Set Your Goals

A goal can be a physical objective (such as Shanghai), a financial one, a personal objective, or other aspiration. To be a true goal it must meet three criteria. It must be specific, measurable, and time-targeted.

For example, a goal of earning $100,000 in sales commissions in the coming year is specific, measurable, and set in time. It's a goal — if you take the action required to initiate it. You arrange your workday to see more prospective customers. You upgrade your selling skills to match those of people who sell that much in a year. You take actions appropriate to the goal you've set.

Your goal also must be realistic. That's where some goals fall apart. If this is your first year in sales and it looks like $50,000 in commissions is a more realistic number, setting a goal of $100,000 will discourage and frustrate you. Your goal, instead, could be to increase your sales level by 10 or 20 percent, a more modest goal. That doesn't mean you can't modify the goal later and even surpass it. It does mean that your frustration will be less.

The time component of goals also is important. There are long-term, short-term, and project goals. Each has its own set of requirements. In addition, you will have personal goals that parallel or supersede your sales goals.

Long-Term Goals

Long-term goals vary in length. They can take six months, a year, five years, or more to achieve. In most careers, a long-term goal is three to five years. Your employer plans business in long-term ranges like this. Rarely in business are long-term goals over five years in duration.

Your long-term career goals will be less specific than other goals. They are intended to guide you. For example, your long-term sales career goal may be to become a sales manager within five years. There are no financial specifics in this goal because it is difficult to project five years ahead in many volatile business environments. Even so, such a long-term goal can help you focus your short-term and other goals better because you have a long-range plan.

Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals typically have a duration of a year or less. If your long-term goal is to be a sales manager within five years, your short-term objective may be to become the top salesperson in your department or company within one year. Or it may be to enhance your formal education with courses that can help you in your management role.

Short-term goals can be more specific, such as a goal of earning commissions of $100,000 in the coming year. The goal can be even more specific, detailing how many new customers you will need, or how you expect to achieve the goal. Successful goals are both specific and measurable.

Project Goals

As you continue your sales career, you may be involved in various projects. They may be longer or shorter term, though most will be less than a year. However, the term length of projects often is defined by a specific result rather than a date. For example, the goal of a project may be to find an appropriate location for the latest in a chain of stores. There may be a vague time measurement, but, in truth, the project isn't complete until the goal is achieved.

If your sales job involves projects, setting goals is a little different because the criterion is an event or a decision rather than a date. The definition of “success” must be more measurable than a dollar amount. If finding a store location is the project, the criteria must include specifics about territory, market, costs, profitability, and other factors. Project goals require more specifics.

Personal Goals

In addition to your career goals, you will develop personal goals. For most people, they are vague: to be happy or to be rich. As you're learning in your sales career, goals must be specific and attainable, whether the goals are business or personal. You may develop a long-term personal goal of funding your children's college education within five years. Or it may be to travel to China for a least one month in the next two years.

You can have personal projects, too, such as building a personal aircraft before you retire. Learning the craft of selling doesn't only benefit your professional life. It also can teach you how to set and reach personal goals, develop better communication skills, and enhance relationships through listening.

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