When I broke into sales in 1986, I read several books that talked about how important it was to set goals if you wanted to achieve success. I bought into the idea completely and started writing down extensive lists of goals that I expected to achieve, along with due dates for each goal. Per the advice in the books, I made my goals nice and lofty. You know, make a six-figure income, buy lots of nice toys, go on fabulous vacations, that kind of stuff. And, every day, several times a day, I visualized what my life would be like after I had achieved my goals.
So, how much impact did those goal-setting and visualization exercises have on my performance? None - nada - zero - zilch! During the next two years I didn't come close to achieving any of my goals! In fact, I wasn't even making enough money to pay my bills. I had to keep tapping credit cards to make ends meet, and I was going further and further into debt.
I finally became so disgusted that I threw away the books and tore up my pages of written goals. I decided that, from that point on, I would focus on my daily activities. In other words, I would work hard to do the right things at the right time, each and every day. If I accomplished that, I figured that I would at least be able to pay my bills and not go any further into debt.
I became a fanatic about prioritizing my activities. I would ask myself at least 20 times a day, "Am I doing the single most important thing I could be doing right now to make a sale? Can I push off what I'm doing right now to before or after selling hours, and use this time to do something that I can't do before or after hours?"
Do you know what I discovered when I started asking myself those questions? I discovered that I was not prioritizing my daily activities very well. In fact, a lot of the time I was just responding to requests whenever they came up. For a salesperson, that's suicide. After all, time is the only inventory we have!
Because of my new focus on doing the right activities at the right time, I started asking people when they needed the things they were asking for, and why they needed them then. Frequently we came to the joint conclusion that the tasks were not as time-sensitive as the original request made them appear to be. I could push off many tasks to late in the day or early in the morning. That gave me more time for prospecting and qualifying opportunities during selling hours.
Yes, I worked a lot of ten to twelve hour days because of the amount of work that I pushed off to before and after selling hours. But, you know what? It was worth it!
After one year I had increased my income by approximately 45%. I could finally pay all of my bills each month, make more than the minimum payment against my credit cards, and still have some money left over for fun. The second year I doubled the prior year's income and achieved the six-figure income that I had never approached when it was one of my written goals. I was able to pay off all of my credit cards, make a down payment on a new car, save some money, and begin to enjoy "the good life".
If setting goals has worked for you, by all means, keep doing it! However, if you have been less successful that you want to be in achieving your goals, try the alternative approach that is described in this article. Focus on your daily activities. Ask yourself 20 times a day, "Am I doing the single most important thing that I could be doing right now to make a sale? Can I push off what I am doing right now to before or after selling hours, and use this time to do something that I can't do before or after hours?"
Be honest with yourself when you answer these questions, and hold yourself accountable. Become a master at prioritization. Switching your mental focus from goals to activities could be your path to success, just like it was for me!
Copyright 2005 -- Alan Rigg
Sales performance expert Alan Rigg is the author of How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Selling: Why Most Salespeople Don't Perform and What to Do About It. To learn more about his book and sign up for more FREE sales and sales management tips, visit http://www.8020performance.com.