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Are All Goals Good Goals in Sales?

Are All Goals Good Goals in Sales?

Deadlines give people permission to wait

Setting a monthly or quarterly goal allows for salespeople to wait until the end of that time to reach that particular benchmark.  Under these circumstances, there is no incentive to try to achieve the goal as soon as possible since there are not positive consequences for doing so.  You might actually build in fear that reaching the desired level too early might result in a shifting of the bar. 

Goal attainment gives salespeople permission to stop

Has this ever happened to your organization?  One or a group of reps had a great month, but instead of booking the extra business above goal, will "bank" the business for the following month.  Remember that 'J' curve in college?

If your rep's goal is 1000 units per month, it is in her best interest to coast or hover around that mark (hence the flattening of the curve).  The employee knows that it will be easier to meet the next month's goal by coasting (or worse yet, there is still that fear that management will raise the bar next month.  Negative reinforcement.)

Does setting goals actually limit performance?

Well, yes and no.  W. Edwards Deming was one of the first management gurus to notice the performance limits caused by goals and standards.  Managers must realize that goals in and of themselves must be an antecedent to positive reinforcement.  To know whether your goal structure is a negative reinforcement engine, look for these clues:

  1. The 'J' curve - look for that sharp rise in performance before the deadline
  2. Negative talk - from both employees and line managers
  3. A flattening of performance after goal achievement
  4. Lack of a plan for positive reinforcement
  5. If you remove a performance standard and the performance drops

For ideas on how to properly reinforce for maximum performance, feel free to contact us.


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