Measuring Sales Goals without Leveraging Shame

How are you doing on those New Year’s resolutions so far? The truth is that after the month of January, most of us will fall away from the ambitious goals we set for 2019. And there is admittedly a unique kind of shame that comes with not reaching the ideals we set out for ourselves.

February hits and we realize we haven’t made as much progress as we’d imagined. For some, the guilt may only wash over us for a moment. But in the age of constant comparison that technology has wrought, odds are we will be regularly reminded of how others are succeeding and subsequently feel like a failure.

Avoiding that feeling should be motivation enough, right? Not exactly. More often than not, the shame ends up immobilizing us, triggering a sluggishness, or at the very least, a sense of hopelessness.

Yet often we try to motivate ourselves with shame and guilt, or the avoidance of them. Think of that one teacher in high school who would find ways to embarrass the kids that weren’t paying attention. Or the way we may withhold nice things from ourselves when we’re trying to get something done.

I can’t eat a piece of cake until I’ve made another 20 calls

If I can just stay awake long enough to finish this spreadsheet, I’ll sleep in tomorrow

If I don’t reach my quota, my performance review will be unpleasant

On and on it goes. Whether it’s sales incentives or personal goals, we have this sneaky way of leveraging shame to get things done, like that Geico commercial with the dollar on the end of a fishing pole. We think that the worse we feel when we don’t reach a goal, the more likely it is we’ll work harder in the future, if for no other reason than to avoid that awful sensation of shame.

The more you think about it, the more ridiculous that sounds. It sure doesn’t sound like a constructive way to motivate anyone, so why would you use it on your sales team?

Measuring progress toward goals is integral to refining the sales process. However, it’s important to make sure that the way that your team measures and incentivizes progress is not promoting a culture of shame.

Here are some questions you can use to evaluate your techniques so that the way you measure progress promotes motivation instead of discouragement.


Focusing on the Proper KPIs

Sometimes the whole process of setting and reaching goals becomes discouraging because we’re simply not measuring progress with the right tools, or measuring the correct variables at all.

For example, if you’re only measuring reps’ progress by final sales numbers, that is inevitably going to be more discouraging than looking at progress in the context of the entire pipeline. This isn’t because your reps aren’t selling. In fact, the best reps will have a holistic view that isn’t simply motivated by how many deals they’ve closed in a given quarter.

Peter Helmer of the Sales Management Group explains that revenue targets and sales quotas are not enough. They don’t reflect the entirety of the sales process. Those numbers only reflect a very small portion of a sales rep’s responsibilities. Helmer suggests “activity targets,” for tasks like calls, meetings, events, and proposals.

These everyday activities are important pieces of the sales process and thus shouldn’t be neglected in the pursuit of numbers. Make sure that you’re measuring your team’s productivity fairly by looking at the big picture, and not just final revenue numbers.

If you’d rather focus on a single metric for your sales team’s activity, consider something like Prodoscore which monitors all rep productivity and boils it down to a single score for tracking.

What Happens If We Don’t Reach Our Goal?

Try not to let this turn into a worst-case-scenario snowball. If your coaching and incentivizing strategy is focused too much on this intimidating question, it may be time to reframe your methods. While a little urgency is healthy, focusing too much on the negative possibilities creates a greater burden of stress and will leave teams feeling burned out, even if they are working harder.


What Happens If We Do?

Ah, that’s better. This is what incentivizing is all about. A positive perspective is much more energizing than fear of the future. Work isn’t happy-go-lucky all the time, but having a few milestones and celebrations built into the sales process is likely to be much more motivating than a regular reprimand.


How Does This Fit into the Coaching Process?

If the only sales coaching that you do is irregular, or consists of merely a performance review, you need to re-evaluate how you’re measuring sales progress. Management isn’t just about helping your team get the best numbers, but helping them to become the best salespeople in the process. If your reps aren’t being coached, it’s only going to be more difficult for them to improve. Make sure you’re integrating coaching into your everyday management and coaching proactively so that your reps don’t lose heart.


Leave Shame Behind

Shame was never really a great motivator anyway. View progress toward your sales goals in the context of your entire pipeline, not just numbers. Don’t get caught up in the nightmare of what could happen if productivity isn’t what you think. Incentivize regularly and properly, and integrate adequate sales coaching so that there’s always room for improvement.

Check yourself and your methods so that your team can leave shame behind this year.

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