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  What would you recommend for goal-setting for sales managers?
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by Dave Kahle
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Great question. This one came during my "time management - goal setting" virtual seminar in November. The seminar focused on goal-setting for sales people, and this question is clearly from a sales manager - an issue that I never addressed during the program.

I believe a sales manager should be involved in goal setting in two ways. First, the sales manager needs to insure that all of his/her salespeople have well designed goals. Second, the sales manager needs to have a series of goals for his/her own performance and growth.

I don't want to belabor the point about why setting goals is a powerful exercise for salespeople. We discussed that in the seminar. Let me just emphasize that an effective sales manager makes sure that all the salespeople have well done, motivating goals.

Now, what about goals for the sales manager, apart from those of his/her group?

Generally, there is no need for performance goals, because those have already been determined by the composite of the performance goals of the salespeople. The sales manager, for example, has no need to create a sales goal, because the sales goal is the sum of the sales goals for each of the salespeople this manager supervises. It has already been done.

But there are two other classes of goals that could make a difference in the life and performance of the sales manager: Activity goals and personal development goals.

Activity goals delineate the kinds of activities that the person wants to engage in. For example, a sales manager may decide to commit to activities like these:

  • work one day a month with each salesperson
  • call each salesperson on the phone at least once a week
  • have a formal planning session with each salesperson monthly
  • get to know the families of every salesperson.

Notice that each of these goals are not measured by results. The computer cannot measure the invoices that are created by calling each salesperson on the phone once a week.

However, each of these describes an activity, something the sales manager does, over and over, in a committed and measurable way, that indirectly leads to results. These are activities that are good things to do and that the manager believes will bring about results.

Why bother with activity goals? For many of the same reasons that it's good for salespeople to commit to goals. The world in which we live is constantly pressuring us to spend our energy in different ways. We are constantly enticed to more and more trivia. Ask any sales manager how easy it is to discover, one day, that you have spent most of the week dealing with administrative trivia and not doing a thing to improve the performance of the salespeople. It happens constantly. Without a commitment to those activities that you know to be highly effective, you'll find yourself rendered ineffective by the press of the urgent and the enticement of the trivial.

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So, once a year or so, think about what are the most important things to do, what are the activities that you want to commit to. Than make a commitment to a measurable quantity of those things. Create a written goal to "work once a month with every salesperson," or "call every sales person once a week." That process will be a big step forward in your productivity by keeping you focused on the processes that bring results.

The second kind of goal to create are those dealing with personal development. These are goals that spur us to become better, more competent and more valuable people. They articulate an improvement in skills, the acquisition of competencies, the addition of knowledge or the participation in learning events that you would like to achieve this year. I'll explain each.

Improvement in job-related skills. You may, at the beginning of the year, decide that you really do need to do better at coaching your salespeople. That's a skill that takes time and practice to develop and that helps you do better at the job you are doing. So, when you decide to improve in this area, you make a commitment to improve a skill that directly impacts your job.

Acquisition of collateral competencies. These are things that you learn that improve your value to the company and qualify you to do something other than the job you have. For example, you may decide to improve your strategic planning skills. Not that you use these skills that much in the job that you have, but it's a competency that will make you more valuable to the company. And, who knows, if you become CEO one day, you'll need that.

Addition of knowledge. You decide learn things that you don't now know. Knowledge is different than skills. For example, you can determine to improve your knowledge of a certain product line or a market segment. That's knowledge. Improving your coaching ability is a skill. It requires you to do something. Improving your knowledge is information you acquire. To grow more valuable and competent in your job, you need to do both.

Participate in learning events. Sometimes, you can invest in your own development by participating in a learning event, with only a vague end result in mind. Let's say, for example, that you decide to go to a seminar on "Leadership skills for the 21st century." You're not exactly sure what you're going to learn, but you feel confident that you'll come out of that event with something. In this case, your focus is not on the end result that you want, you're more open to the serendipity learning that you expect to happen as a result of your involvement in the event.

Let's put all of this together in a summary with some examples.

  1. Consolidate the performance goals for your group. For example:
    "My salespeople will product $1,000,000 in sales this year."
  2. Create appropriate activity goals, like these:
    "I will travel one day a month with every salesperson."
    "I will talk with each sales person every week.
  3. Focus on yourself. Identify some development goals for you personally.
    "I will attend three seminars in the next 12 months."
    "I will improve my coaching skills.

Having done this, you've used the goal-setting process to identify the most important things you can do this year. Good for you. You'll be much more effective as a result.

If you have any comments or questions, email them to me.
I do, of course, reserve the right to edit.

Here are a few articles by Dave
that you might be interested in reading:

  • What's the Best Way to Find a Good Salesperson... Good question! It seems that everyone has a favorite response. Some people only use recruiters, and others swear by networking. But classified ads continue to be the most common choice. Almost everyone who hires salespeople will, at some time, search for prospects via the "help wanted" section.... {Read More}
  • Is it Time to Revise Your Sales Compensation Plan?... If you're paying your sales reps straight commission, you're using an obsolete formula. If you're paying your sales reps a straight salary, you're also using an obsolete formula. Read this article to find out a much more effective way to compensate your sales staff.... {Read More}
  • How to Deal with the Salesperson Who Has Leveled Off... Every manager has, or will, confront this troublesome issue. It's arisen in every workshop for sales managers or branch managers I've done. One or more of your salespeople has leveled off. Their performance hasn't improved much in the last few years. Where before you were able to count on significant increases each year, now you can not. You know that these experienced salespeople can do better, but they seem unable or unwilling to break out of a certain level of performance. You are scratching your head, frustrated, and loosing sleep at night wondering how to improve the situation. What do you do?... {Read More}
There are also many other action-packed articles for sales professionals that offer how-to solutions to every day sales problems that you can read online at www.davekahle.com/article.htm.
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.
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