Goal setting is critical for success in sales. Most of us have goals personally and professionally, but it’s not always easy to know how to act on them once they’re set.
The key to figuring out how to turn your goals into real career achievements is to develop habits that will set you up to achieve these goals one step at a time.
We recommend grouping goals into three broad categories:
- First, there are career goals. These goals pertain to career advancement. An example of this might be to become a sales manager within three years.
- Then, there are performance goals. This type of goal relates to your individual performance as a seller. For example, you might set a goal to meet 125% of your quota for the quarter.
- Finally, there are skills goals. For example, you may want to work on acquiring a specific skill or area of expertise, such as learning more about data analytics.
While each of these categories will require a somewhat different approach, there are general practices that you can implement for each that will propel you towards success.
The SMART approach may be pretty basic, but it’s also very effective. It lays down the foundation of any goal setting process that you do. Every goal you set should meet these criteria:
- Specific: Clearly define what you want to accomplish.
- Measurable: Know how you will measure your progress towards your goal.
- Attainable: The goal should be realistic for you to accomplish.
- Relevant: Your goal should be clearly relevant to your interests, desires, and long-term aspirations.
- Timetable: Create a specific timetable for achieving your goal. (If the timetable is too long, your goal might not meet the Attainable criterion.)
Tips for Achieving Career Goals
Once you have a goal that meets the SMART criteria, use these best practices to successfully complete it:
1. Determine not only what goal you want to achieve, but why you want to achieve it.
If you’ve ever tried and failed to cut out a food group when going on a diet, you know that it’s hard to achieve a goal if your only motivation is the vague sense that you ought to do it. It’s much easier to achieve a goal when you really want something—and you understand why you want it.
When defining a goal, dig deep in every goal to identify the reason behind wanting to achieve it. Instead of saying, “I want to generate this much revenue this year because it will make me feel good,” think about what specific benefits are most important to you. Maybe you’re motivated by the possibility of a large commission check so you can buy something you’ve been eyeing for a while. Alternatively, earning respect from your new manager might be important so the best way to do this is by being the highest grossing rep on the team. There are no wrong answers, but it’s important to know what is actually motivating you.
2. Break every goal into intermediary steps.
Although it’s good to set ambitious goals, it’s easy to lose track of them throughout the ensuing weeks, months, and years. This is particularly true for goals that are largely outside of your control, such as receiving a promotion.
To avoid this problem, create a series of smaller goals that lead up to your larger goal. Track your progress towards small goals, and celebrate them along the way. By enjoying small successes along the way, you will maintain your motivation and be better-positioned to achieve the big goal.
3. Talk to a trusted mentor about your goals.
Discussing your goals with someone—especially a respected mentor—makes the goal feel more real. It also creates accountability. Now that a mentor knows you have set this goal, you will feel more motivated to succeed. Your mentor may also have additional advice for ways to achieve this goal that you hadn’t thought of.
Ideally, you should be meeting with your mentor on a regular basis. At each meeting, update them on your progress towards the goal. Be honest when you haven’t made as much progress as you hoped, and ask your mentor for advice on how to better meet your goals.
4. Establish a regular routine that will help you to achieve your goals.
To make incremental progress towards your goal, you need a routine that enables consistent progression. Take an audit of your work habits and consider how you might adjust them to make time for goal-related activities. For example, if you want to learn a new skill, block out a few hours a week for training or classes.
You should also consider whether a lack of consistency in your work habits, or inefficient habits, are inhibiting your ability to achieve your goals. Consider using a tool to track your time so that you can learn more about how you’re working. You can also utilize time blocking to keep yourself organized and on track.
5. Write down your goals on a calendar or schedule.
Goals can oftentimes feel nebulous. To make them more concrete, write your goals (including smaller goals) on a calendar. Being able to visualize the goal will motivate you to take the steps you need to succeed. When you complete a goal, you can enjoy physically crossing it off the to-do list with a marker.
It’s also OK to make adjustments to your plans as necessary. It’s easy to feel disheartened if you aren’t pacing accordingly towards your goals. Many people respond to this by giving up on the goal entirely. If you feel like this is starting to happen, we recommend creating a new timeframe for your goals.
6. Check in regularly to assess your progress towards your goals.
If you’re following these goal-setting habits, you should have a pretty good sense of where you are in terms of achieving your goals. But it’s still helpful to designate time to check in with yourself to assess where you are and what you need to do next. Mark time on your calendar monthly or quarterly to review your goals and track your progress. This is also a great time to update your mentors on where things stand!
Setting goals is an integral part of your career advancement journey. It’s easier to reach your destination when you know where you want to go and you have a clear path to follow; so be sure to determine your “Why”, break your journey up into steps, communicate your goals externally to mentors, create routines and consistently check in on your progress.