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Sales Goals Are for Losers

Instead, focus on getting the right people for the job and making sure they know your process.

Every sales guru writes about the need to set sales goals. "If you don't set goals, you'll never build a successful business," these barons of business development say. "Salespeople must have goals, or they will walk around in a daze, not knowing what to do."

My response is that the whole concept of sales goals falls under the "emperor's new clothes" scam. Good salespeople -- the only ones you want to keep -- don't need goals. They're like professional eaters at the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog eating contest. Star salespeople have an insatiable appetite for money.

Think about it! Have you ever met a successful salesperson who was given a goal and then slapped on the suntan lotion and headed for the beach once that goal was met? No way!

I am involved in a new venture right now, and one of our board members asked me for our sales goals. My response was that I wanted to bring in as much money as I could working 14 hours a day, six days a week, and responding to my BlackBerry on my day off. Forget the goals and focus on:

  • Hiring the right sales professional
  • Sales process
  • Training

The Right Person for the Job

When hiring salespeople, I look for the following attributes, in this order:




: The most important attribute of a successful salesperson is likability. At the end of the day, people buy from people they like.




: Smart people think well on their feet. They know how to overcome objections.



Listening skills

: Salespeople who are too busy talking to listen will miss more sales than they will make.




: You can make up for any deficiency if you have passion.




: Good salespeople have to be 24/7 rabid animals for whom no amount of sales is sufficient.


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Competitive nature

: They need to show they are better than everyone else, or maybe they just challenge themselves. This trait is also found in people who run marathons or climb mountains.



Product knowledge

: If a salesperson is knowledgeable about a product, it will reassure the client that the salesperson is a professional, not a huckster.



Problem-solving skills

: This falls under quick-thinking. Rarely do clients buy exactly what you are pitching, whether it's a consulting project or reams of paper. A consulting client may want to change the focus of the project, and the paper buyer may want to change the bill-paying method. The salesperson has to figure out how to make it work for his employer and the buyer.



Experience in the industry

: Having a salesperson with a solid database of contacts can accelerate sales, but the best salesperson the world can't build significant sales pushing an undesirable product.



Broad interests

: Good salespeople are well-rounded and can talk about a variety of subjects and topics.

By the way, every company runs ads mentioning it is looking for people who like sports, but I have met lots of people who hate sports and are terrific sales people.

What Now?

Once you hire the right salesperson or

-people, you need to provide them with a customized process for learning your sales system.

I usually develop a PowerPoint presentation with a five-step process.

  • Step 1: Product attributes: A list of what makes the product/service so unique that someone wants to write a check.
  • Step 2: Target buyer, user and influencer: A description of this group by geographic, demographic and company position.
  • Step 3: Client development process: This is the step-by-step process that is usually done in a flow chart about the steps for identifying and attracting the clients in the field you are targeting.
  • Step 4: Prospect communication: Develop a one-page communication piece that explains the value of the product or service you are offering.
  • Step 5: Follow-up: A process for following up with prospects that includes information to keep the prospects' attention and enhance the chances of closing the sale.

Learn by Doing

After putting my salespeople through the process, I liked to send them for training with experienced salespeople who have become trainers. Don't waste your money on inspirational speakers or academics who study sales but never played the game. I look for people who can teach newcomers a successful process and inspire seasoned pros.

Ultimately, if you need quotas and goals to motivate your sales force, you'd better look for new people.

Marc Kramer, a serial entrepreneur, is the author of five books and is an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton's Global Consulting Practicum, where he serves as Country Manager for Chile.