Sales Goals Can Be Your Worst Enemy

Last Updated Jan 6, 2010 10:22 PM EST

Sales pros always have goals, and most enjoy the process of achieving them. But did you know that goals can be a major impediment to your success?

Take cold-calling, for instance. Most sales pros see cold calling as a goal-oriented activity -- fill the pipeline with "X" number of prospects, in the hopes of creating as many customers as possible.

That makes sense, but it also encourages sales pros to see each conversion that results in a prospect as a "win" and each cold call that ends in some other way as a "loss."

And that's setting yourself up for failure, because the nature of cold calling is that only a small percentage of the people you contact will be potential customers. The majority will be people who simply aren't interested or are not a fit for a variety of reasons.

However, if you're caught up in the "win/loss" way of thinking, you may feel like a "loser" even if the person you called had absolutely no use whatsoever for your product!
Not surprisingly, sales pros begin dreading it, avoiding it, and become increasingly less effective when they actually get around to doing it.

The root cause of this deeply flawed "win/loss" thinking is focusing on the goal rather than the process. If you're focused on the result, you are visualizing the future (i.e. "will I make my goal???") rather than experiencing the present moment.

As a result, there's no way that you can really listen to the prospect, because your attention is on a possible event in a future-yet-to-be. Because your focus is elsewhere (on your goal, that is) you'll find it difficult to be creative and flexible in responding to what the potential prospect actually says.

Here's how you fix this. Define cold-calling as a process rather than goal-oriented activity. Stop focusing on the result and start focusing on the potential prospect and the process of communicating with that prospect to determine if in fact, there's truly a fit.

Changing your way of thinking is that you'll immediately become more effective because it removes the "sting" of contacting a lead that turns out, for whatever reason, not to be a real prospect.

Rather than a "loss," the event simply becomes something that you happened to discover during the process of cold-calling.

More importantly, treating cold-calling as a process keeps you focused on finding ways to help potential prospects and customers - and on not wasting the time of those who don't need the help.

Your true goal shouldn't be to make your sales goal, but to emulate an olympic athlete. Top athletes visualize "winning" (the goal) before competing, but when they're actually performing they focus on what's happening right then and there.

Here's the cool part... the real reason for this entire post. Focusing on process rather than your goals increases the chances that fulfill your goals.

In other words, know your goals, then forget them, and put your mind into the process. If you do this right, your goals will take care of themselves, because your process will make them happen without you wasting time obsessing on them.

The above is based on a conversation with Keith Rosen, author of Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions. Very smart guy.