Expert Panel

Common job issues and solutions in Sales

Selling Dilemma: I’m Trying, But I Can’t “Just Make Goal!”


{#/pub/images/SellingDilemmaImTryingButICantJustMakeGoal.jpg}Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing a new drumbeat in the world of selling. Actually, it’s not a new sound. It’s a rhythm that was helping us all keep pace a decade ago but got replaced. It’s back because it is a classic beat, one that has always been appropriate and important. 


The resurgence of a focus on activity metrics is one that all sellers may not view in a positive light. I’ve heard, then and now, that it feels like micromanagement when a sales manager sets standards around activity levels. 


I agree that sales managers sometimes become micromanagers when they set and use activity metrics without understanding the rationale for them. 


However, there’s more to the story. Understanding the reason activity metrics matter is the key to selecting them, managing and coaching for them, and working to reach them.  


What’s been in vogue lately is a belief that the result is all that matters. I’ve recently been in sales organizations that stripped dashboard features out of their CRMs. I’ve seen performance management systems and compensation plans pared down to focus exclusively on goal attainment. I’ve heard sales managers say “I don’t care how you get there, just get there.” 


It’s like going to a Little League game where all the parents are shouting at their kids to “just hit the ball.” It’s an inane scenario, but it happens at virtually every game. The batter wants nothing more in that moment than to hit the ball. The coach already gave the batter a “hit that ball” encouragement as he or she stepped up to the plate. The expectation to hit the ball is crystal clear. 


The same thing is happening in sales when the manager or sales organization says “just make the goal.” Sellers want to and genuinely try to make the goal. But do they really know how to? Like the Little League batters, focusing exclusively on the ideal outcome doesn’t get the job done.


The in-between piece is what you do in preparation for success. A batter must assume the right stance, properly positioned to connect with the pitch. That requires an understanding of the pitcher and an ability to forecast the likely pitch. A batter must also find the right balance to get the greatest strength into the swing. Additionally, the batter needs the right tools – a bat that is the right weight, for instance. Knowing how to use this tool effectively, that is, understanding the proper grip and aligning the bat. 


All this needs to happen before the pitch is ever made. But there’s more. The batter needs to know how to step into the pitch and develop a stride, shifting weight in a fluid motion from stance to swing. Add to this the need to track the pitch and the sweet spot on the ball, the need to understand the strike zone and react in a split second once you’ve identified the ball’s position relative to it, and the need to follow-through on the swing with just the right pivot. 


There’s a lot of activity that affects a batter’s ability to “just hit the ball.”


In sales, there are equally as many activities that can influence a seller’s ability to “just make the goal.” 


Sales activities that make an impact will vary by customer type, sales cycle and product. The first job of a sales manager is to figure out what it is that drives sales. It’s not every single thing the CRM could possibly measure. It is one or some of those things. 


Once a sales manager can make a definitive link between which activities drive sales, then it’s time to set and explain activity standards. This is critically important for sales managers to fully understand and do so sellers can see the rationale of activities that are being measured.


One sales leader I work with says you have to “measure what you treasure.” In his business, the number of buyers is directly correlated to the overall goal attainment. When there are aberrations, like a dip in the number of buyers but an increase in the goal attainment, he knows this is not sustainable and that the loss of those heavy hitters will hurt disproportionately. So he focuses heavily on the activity rather than on the goal.


This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about goal attainment. He most certainly does. Because he cares about goal attainment, he’s taken the time to figure out what leads to it. He prescribes the activity in a way that would be akin to a doctor saying “take this pill to reduce your blood pressure” instead of berating patients as they are admitted to the ER by saying “just lower your blood pressure!” without offering any support or path to do so. 


In your own selling, which activities yield the best results for you? What would happen if you increased the time and attention you focused on those activities? If you take the time to analyze the cause-and-effect patterns, you’ll soon be getting more of the effects you want because you’ll be choosing the activities that cause your sales to soar. 



{#/pub/images/DebCalvertNew.jpg}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions-Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 


Do you have a sales question for Deb?  Please visit our Sales Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


Did you find this article informative?  Let us keep you up-to-date on all of our training articles. Please sign up for our newsletter today!  


Here are some related articles you may be interested in: 


Three New Approaches to Making Effective Sales Calls

4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials

You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

Managing Customer Expectations

Marketing 101 With A Twist…Making It Effective



About ManagingAmericans.com

We are America’s Management & Leadership Center for Professional Development. Our well-rounded business content is designed for Leaders & Managers to implement change with ease & improve accountability amongst their teams. Here you’ll find Articles from 30+ Expert Consultants, Coaches & Thought Leaders, access practical Business Templates, learn new skills & connect to our Expert Panel to answer your organizational challenges.




What is your primary objective during an initial sales call?