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First, a disclaimer: I am whole-heartedly for goals, quotas, and their attainment. But my support of goals and quotas doesn’t mean that we don’t have to face the ugly truth about how short term goals can be completely misaligned with our highest values.

Short-term goals are the root of some bad sales behaviors, as well as a good portion of bad business behaviors. The curse of short-term goals is that they work against long-term goals and long-term relationships. The price is too high for business and for individual salespeople.

Here are some of the ways short-term goals and short-term thinking are misaligned with our values, some thoughts about their costs, and some ideas about what to do about it.

Pressing for More Than We Have Earned

The pressures to make quota can be quite intense. With the goal of making his number, a sales manager that is under pressure to make his number can apply a lot of downward pressure on his team to make their individual numbers. This pressure to perform can cause salespeople to push to close deals that aren’t ready to be closed.

The pressure to close deals before their time is misaligned with our values. Very few sales organizations believe that sales can be effectively won without investing the time and the energy to go through the sales process—and the buyer’s buying process. We value trust, and we value making sure we get things right for our clients.

Instead of the end of quarter push to close deals, align our efforts with your values and ensure that your pipeline provides enough opportunities that you can make your number without having to press for more than you have earned.

Making Recommendations Based on Our Needs

The new product isn’t doing well. To make up for a poorly received product, management has decided to change the incentive program to compensate salespeople for pushing the new product, instead of what their clients want, need, or expect. They lower the compensation on other products.

It’s all well and good to say that salespeople shouldn’t sell what doesn’t benefit their clients, but these are empty words when the compensation schedule says otherwise. The idea that a salesperson should sell something that their client doesn’t want or need is anathema to business leaders—or should be.

Instead of changing the compensation plan to incent pushing the new product, service, or solution, incent clients for adopting it ahead of others. Arm your sales force with the tools to make it easy to give the new offering a try.

Note: If the development was bad in the first place, there is no reason to push a sales force to sell something that destroys trust and removes the possibility of future sales.

Behaving As If Our Goals Serve Our Clients

As sales organizations, we need revenue. We need profit. We need growth. None of our needs mean anything to our clients. None of them.

Sometimes, sales organizations get things backwards. The only path to increased revenue, increased profit, and growth is through acquiring and serving clients. Clients aren’t a means to an end—they are the ends.

Behaving as if clients are here to serve your need for revenue, profit, and growth is a belief and attitude that will undo a sales organization, their salespeople, and their long-term relationships. Instead, focus all of your efforts and energies on making a greater difference for your existing clients and dream clients; more effort creating value for your clients and dream clients is the only path to improved revenue, profit, and growth.

There is no cramming for success or for better numbers—especially at the end of a quarter. The way to long-term, profitable growth is through a religious devotion to playing the long game. Goals should be aligned to serve these ends.


Why do short-term goals sometimes conflict with our values?

What are some of the bad behaviors that occur due to a focus on short-term goals?

What are the values that good pushed aside for short-term goals?

How do you prevent these bad behaviors? Is there a way you can cram success at the end of a quarter?

Post by Anthony Iannarino on July 3, 2011
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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