Goals Can Be Your Worst Enemy – An Intervew with BNET’s Sales Machine

A few months ago, I was interviewed by Geoffrey James who writes the Sales Machine column for BNET. (Geoffrey is also the author of seven books and the columnist for Business 2.0, CIO, The New York Times as well as many other publications.)

Today, he wrote about something we discussed during our conversation, which is one of the most important characteristics that successful people possess, especially top sales champions. And that is, the importance of being process driven rather than being so result driven.

No, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t focus on the results, or set goals. After all, we need to have something to measure our success, especially in sales, and we need those goals to help determine an endpoint to strive for, something that we’re focused on attaining and the gauge that lets us know when we’ve ‘arrived’ at our destination.

What I am suggesting is to also adopt a mindset that may seem, on the surface, to be in conflict with the belief that you should stay focused on your goals. So, if you suffer from absolute or ‘either or’ thinking, this concept may be a real challenge to wrap your head around. Since we’re on the subject of healthy thinking, absolute thinking is something worth abandoning as well. It’s not one way or the other way; instead, it’s both. (“Either-or” vs. “And.”)

Those people today who challenge status quo and traditional ways of doing things are realizing the benefits of embracing not just one but two truths; two conflicting truths that can, in fact, live together in harmony. Yes, I know this sounds counterintuitive but that’s the paradox and the source of power for those who adopt this mindset.

That is: be mindful of the future, while engaged in and living in the present. To get a bit more cerebral, your process lives in the present where your results or your goals are all living in the future. And if you’re always focused on the result or outcome you seek, it’s going to affect what you need to be doing in the present moment. That includes the quality of your activities, the way you communicate, how well you listen, your level of creativity and ultimately how connected, present and engaged you are with people, especially your customers.

The point is, once your goal is set, continually thinking about or obsessing over your goal or the results you need to achieve doesn’t make that goal manifest itself any faster or easier. Instead, it actually winds up becoming a diversion, keeping your stuck in the future. The real cost is, you’re not being fully present and focused on today and more important, the actual process that’s going to take you to your desired destination.

Think if it this way. If I wanted to move a concrete wall, does the act of pushing on that wall all day make the wall move? Not even a little. It’s the same as spending all of your time thinking about the goal or the result. Doing so doesn’t move you any closer to your goal.

Once your goals are set, they’re not going anywhere! Now it’s time to shift your focus on developing and fine tuning your process which is what will ultimately be the vehicle that will take you to your goal.

Below is an excerpt from Geoffrey’s post based on our interview. You can read the full post here.


Sales pros always have goals, and most enjoy the process of achieving them. But did you know that goals can be a major impediment to your success?

Take cold-calling, for instance. Most sales pros see cold calling as a goal-oriented activity — fill the pipeline with “X” number of prospects, in the hopes of creating as many customers as possible.

That makes sense, but it also encourages sales pros to see each conversion that results in a prospect as a “win” and each cold call that ends in some other way as a “loss.”

And that’s setting yourself up for failure, because the nature of cold calling is that only a small percentage of the people you contact will be potential customers. The majority will be people who simply aren’t interested or are not a fit for a variety of reasons.

However, if you’re caught up in the “win/loss” way of thinking, you may feel like a “loser” even if the person you called had absolutely no use whatsoever for your product!

Not surprisingly, sales pros begin dreading it, avoiding it, and become increasingly less effective when they actually get around to doing it.

The root cause of this deeply flawed “win/loss” thinking is focusing on the goal rather than the process. If you’re focused on the result, you are visualizing the future (i.e. “will I make my goal???”) rather than experiencing the present moment.

As a result, there’s no way that you can really listen to the prospect, because your attention is on a possible event in a future-yet-to-be. Because your focus is elsewhere (on your goal, that is) you’ll find it difficult to be creative and flexible in responding to what the potential prospect actually says.

Here’s how you fix this. Define cold-calling as a process rather than goal-oriented activity. Stop focusing on the result and start focusing on the potential prospect and the process of communicating with that prospect to determine if in fact, there’s truly a fit.

Changing your way of thinking is that you’ll immediately become more effective because it removes the “sting” of contacting a lead that turns out, for whatever reason, not to be a real prospect.

Rather than a “loss,” the event simply becomes something that you happened to discover during the process of cold-calling.

More importantly, treating cold-calling as a process keeps you focused on finding ways to help potential prospects and customers – and on not wasting the time of those who don’t need the help.

Your true goal shouldn’t be to make your sales goal, but to emulate an Olympic athlete. Top athletes visualize “winning” (the goal) before competing, but when they’re actually performing they focus on what’s happening right then and there.

Here’s the cool part… the real reason for this entire post. Focusing on process rather than your goals increases the chances that you’ll fulfill your goals.

In other words, know your goals, then forget them, and put your mind into the process. If you do this right, your goals will take care of themselves, because your process will make them happen without you wasting time obsessing on them.

You can read the full post here.