Do you really need a stretch goal?

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This and other words of advice for sales professionals.

Rowney JensenRowney Jensen is the VP of Business Development at Leadership Resources, and has decades of experience in the sales industry. We recently had an opportunity to sit down with him and ask him a few questions about sales success, goal setting, and advice for sales professionals.

Q: What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve been given that has impacted your success?

A: The best advice I received early on in my career was something that has obviously helped me as a sales professional, as well as in a number of other roles – never be afraid to ask a question. Make certain you clarify what’s expected of you. Expectations are best managed when you help to set them. That’s why, in the sales industry, it’s key to help clients understand what they should expect – Expect “this” from our service. Expect “this” from our product. If you don’t clarify, it makes it very difficult for both parties to deliver.

Q: When you set sales goals, do you approach this any differently than regular goals?

A: For sales professionals, our goals are set in a couple of different ways. I typically have an individual do a self-evaluation and really identify where they’re been on the track of success. Review the last 12 months, what went well, what didn’t go well, where they need to improve. And then we talk about where they want to go. What aspirations do they have, what skills do they need to add, and obviously, what numbers would they like to achieve. Through encouragement and discussion, we set two goals. The first one is an expectation of an outcome, such as sales numbers or closed accounts. The second goal is a higher-level stretch goal.

Q: How is a stretch goal different?

A: A stretch goal is typically 10 to 15% above what an individual believes they are capable of producing. We all have self-limiting beliefs, and while there are people out there that overestimate, the majority of us underestimate because we’re afraid of failure. To set a stretch goal, you need to consider questions like: What did you accomplish last year? What would you like to accomplish this year? What would it take to get there? This helps frame the stretch goal from a sales perspective. Goals need to be forward facing – they’re not necessarily dollar driven, they might be behavior driven. In order to perform at the current level, maybe you’re making X number of phone calls. A stretch goal will help you increase frequency or success of the behaviors that lead to higher level success.

Q: How does the success chain play into all of this?

A: When you have the repetitive nature of sales – making phone calls, practicing, sitting down and conducting sales interviews – you naturally start to develop the conditioning of doing it properly. Having the right attitude, habit of thought, and behavior, is really important to creating a successful sales career. You start to repeat behaviors that work – asking questions, using up front contracts and other things, and will naturally lead to success. The success chain is a fantastic model to use in building the path to results. We talk about this a lot during the Natural Selling Process.

Q: What if the only thing that needs work is the attitude? Does it really have that much of an effect on sales results?

A: If you or your sales team doesn’t believe in the product, you’ll have a hard time performing the behaviors and actions necessary to get results. This is true as well if your habit of thought is negative about yourself and your skills. Say for example, you aren’t confident with your speaking or presentation skills. Chances are, you repeat that negative mantra to yourself, either consciously or subconsciously. As a result, it impacts your behaviors and ultimately your success in a negative way.

Q: Sales people hold a lot of value since they have direct contact with customers. What is a way a company can harness that value?

A: As a sales professional, you are the direct link to the client and the market – you have an understanding of what the market is asking for, what the competition is doing, and some of the key benefits people/clients are looking for. Sales professionals hold the key to product development and iterations that may lead to profitable ideas within an organization.

Q: What is one way a person could improve their sales skills in the next 10 days?

A: Deliver a live demo online using a webinar service, and record the webinar. This is fairly easy to do. By simply hosting an online demo, or conference call, you’ll discover many nuances that you can, and should work on. Perhaps you’ll hear the filler words that enter the conversation ever few minutes, or an analogy that you’ve used far too many times. Or maybe you’re not pausing to let the prospect process your question before you insert another question into the dialogue. Recording, whether online or in person, and analyzing your behaviors, is an excellent way to improve the presentation part of the sale. Just remember to alert the prospect of the recording. If it is a demo, this is an added bonus as they can download the recording later (or you can use it as part of your follow-up). So in this case, the recording provides even more value. Slight edge improvements in your sales presentations can go a long way and may also improve your cold calling and follow-up communication.

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