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Submitted by

Bob Morrell on 21.02.2024

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Sales Targets (and How They Work Against You)

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There is no way to set a sales target. It’s the oddest thing. We have been training managers for over 15 years and that one topic is one we have never trained because it doesn’t actually exist. A sales target is only ever an educated guess. It’s a wish. Yet many of us spend our lives chasing something which is someone else’s ‘wished for’ figure. The most alarming thing is that sales targets affect behaviours more than anything else, and some of those are damaging. 

Imagine this scenario: your boss plucks a number out of thin air and declares it to be your sales target. This arbitrary figure becomes your daily nemesis, pushing you to resort to desperate measures like tweaking numbers or persuading customers to buy things they don’t really need, or heavily discounting, or massaging sales orders so they appear in time periods that are more advantageous to you. 

And let’s not overlook the toll it takes on mental wellbeing. The relentless pressure to meet those targets can turn even the most cheerful salesperson into a bundle of nerves. You find yourself lying awake at night, wondering if you should bend the rules a little and manipulate sales figures to meet your targets. It’s a slippery slope that undermines trust within the organisation, leading to a downward spiral.

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But here’s another crucial point: chasing those sales targets can actually harm profitability. Sure, you might hit your numbers, but at what cost? Discounting becomes the norm, slashing prices left, right, and centre just to secure a sale. Before you know it, this discount-driven approach not only hurts your profit margins but also sets a precedent that customers can exploit. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break free from.

So, what’s the solution? It’s time to ditch these dubious targets and embrace a more ethical approach to sales. Instead of pulling numbers out of thin air, let’s set objectives that are rooted in reality and integrity, encouraging genuine effort and innovation within timescales that mean there is no disincentive to sell. So that you don’t need to resort to underhanded tactics. 

Managers who are asked to set targets or forecast results must also treat this task with the contempt it deserves. Many spend days or weeks every year fudging figures into optimistic or realistic scenarios that seem plausible to a group of people who are unlikely to accept your carefully calculated guess anyway. Whereas without the strictures of targets, and no disincentives to sell, and managers working with their teams on growth, you could achieve results way and above anything you could have dreamt of when trying to set targets. By working in this way, you actually find out the truth of the potential marketplaces you serve. 

In the end, it’s not merely about achieving targets; it’s about upholding the values that define our identity and purpose. By setting realistic and principled sales goals that mean 100% effort, at all times, businesses can pave a path to success that’s both profitable and honourable.

Tune in to our Bob & Jeremy’s Conflab podcast episode, Sales Targets (and How They Work Against You). Click here to listen: https://bit.ly/SalesTargetsPodcast