Target Practice

Target Practice

To most seasoned salespeople, two feelings will be familiar. The first, of being on a roll- when things seem, with miraculous inevitability, to just keep falling into place: when your pitch would convince all the Dragons; decision-maker after decision-maker appears at the end of the phone; a string of successes put your target- and all the rewards that come from hitting it- within easy reach. And then there’s its opposite- a run of bad luck leaves you frustrated and depressed, your bad mood trails you from the phone to the meeting room; everyone you speak to is uninterested, busy, hostile. Your target is a ten-tonne weight hanging over you, a constant reminder that things aren’t going well, threatening you with the possibility that your boss might give up on you before it all gets better.

Almost without exception, the grads we meet at Venatrix, on the hunt for their first Sales roles, tell us they’re target-driven; what they usually mean is reward-driven. Promises of commission, meals out and top performers’ holidays are a big part of the lure of Sales- but in practice, organising your time and focus around a big, abstract number can be difficult and sometimes disheartening. Here are some of my thoughts on using targets to motivate, and on helping your team achieve them.

1) Targets have got to be achievable.

They’re designed to challenge and get the best out of employees, but targets have got to be achievable to be of any use. An employee might stretch to grab hold of something that’s only just out of reach- but a target far beyond their capability will only make them feel disheartened and inadequate. Make targets realistic by calculating them according to an employee’s ability and past performance: how did they do last month? How easily will they be able to increase their outputs? What are the things in their way?

As managers and bosses, it’s tempting to base targets on our goals and vision for your company- to calculate what each employee would have to achieve to hit our revenue goals for the month, and set their target accordingly. And of course, this makes a lot of sense- but if this number is higher than the current average combined monthly output of your team, then you need to ask what you as a manager can do to enable your employees to meet the higher standards you’re asking of them.

2) Agree targets with your employees when you set them- and come up with a plan of action to meet them.

Make your employee feel like you’re on their side, helping them succeed, rather than an external judge of their progress. I find the best way of showing employees how to hit targets is to break the big, abstract number on the whiteboard down into daily KPIs. Give your team exact figures for daily activity- how many introductory calls or emails lead to one sale? This means that if things don’t go to plan, both you and the employee will have a point of reference to work out why.

3) When targets are met, be sure to recognise the achievement.

Whether it’s a lavish reward or just a sincere ‘well done’, let your employees know when they’ve done well- your recognition will mean a lot to them, and motivate them to do it all again the next month…

4) If they’re not, ask the employee to look into why they haven’t met them.

Work out whether the issue is one of knowledge or motivation, then get the employee to take ownership of the situation by asking for their plan to get back on track.

I’d love to hear from other Managers, CEOs and team leaders about how you use targets to motivate and energise- let me know in the comments!

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