When Setting Sales Goals Always…

I’m a big Jeffrey Gitomer fan. If you’ve read my blog for long then you’ve probably seen his picture and read some of his quotes. I find his writing style unique, entertaining and most importantly, educational. I’ve used his material in my sales training and frequently recommend his books. I also put my money where my mouth is because I own all of his books. Yup, I have the Little Red Book, Little Black Book, Little Gold Book…I have all those Little Books. And I own a copy of The Sales Bible. It’s not the leather bound, King James edition with my name engraved in gold, but it’s worth its weight in gold…if you do the things Gitomer suggests.

I think I’ve painted a clear picture; I’m a Gitomer disciple. But, even though he wrote The Sales Bible and I’m a disciple, I recognize Gitomer is human and makes mistakes just like all of us. Some of you who are his followers might be shouting at me through your PC, “Blasphemy! Away with him!” Please read on before you excommunicate me.

Several weeks ago, in his weekly Sales Ezine he posed the following question about goal setting, “When setting goals in sales, you should always:”

A. Write them down and tell others.

B. Reward yourself when you reach them.

C. Make them reasonable.

D. Never set them too

While there is some validity to each answer, I chose answer A, “write them down and tell others,” because that’s a proven method for success and therefore holds the most potential. In fact, out of more than 4,000 responses, 60% of people made the same choice that I did. However, to my surprise Jeffrey’s “correct” answer was B, reward yourself.
I won’t dispute that for some people a reward might help them stay the course and achieve their sales goals. It might be personally more motivating for Jeffrey because he’s a highly self-motivated individual. Unfortunately I don’t think the same can be said for the majority of salespeople let alone people in general. The research in social science is very clear; the principle of consistency is a HUGE motivator for people to follow through on prior commitments. Because people feel an internal pressure to do what they say, making goals public will help many more people reach those goals as compared to others who set goals but keep them private. In Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice, in the chapter on Commitment and Consistency, a study by Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard is cited on this very subject. Results from their study were clear, “students who had publicly recorded their initial positions most resolutely refused to shift from those positions later.”

Organizations that try to get people to change bad habits (over-eating, smoking, etc.) have taken advantage of the principle of consistency by having people make public commitments then sharing those commitments, with friends and family. Here’s a simple rule to remember; people live up to what they write down.One more way to increase the odds of reaching your goal would be to incorporate the principle of scarcity as opposed to rewarding yourself. A reward is a nice thing but too often we can forgo rewards and not feel bad. However, when we think we’ll lose something, research has found our motivation changes rather dramatically. How can you incorporate scarcity? Try putting $100 of your own money on the line. Go to the bank, get a nice crisp $100 bill and give it to a trusted friend. Tell your friend, “Look, I have a goal I really want to meet. If I don’t meet the goal you have my permission to give the money to [name a charity]. But, if I meet my goal you have to give me my $100 back.” That’s a win-win because if you succeed that’s great. If you don’t, a worthy cause benefits.

So here’s the deal; whatever you choose to do, if you truly want to succeed, start by setting a goal. But don’t stop there, write out your goal then make it known to others. By doing this you’ll take advantage of the principle of consistency because it’s in your nature to begin with. Then ramp it up a bit by putting something of value on the line. Oh yes, and when you reach your goal, take Jeffrey’s advice and reward yourself with the cash you got back because you’ll have earned it.

4 replies
  1. Lars-Christian Elvenes
    Lars-Christian Elvenes says:

    Hi Brian,

    Setting goals is a golden topic (and one I think should be focused on a lot more here in Norway, especially in education), and I think I would have made the same choice that you did. Writing them out make them more "real".

    Though I absolutely believe in rewarding yourself after a job well done, I can't help thinking that a focus on the process, or journey towards the goal is even more important.

    There are going to be goals you want to reach, but where you won't enjoy the process as much, but I think that if you create a positive focus on the whole journey fram A to B, you're setting yourself up for a rewarding experience, regardless of whether you treat yourself to something special after you've achieved it.

    Personally (as you know) I've decided to make a more serious commitment to running. I'm starting out with a half-marathon (my brother talked me out of the full marathon, but come next year… 😉 ) and one of the most important aspects of that experience is to enjoy running. I've been reading Stu Mittleman's book "Slow Burn" which focuses a lot on that, and already I find myself looking forward to the running, not getting to the finish line.

    I think a similar perspective is vital for getting the most joy out of goal setting. Even if finishing/achieving is all that counts, at least work out ways to get positive feedback from your progress as you get closer to reaching those goals.

    – Lars-Christian

  2. Brian
    Brian says:

    Thanks for posting. Your brother knowing about your goal – now the world via your post – adds that element of consistency. The more people who know, the more will ask about your progress. It's a funny thing how that can get you out the door on cold, rainy mornings.

    I'm with you 100% on enjoying what you do. When I competed in powerlifting and bodybuilding I actually loved dieting and training. When I was running competitively I looked forward to 15-20 milers. To volunteer that much of yourself to an activity you have to love what you're doing if you want to stick to it long term.

    Sometime give a try to what I shared at the end of the article because either you'll be rewarded or a charity will benefit.

    Good luck in the running. I'm sure I'll see your Twitter and/or Facebook updates.



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  1. […] It’s scientifically proven people are more likely to do what you want if you can get them to put pen to paper. The act of writing and the visual reminder of what was written compel people to follow through […]

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