From today’s mailbag: “Despite growing my results year over year, I’m in an organization where next to no one is hitting goal. I have over 100 peers and only a few of us are hitting. What gives?”
Carson: Let me preface this by saying that no matter how a company derives goals, it often comes down to guesswork and a group of people who are not in the field and may have never been in the field coming up with goals that the feet on the street have to hit.
Every company wants to achieve a lift in results. They can take their budgets and their expenses and growing headcount costs and equipment costs associated with their internal growth and those costs will be assigned to salespeople to achieve so they can “make their number.” High above us all, many equations and figures factor in to what numbers we have to hit – if a division wants to achieve 25% growth this year, guess what? Your goal is going to be 125% of what it was the year prior – across the board, no matter what’s possible or feasible or changing in the environment. We can be rockstars crushing goal one year and do more the following year, miss goal, and be the goat.
Once upon a time, I worked in an environment with 121 peers. We went from over half of us hitting goal to only 2 of us at one point (yes, I was one). The reason for these drastic swings fully illustrates the guesswork that often goes into goal-setting. No one wants to severely under-cut setting goal, because they pay out far more than they desire in bonuses. I also believe that no one wants to drastically misfire the opposite way either, because it is excruciatingly depressing to top performers to suddenly be told they are failing, to take pay cuts and be scolded despite selling more than they did when they were “great.”
Realize that like the House always winning, your bonuses and goals will often be offset – feast with famine. Equilibrium can be difficult to attain, specifically in newer sales channels, because no one truly knows the potential, a few huge wins can really change the curve and the dynamic dramatically, and you may break the bank one month, quarter or year only to have your goal jacked up so high that no matter how you perform you’ll never get paid like that again. Or, after a period of famine, if you can survive the drought, you may get to the point where your goals are reasonably adjusted again.
It can often be an inexact science, causing the result – our performance, our recognition, our payout – to be difficult to foresee. Frustrating and perplexing, to say the least, but it’s important to handle such issues similarly to other obstacles in your workplace.
1. Communicate with leadership! As always, develop a good rapport with the supervisor who is paid to protect and serve you and your peers. It’s vital you are tactfully and respectfully explaining the situation. The job of everyone above you on the sales food chain is to stay at the pulse of your team, so it is important you are explaining the drastic swing from everyone crushing goal to everyone missing goal is having its effect.
2. Stay the course. Be patient. As I alluded to, and let’s face facts, there are times when goals are severely under-set! If this happens, you are making a ton of money during these times. Be smart, don’t spend all of your bonus because a famine may follow the feast! If you spent all of the bonus money you made, this can make it increasingly difficult to keep a cool head when these swings hit. Make a living on your earnings and put extra earnings away if possible so you can find a consistent flow to managing the money.
3. See the bigger picture. Trust me – from a person who has had to set goals for brand new divisions, it is very difficult to do. Malice is not necessarily intended when goals are played with. Sure, there are companies who will make more and more profit and will find more and more ways to pay employees less – that’s a completely different story and those companies certainly warrant their terrible Glassdoor reviews and low morale. But I do believe that for the most part, you have a leadership team who is making their best prognosis on what salespeople need to achieve to make the business profitable. If they under-cut those goals, they will attempt to right the ship. Be cognizant that sometimes that’s going to result in drastic highs and lows on our bonus structures. As for how you are managed based on performance next to sometimes arbitrary goals, that’s a whole other issue – that all comes down to the quality of your management.
You’re not alone in dealing with sometimes drastically moving targets on goals and bonus structures. That said, if you have a consistent way of dealing with the inconsistency, it can certainly make it easier to bear.
Carson V. Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership. You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving. You will also be directly contributing to his third book, “A Salesman Forever.”
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Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” that has a unique spin that shows you proven sales principles designed to birth in you the top producer you were born to be.
If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICRVMI2/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_yGXKtb0G28TWF