Goal Setting without Accountability is Wishful Thinking

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By Jim Ayraud

At Sandler Training, we spend a lot of time talking about the Success Triangle with our clients. There are three points on this famous triangle—Behavior, Attitude, and Technique – and while all three are essential for high achievement, I believe the most important point on the Triangle is the first one, Behavior.

Attitude and Technique matter a great deal, of course. Ultimately, though, Behavior drives Attitude … and the best Technique in the world is of little or no use if it doesn’t become part of your “muscle memory,” part of the Behavior that drives what you actually do, each and every working day. My experience is that it’s Behavior that always separates the top-performing sales professionals from the rest of the pack. And if you really want to understand what Behavior means on a practical level for sales teams, you have to understand the three things that David Sandler identified as the foundations of successful Behavior: goals, plans and actions.

Setting a goal without creating a plan for achieving the goal is pointless. Setting a goal without assuming personal accountability for taking consistent action on that plan is simply wishful thinking!

Setting a goal without creating a plan for achieving the goal is pointless.

The Disconnect

Survey after survey that we've done with our clients and prospects tells us that most salespeople do not have a personal written sales plan ... and, as a result, they do not take consistent action on the right Behaviors!

Somebody may have handed them a goal, and they may or may not have bought into that goal. But an individualized, written sales plan – one that the salesperson has developed collaboratively with the manager to include the key goals, both personal and professional, and the daily action steps reflecting the specific Behaviors necessary to turn the goals into reality – most of the time that's just not there.

Here’s what I know. Without accountability to a daily plan, there is a disconnect that keeps people from performing up to their full potential. And without some kind of interaction with sales leadership, that disconnect does not fix itself.

The kind of personalized daily plan I’m talking about goes by a lot of different names. Some people call it a cookbook. My own favorite label for this plan, however, is “flight checklist.

Without accountability to a daily plan, there is a disconnect that keeps people from performing up to their full potential.

Checklists Are All About Accountability

You’re the pilot. Your selling day is the flight. Everyone who’s depending on you – family, colleagues, prospects, customers, and so on – are the passengers. If the flight going to get you and everyone else onboard to the right destination, then you, the pilot, must be accountable for doing everything on the flight checklist, without missing anything on the list!

Think about it. It only makes sense that a real-life pilot should carefully follow the checklist that drives all the necessary activities for a successful flight … not just once in a while, but every single time the plane takes off. By the same token, it only makes sense that you invest the time and attention necessary to identify and follow your personal checklist as a sales professional, every single working day.

I believe that success is ultimately a function of the checklists we hold ourselves accountable to set up and follow in life. If we’re serious about achieving the end result called Success, we need a clear plan, a plain line of sight, a first-hand, crystal-clear understanding of the things that we need to do every day in order to be successful.

Unfortunately, most salespeople are following a “checklist” with one item on it: “close the sale.” They spend the vast majority of their time looking at a single lagging, late-stage indicator called “CLOSED.” As in: “Did we close the deal?”

They’re like a pilot skipping every item on the flight checklist except “Land the plane without incident.” I wouldn’t want to be a passenger on that flight. Would you?

If “Did we close the deal?” is the item on your checklist, your flight is headed for trouble. At a minimum, you need to know what the top three to five leading-indicator Behaviors are. You need to know the action items that must happen without exception, every working day, week after week, month after month, in order for you to generate the activity that supports your personal income goal (not anyone else’s). You need to know exactly how often those actions need to occur. And you need to check them off the list.

At a minimum, you need to know what the top three to five leading-indicator Behaviors are.

Let’s be frank. You could get in deep trouble skipping the flight checklist. I’ve seen it happen. I don’t recommend it.

At Sandler, we’re all about successful flight plans. A big part of our mission is to help salespeople and sales managers identify and track the behind-the-scenes Behaviors that actually create sales success. That’s why we’ve built tools and resources that make it easier to formalize, and follow, your personal success checklist.

You may not have control over whether a given deal closes. But you always, always have control over your Behaviors!

Jim Ayraud is CEO and Founder of Next Level, Inc., a sales management consulting firm and Sandler Training Center.

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