By Richard Fenton & Andrea Waltz
It’s 11:35 on a Monday morning and Chris Wilkerson is smiling. Of the two customers he has had for the day, he finds himself two-for-two; two customers, two sales! And as he strides to the break room for a sip of coffee, having hit his sales goal for the day, he figures that he doesn’t need to be too concerned about greeting and approaching more customers and will let them approach him if they need help.
And in the blink of an eye a great day begins the quick slide toward an average week, all because Chris has started the process with the wrong goals.
The Problem with Traditional Goal Setting
Everyone knows it’s important to set goals. The problem is in the type of goals we set.
Like Chris, most salespeople (and the organizations they work for) operate with what are commonly called Yes-Goals… goals for the number of times customers say “yes” to them. This approach – while the one we’ve all been taught to use and follow – is significantly flawed. Because once we achieve the objective or sales quota we tend to become less concerned with productivity or divert our attention to other tasks.
But there is a better approach that can dramatically increase the performance of anyone who employs it. And that approach is to:
Stop setting Yes-Goals and start setting NO-GOALS instead.
In other words, stop setting goals for number of sales you intend to close and dollars you want to generate, and start setting goals for the specific number of times customers say “no” to you. What we’re talking about is operating with a failure quota rather than a success quota. Admittedly, setting NO-Goals requires a change in thinking, perhaps a radical change. And while the concept can be difficult to embrace at first, the results can be immediate and dramatic.
The Inherent Pitfall with Performance Quotas
You need only look up the word quota to see the issue. In the dictionary a “quota” is defined as “a proportional share” which makes sense; everyone should be responsible for their proportional share. But then the definition goes on to say “the highest number or proportion.”
And therein lay the problem. Most people treat their quota as a shut-down or slow-down mechanism (the ceiling of their performance) rather than the floor it is intended to be. And that’s the insidious thing about quotas; they often end up limiting sales rather than propelling them upward. And maybe the worst part of what Chris has done is he’s just ended what is commonly referred to as a hot streak!
So how does setting NO-Goals make a difference? Let’s take the situation with Chris and see how NO-Goals would have changed the picture.
What Chris Should Have Done
With a two-for-two start, the first thing Chris should have done is to have taken advantage of his momentum! After all, when you’re hot, you’re hot! And the last thing you should do when you’re hot is to slow down, or even worse, stop! Having set clearly established NO-Goals would have helped Chris avoid this.
Let’s say that instead of starting with the goal of closing two sales or generating say $2,000 for the day, Chris had set the goal of getting customers to say NO to him 50 times during the day. After going two-for-two, Chris would have reviewed each of his two sales only to discover that the first customer said NO only three times, and the second customer didn’t say no at all! In this case, rather than being excited about his two sales, Chris would have found himself at noon saying to himself, “Wow! Monday is half over and I’ve only gotten three NOs. I’m behind! I’ve got to step up my customer focus if I’m going to get to my goal of 50 NOs for the day!”
In this way – where as before Chris’s success would have led to a decreased number of customer interactions – that same success will now lead to an increased number of customer interactions and an increased number of NOs gathered during each by showing additional merchandise which will, of course, lead to more sales and more yeses. And with this approach and mindset chances are good that Chris is going to obliterate his quota for the day, week, and if he keeps it up, for the month, quarter, and the year! That’s the power of setting NO-Goals!
The Great Irony of Business and Life
All of this points to one of the great ironies of business (and life); that having too great an emphasis on achieving success can lead to failure, while placing a greater emphasis on increasing your failure can often lead to massive success! Because success can often become our greatest enemy, for with success comes complacency. As Ben Franklin said, “Success has ruined many a man!”
Is this to suggest that all salespeople should ditch their success quotas entirely? Perhaps. In fact, there are many top performers who never set traditional “yes” goals, opting instead to focus solely on the behaviors needed to generate results. They understand that the very act of setting Yes-Goals and/or quotas of any kind may – consciously or unconsciously – become a self-fulfilling prophecy, placing artificial limits on their income and their performance.
But let’s face it: few managers are enlightened enough to shift from years of traditional quota-setting in favor of a behavior-based process like NO-Goals. So, when you get your next quota handed to you, look at it… smile… and then set it aside in favor of aggressive NO-Goals for the number of times you plan to fail. Because when you shift your focus to achieving your NO-Goals, the results… the yeses… will come. They always do!
Richard Fenton & Andrea Waltz are founders of Courage Crafters, Inc., a company dedicated to helping organizations achieve breakthrough performance. Authors of, "Go for No! Yes is the Destination, NO is How You Get There," Richard and Andrea conduct workshops and keynote presentations that encourage participants to overcome self-imposed limitations and achieve their full potential by intentionally increasing their failure rate. Clients include Macy's, Ameriprise, and High Performers International.
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