his or her life, the endeavor must make profound sense to you and your family physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

4) The goal must be worth fighting for.

Goals require work and discipline. When the chips are down and the road ahead still looks long, people must be able to revisit their intention to achieve the goal and say, “This will be worth it. I will do what it takes to prevail.”

Some organizations have not gotten the memo about goals, and they wonder why their teams are underperforming. More often than not, we find in these types of organizations that leaders are setting goals that are unclear, meaningless, impossible to achieve, too easy to achieve, or not seen as worth the effort in the eyes of their people. (If this describes your organization, you might want to check out our white paper, “Is Your Strategy Clear Enough to Act? Probably Not,” which details seven warning signs that your company is suffering from strategic ambiguity.)

The next time you set a goal for your team, make sure it’s simple, achievable, meaningful, and worth fighting for. When you are crystal clear about where your organization is headed and how you’re going to get there, you can see amazing results from the top of the world. 

Hear Tristam Brown speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference on May 5-6 in San Francisco.

What are some lessons you've learned about setting goals for your team? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 


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Dan Enthoven

That "just" achievable is key. You want to push your team to excel but if you set the bar too too high they won't hit it, and that can kill morale. Just attainable gives them something to shoot for but gives them a real chance of meeting that goal.


Surely there is a fifth...

The goal must be Timely: Business goals and objectives just don’t get done when there's no time frame tied to the goal-setting process. Whether your business goal is to increase revenue by 20% or find 5 new clients, you need to bring focus to the task by setting a time-frame to accomplish the goal.

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