A topic I meet again and again in sales coaching is objectives. Everybody’s busy, busy, busy – but are they clear on what they’re trying to achieve? In my experience, sorry, but no.
You might say for a sales professional, the objective is obvious. We want to get a deal. But steady on a moment, what deal do we want to get? When do we want to get it? What financial parameters do we want to achieve?
It’s worth taking time to think your objective through carefully before settling on it. There’s two reasons for that.
Getting to clarity and finding options
The first reason is having absolute clarity on what we’re trying to achieve will help us achieve it.
The second is the thought process to define our objective might expose there’s potentially other options for goals we could consider, or other ways of getting to the goal we have in mind.
Good goals and objectives get achieved
Let’s explore those two ideas. It’s a proven fact that a clear objective drives the behaviours that take you to its achievement. Studies have shown repeatedly that a clear goal increases the likelihood of success by at least 25%.
What’s a good objective?
The example I’ll use to illustrate the point is very simple. Imagine you get in your car to go ‘somewhere’. So off you go, driving.
The problem is, how do you know when you’ve got to ‘somewhere’? You don’t, so you’ve no way of knowing if you’ve achieved your objective. And you’ll never achieve it without knowing the precise destination.
An objective should be SMART
The test of a good objective is the ‘SMART’ test. ‘SMART’ stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. How can we make our objective SMART?
Let’s start with specific. Adding detail to the objective makes it specific. So let’s make our objective, “I want to drive to my friend’s house in Milton Keynes”. We now know precisely where we’re going. It’s specific.
Is it measureable? Because it’s clear where I’m going, it’s also clear when I get there. And if I get lost on the way, I know what corrective actions I need to take. It’s measureable, because I can test it by asking “Am I at my friend’s house yet?”
Is it achievable? Yes, I know where my friends live and I know how to get there. I also know there’s enough fuel in the car to take me there. It’s achievable because I’ve all the knowledge and resources I need.
Is it realistic? Yes, I know they’ll be pleased to see me, they’re expecting me and I’ve got plenty of time. It’s realistic because the parameters can be met.
Is it timed? Not yet. But if I add the detail, “I want to drive to my friend’s house in Milton Keynes to see them at 6pm”, then it’s timed.
We now have a SMART objective – and that’s where you need to get with all your objectives.
Is it the right objective?
The second dimension to consider is do you have the right objective? And you answer that question by asking “Why?”
Why do I want to get to my friend’s house in Milton Keynes at 6pm? Because I know they’ll be in, and because they want to see me to talk about a problem they’re having. It’s pressing, and they need to talk about it today.
Suddenly my objective’s changed. What actually needs to happen is I need to talk to my friends today to help them fix their problem.
Reframing an objective opens up options
By reframing the objective like that, suddenly more options appear. Could I accomplish the objective without getting in the car at all, just by calling them? Or if it needs a face-to-face component, could I Skype them?
You should never settle on an objective, no matter how SMART it might be, until you’ve tested it several times with “Why?”
Are my actions taking me towards my objective?
The final point we need to think about with objectives, is to continually test that the actions you’re taking are moving you closer to achieving your objective. If they’re not, they’re not helping and you’re probably expending effort you don’t need to.
Returning to the example above, maybe my car’s filthy and I think it’d be a great idea to run it through the car wash before setting out on my journey.
As an action, that’s fine. But does it make any difference to my ability to complete the objective? No it doesn’t. So it’s a nice to have, it’s not an essential to achieve the objective.
There’s been a lot in this, so let’s summarise everything.
- Objectives should always be SMART. Whenever you’ve got what you think is an objective, test it to see if it passes all five tests.
- Before you settle on an objective, make sure it’s the right objective. Keep asking “Why” until you’re sure. You may well open up options you hadn’t thought of before.
- Finally, with your objective settled, test every action to make sure it’s taking you closer to its achievement. It’s easy to find yourself going down rat holes rather than making progress.
Do you need help…
- Clarifying your own objectives?
- Coming up with other approaches to achieve your objectives?
- Defining your strategy for a particular deal?
- Defining objectives for your team?
- Defining a sales compensation or sales incentive plan?
Here’s what to do next
If you’re interested in how this could help you, or feel I may be able to help you with some of the challenges you’re facing, please get in touch for an informal discussion.
There’s no commitment, we’ll just discuss your situation to see if working together might be a good fit. Contact me now.