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The TACTIC: Reachable & believable goals.


“This is a waste of time,” exclaimed Greg, late Wednesday afternoon.

I didn’t think he was talking to anyone in particular, but I just happened to be in the office at the time.

He looked up to find me staring at him.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought everyone had gone. Trying to get referrals is a waste of time. I’ve been on the phone the past two days, and you want to know just how successful this has been?”

Not being his sales manager, I nodded “yes,” not quite sure that I really wanted to know.

“Well, I’ve gotten two. Two lousy referrals after calling every last customer I have. I was supposed to get twenty referrals. What a gigantic waste of time this has been. I suppose you think I’m not trying hard enough.”

Now that was the last question I wanted to answer and fortunately, before I could say anything, he kept up his monologue.

“Doing this by phone won’t work. I’m a people person. You know, face-to-face, belly-to-belly. Sure, it’s old-fashioned, but that’s how I could do it. Why they pulled us in off the road to waste time this week is beyond me. I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned.”

I was edging my way out of the office when Greg went on.

“The one thing I’ve learned is that I can’t use the phone to get referrals. That much I’ve learned. The next time someone has the bright idea to pull us in, well, I’ll just stay out. Two! A lousy two for two days of solid work.”

Fortunately, when I came in the next morning, Greg had made good on his promise to get back on the road. I’ll tell you one thing, he sure convinced me that he’s no good on the phone. I can’t help but wonder what he’s going to do when he finds out his current sales manager is being “surplused” and I’m pulling in everyone three weeks out of four to cut down on travel expenses.

Too bad if Greg can’t work inside. The word has come down to cut. Either I keep salespeople and cut travel, or I cut both. Since Greg is so bad on the phone, perhaps he’ll be the first to go when the next wave of cuts comes down from on high.



Greg believes that he is no good on the phone getting referrals. Is he?



When a goal is not reached, the task being performed is usually blamed for the failure. For example, in this story Greg believes that asking for referrals does not work, despite the fact that he did get two referrals. His sales manager had set, for Greg, the unreachable goal of 20 referrals. Since he didn’t get 20, Greg deemed the task a failure. Because his perception of this task is that it is doomed to failure, he sees no point in doing it in the future.

The failure was not the task, but setting a goal that was not reachable. Had the goal been four referrals, Greg would have achieved a 50 percent success. Most salespeople would be glad to have a 50 percent success rate.

Having a goal of four referrals instead of 20 is not a case of making things easy. What is more important? Reaching a goal or getting referrals? Two referrals are more referrals than Greg had before. But, because of his goal of 20, two referrals are seen as a failure.

This ludicrous thinking goes on all the time in sales. If the goal is not met, the task is blamed. Ridiculous!



Goals must be set individually. While one salesperson might be able to get 10 referrals from 10 current customers, another in the office might only get 5 referrals from 10 customers. If the first salesperson’s goal was 10 referrals and the second’s was 5 referrals, they both achieved a 100 percent.

Regardless of how near or far one is from a goal at whatever point in time, focus on what has been gained rather than how much farther one has to go. Remember that Greg did have two referrals which was more than he had before. This is good. This is ok. Yes, it would be great if he had eight more. But that’s not what’s important. Getting referrals is what’s important.

Don’t blame the task if the goal was not met. Change the goal and try the task again.



If you always focus on how far you have yet to go, it will always belittle how far you have come.


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Posted May 30, 2019

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