How Managers Position Their Sales Team For A Successful New Year and Enroll Them In Their 2011 Sales Goals

It’s the third week in January. Do you know where your goals are? How about the plan that will enable you to achieve them? At this point, a good number of managers have already set their yearly sales goals for themselves and for their sales team. Whether these goals were sanctioned from the top, developed through a mutual collaboration between the salesperson and the sales manager, have been calculated by a formulaic process based on the salesperson, the marketplace and their territory or were developed and disseminated to their salespeople with a more reactive ambiguity, (“Just get out there and sell more this year!”) the majority of managers are thinking about making this a better year than its predecessor.

While some level of goal setting activity has taken place or a declaration has been made by the manager how important it is to “do better this year,” it’s the deeper conversation that follows the goal decree which I often find missing within sales organizations that needs to be facilitated by management.

Sure, you may have set the sales goals with your sales team, and you may have even discussed strategy with them; that is, how they are going achieve their goals. You may have gone as far as having your salespeople submit a business plan to support this. While these are healthy practices for management and for their salespeople, these sparkles of management brilliance do not encapsulate the full composition needed to ensure success throughout the year.

For example, when discussing your sales goals with your salespeople, did you address the following topics?

*Exactly how they are going to attain their goals; that is, the strategy that needs to be executed.
*Their level of buy in around their goal.
*Their level of confidence around attaining their goal.
*The potential roadblocks that can sabotage their efforts and prevent them from reaching their goals.
*The role they want you, as their manager, to play in supporting them.
*How they want to be managed around their goals.
*How they want to be held accountable around reaching their goals and how they want you to approach them if they drop the ball.
*The structure they need to put in place regarding how they will manage their daily activity that will move them towards attaining their goals.

What follows is a brief outline to use when conducting this conversation with your salespeople around their yearly sales goals that creates buy in, while ensuring your salespeople are bought into being coached and supported by you. You will notice that these questions will address the gaps I mentioned that often go overlooked until it’s too late. At this point, managers now find themselves in the reactionary position of spending their time managing problems and fires rather than managing goals and coaching their salespeople on achieving them.

Please note that the following outline and questions have been developed with a few assumptions in mind:

First, you are already coaching your salespeople.
Second, your sales team is bought into being coached by you.
Third, you are truly coaching them using a proven coaching framework (rather than relabeling how you managed them yesterday as coaching). Finally, their sales goals have already been established. (We’re not talking about their personal goals at this time.)

Keep in mind, this is just an outline. While it’s critical to appreciate the importance of having this conversation with each of your salespeople, you may want to fine tune it to best fit your situation.

Step One: Schedule at least a one hour meeting. (This is a conversation too important for anyone to rush through. After all, planning for the race always takes longer than the race itself.)

Step Two: Set the expectations of your meeting and what the objective of the meeting is with them. For example, “I want to use our time today to discuss your goals, how I can support you around achieving them and how together, we can develop the best strategy for you that’s going to drive the results you want.”

Step Three: Discuss the goals that have been set. Ask questions such as:

1.“So, how do you feel about your goals?”
2. “How did you come up with that goal?” (If they indeed, did so vs. having a sanctioned quota.)
3. “How confident are you about achieving this goal?”
4. “Why?” “What’s making you feel that way?”
5. “What would it mean to you if you achieved these goals? (Personally/professionally)”
6. “What’s the cost you would incur if you don’t achieve them? What would it mean to you if you don’t achieve these goals? What would happen then?” (This isn’t old school motivation by fear or consequence. Rather,this question is more for those underperformers who need to understand that there may be a consequence incurred if they fail to reach their goals, this helps them articulate it in their words, instead of the manager standing on their pedestal preaching the consequences to them and sounding like the bad guy. Remember, people listen better and believe what they say more than what they’re told.)

Step Four: Enroll them in coaching (if need be). The timing to do so is perfect, as coaching is the means for them to achieve their goal and how management needs to support their people in doing so.

Step Five: Facilitate this conversation using the following questions:

1.What are the parts of your job that you’re exited about and motivate you?
2. What do you want to/need to achieve in the short term/long-term that will support your goals? (If you’ve already established this, i.e. in their business plan, you can skip this.)
3. What’s your action plan and strategy to achieve your goals? (If they don’t have one, make sure they have a top level view of what this could look like and make this one of their action steps that they need to complete for your next coaching session with them. You can start this process by asking them, “So if you were going to put together an action plan and a strategy to achieve your goals, where would you start? What would some of the necessary components of your strategy be? Think about the last goals that you’ve achieved. What has made you successful before?”
4. How can I best manage and support you to achieve these goals? (This is a great opportunity to discuss creating their Coaching Action Plan to determine the frequency and parameters of your coaching with them.)
5. How do you like to be rewarded/acknowledged for a job well done?
6. How will we measure your success and progress along the way? (30, 60 and 90 day milestones and mini-goals are critical to maintain your sales team’s focus and motivation throughout the entire year. A year end goal is a long way off. So, celebrate wins along the way and use these milestones as an opportunity to adjust or modify their strategy if necessary.)
7. What might sabotage your efforts to achieve these goals? What do we need to look out for that would get in the way of achieving your goals? What safeguards can we put into place to ensure that doesn’t happen?
8. What structure do you need to put into place in order to make sure you’re engaging in the right activities each day that support your goals while keeping the distractions at bay? (Hint: A structured routine!)
9. How can I hold you accountable around your goals in a way that will sound supportive rather than negative?
10. How do you want me to approach you if you don’t follow through with the commitments you make? What would be a good way to bring this up? How do you want me to handle it?

Step Six – Debrief:
1.So, how are you feeling about our conversation (and first coaching session)?
2. Do you have any concerns moving forward?
3. Great, and to reconfirm next steps, what are you going to be working on next? (What are the action steps you’ll be taking based on our conversation today?)
4. Lets go ahead and schedule our next meeting. What are you willing to commit to having completed by then?
5. I’m looking forward to working with you so that you can achieve your goals this year!

Give your salespeople the space to answer these questions. Remember, some of these questions are not only questions you may have never asked your salespeople, but questions they, themselves have never been asked before. So, don’t rush them through this important process of self discovery and do make sure they answer your questions completely.

After effectively facilitating this conversation, you and your team will have a greater sense of comfort, confidence and a stronger focus regarding what they need to do to achieve their goals and what you can do to support them that will create a successful year for your company, your team and yourself.