In my opinion one of the most difficult challenges of sales management is structuring objectives and goals that are suited for specific salespeople. According to Wikipedia objectives are personal or organizational desired end-points in some sort of assumed development. And again, goal setting involves establishing specific, measurable and time-tested targeted objectives. (I like Wikipedia but some of their definitions lack strength. For example, the word “assumed” makes me cringe even though I know how they are using it.)
As a newbie sales manager I equated objectives with one thing and one thing only-making quota, target, the nut or whatever your word du jour is. Brother, were my early sales meetings short! As I matured into that role I understood that sales management took on more meaning in terms of objectives. Developing salespeople became a key part of my role but development took on different meanings for different people. For instance, did a salesperson:
- Want a career in sales with one company?
- Want to move into other areas of corporate America-perhaps marketing?
- Want recognition besides large commissions?
- Want strictly the money?
- Want to be involved in field sales training, corporate sales training or mentoring?
- Want involvement in new product trials/introductions into their territory?
For the first three years of my sales management career I never realized how critical it was to tailor goals to specific people and to document those goals with specific stepping stones. I learned that lesson the hard way by having to fire a rep who could have been an all star with the right leadership. Eventually, I began asking salespeople some of the following questions:
- What do you want out of this job/career?
- Project forward 10 years; where do you see yourself?
- Why do you see yourself there?
- What do you want to avoid in your career?
- What are the top three goals you have for your career?
- Where do you and your spouse/significant other want to be when you’re fifty-five?
- Will sales fulfill you or do you want to move into other corporate areas?
There were dozens of these kinds of questions. They were meant to challenge people to think about where they were going and about how I could help them on their way to those objectives. I never cloaked these questions within other more ambiguous ones. I was up front with salespeople and told them that I wanted to help them achieve their objectives but if they didn’t want me involved that was OK.
When we created goals/objectives together the verbiage had to be specific. Here is one example:
- Describe in specific terms what you want from your career.
- What jobs do you see yourself in?
- Can you wrap time frames around those jobs?
- Are there income levels you want to achieve in these jobs?
- What responsibilities do you see yourself in with those jobs?
- Do you see yourself with people reporting to you?
And of course there were always time frames linked to any of these goals!
As I write this I can visualize questions that I missed or never even thought of. Salespeople often venture into jobs never thinking of what is down the road. Our jobs are to massage their brains so they think of the options.