Dreaming the Possible: How to Set and Attain Your Personal Sales Goals for 2018


Are you a possibilitist?Not a pessimist.Not even a realist.But a dreamer who imagines possibilities?That’s what goal setting is: determining possibilities.It’s not a dream with a deadline (an oft-quoted phrase) but a process where you dream what’s possible and then execute a plan to attain it.Activate your imagination for a moment: It’s New Year’s Day, 2019, you lift your glass to celebrate what? A 30% increase in sales with a 2% increase in your gross margin? Or (let’s make this a little more exciting): a 20% increase in your net income? Matty Toomb asks it this way, “What’s your perfect year? A million dollars at 37% margin?”A fun exercise: Give yourself space and time to dream. Take an afternoon, with your sales reports and a notebook, and get alone with your thoughts. Samantha Kates, commonsku’s Vice President of Sales who has worked on both the supplier and distributor side of the business, wrote “I always love this time of year. Buying that new agenda or day planner and journal, thinking about what could be, what went wrong in the past, what to do differently … it's the idea of possibility that I love. I don't always get there, but the hope of it keeps me going!” Permitting yourself to dream activates the optimist that lives inside each salesperson.Do you know where you are growing in 2018? Have you mapped your 2018 sales journey?We’ve outlined three crucial steps to help you dream the possible, shape your 2018 sales goals, and ensure you deliver on the promises you make to yourself: 

Step 1: Know Where You Are

 Note your annual sales YTD (projecting the remaining part of the year based on your open/booked orders and expected billing).Establish a baseline by determining three key factors: your total gross sales volume, your average margin, and your number of clients.Once you have your list of clients, arrange them in declining order based on gross sales volume. And try this exercise too: List your clients in declining order by annual gross profit, then compare the two lists (gross sales versus gross profit), you might discover a few surprises.

Gross sales tells you who you work for, but gross profit tells you who is working (out) for you.

Now that you’ve reviewed your current sales year, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s sales in light of your existing book of business. So that you can create an accurate forecast for the upcoming year, there are a few key questions to ask yourself as you review your current sales and plan your goal for 2018:Attrition: Do you have any large orders that will not repeat next year? This is a common occurrence in promotional products sales and needs to be factored into your forecasting. If so, reduce next year’s projections by that amount. Do you have clients that have indicated changes in budget or have you had changes in buyers? A buyer change can make a client relationship tenuous, these are important factors. Matty Toomb, Vice President of Sales for Shumsky who, in his career, has sold over 11,000 orders and trained numerous salespeople in the industry, says that you need to operate with the understanding that you will lose 20% of your business next year, knowing this will help you create an aggressive growth plan.Anticipated Growth: Likewise, are any of your large customers doing exceptionally well? Do you anticipate record growth with any of them next year? Do you have clients celebrating major events (like an anniversary) or have they indicated big projects to you? Guesstimate a growth goal for those individual clients. Often, a large client’s growth will create dramatic swings in your sales results. What you want with sales forecasting, is to forecast the reality so that you don’t delude yourself by depending on miracles. 

Step 2: Establishing Growth Goals

 Your next step is to establish your growth goals based on a percentage.As you consider your 2018 growth goals, there are a few miscalculations to avoid. Newer sales reps will make one of two mistakes in their projections:
  • Unrealistic growth goals which are goals that cannot be mapped backwards to daily and weekly activities. It's okay to dream, you should want to be a million dollar producer, but if you’re at $250,000, that’s a big leap. Make sure your goals are realistic compared to where you are currently at.
  • Anemic growth goals: not dreaming big enough. “You have to set goals that are almost out of reach. If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, you are stuck with something below your true talent and potential.” (Steve Garvey)
One way to be aggressive with your growth goals and yet realistic is to know your bandwidth. Are you at $250,000 in sales and are a solopreneur? Are you at $500,000 in sales with adequate sales and production support and therefore have plenty of room for growth?Often, salespeople in the $500,000-$750,000 bracket underestimate their potential.Why?The busyness of the daily grind.They can rarely lift their head from their day-to-day to consider aggressive growth. But these sales reps are in the perfect position for expansive growth for the simple reason that they have a substantial base to build upon. Reps in the sub $250,000 have one strategic advantage: they have more time for business development; but reps in the $250,000+ category have an even greater advantage: clients to build upon. 

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

 One word of warning.When it comes to sales growth, particularly new business development, busy salespeople will frequently tell themselves two unintentional lies:
  • I’ll make new business development a priority when I have some free time.
  • As soon as business slows down, I’m going to focus on business development.
The irony is, this almost never happens. With a decent client base, you will likely always be busy. Don’t fret about your lack of bandwidth. Don’t feed your mind with unintentional lies. The secret to substantial growth while working with a solid sales base is to “keep your sales pipeline full by prospecting continually, always have more people to see than you have time to see them." (Brian Tracey) And, consider what tiny tasks you can implement into your daily and weekly routine to make your goals a reality (for ideas, tune into our podcast episode Tiny Tasks for Ginormous Sales Gain.) 

Step 3: Reverse engineering (working backwards from attainment)

 This is the most important step in your growth goals for 2018, what Catherine Graham and the team at RIGHTSLEEVE call a “bottoms up” approach to your goals. If you aim to increase your sales by 20% for 2018, you need to answer two questions:
  1. What daily and weekly activities will you implement to ensure you reach your goals?
  2. And, most importantly, how will you track your progress so that you will know, week by week, day-by-day, whether or not you are attaining your goals?
Almost everyone has attempted to lose weight at some point in their lives, and experts have long determined that tracking and measuring your progress is the most substantial step to achieving weight loss goals. Same with sales. To help you with your 2018 goal tracking, we created a goal setting template that you can use to track your weekly progress throughout the year. Tracking your progress helps you stay on course and, like losing weight, makes you aware of your progress (or regress) so that you can make quick course adjustments. And if you are on commonsku, the Sales Target Report is a powerful way to determine whether or not you are staying on top of your goals. With the sales target report, you can track where you are in relation to your yearly sales goals. The report keeps track of the total sales for each customer for the current year and the previous three years and (crucially!) will also track the last touchpoint you had with each customer. The report is based on your yearly sales goals.  

Transparency and Accountability

 Lastly, the step that determines whether or not you will achieve your goals is the one that many self-sufficient and over-confident salespeople avoid (at their peril): transparency and accountability. If you are a solopreneur, it’s imperative that you seek a mentor to connect with regularly so that you can share your vision and stay accountable to achieving your dreams. Promokitchen can help. Promokitchen is a non-profit comprised of promotional products professionals who exist to help one another. If you don’t have a mentor, you can sign up for one through Promokitchen, here. For those who work on a team, share, regularly, your goals with each other. Each week, the team at distributor RIGHTSLEEVE gathers for their weekly meeting, and the first thing they talk about is how they performed last week against their goal and where they are at year to date. The constant discussion keeps the objective top-of-mind.

The best kind of accountability on a team is peer-to-peer ... peer pressure is more efficient and effective than going to the leader.

From all of us at commonsku: We hope 2018 is the year you dream and achieve - and we're here to help!
commonsku is an effortless business management platform that empowers you to process more orders and handle more business. Start your free trial here
Patrick Lencioni