Goal setting is a powerful and satisfying tool used in many aspects of our lives.

We set academic goals for school and professional goals for attaining certification or getting a promotion. We set personal goals as well, including reaching a certain weight, salary or other measurement of success. These goals give us clarity, energy and enthusiasm, providing strength of purpose, pushing away distractions, and give us milestones to celebrate. So, when it comes to the extremely important business of selling our professional services, why do we often choose to shun goal setting? Having business development goals can provide the same focus and inspiration we know to work in other aspects of our lives.

Common Rationalizations and Misconceptions

There are many reasons why we shun or neglect to set sales goals, but most of these reasons fail to withstand thoughtful scrutiny. How many of these rationalizations and misconceptions resonate with you?

I’m already doing what I need to be doing.

I attend every firm-sponsored event and participate in industry organizations. My efforts will eventually lead to business, and if I need to, I’ll just kick these efforts up a notch.

I’ll do it when I have the time to focus on it.

I’m a busy person, and I don’t have the time now to add in business development efforts. Furthermore, my head needs to be totally focused on my work, and frankly, that’s where I like it to be.

I’m an accountant, not a salesperson.

I didn’t go to school to become a salesperson, nor is that what I was hired to do. I find the whole thing somewhat distasteful and not in line with my image as a professional.

“Do good work and the clients will come.”

If we do great work, the referrals, and thus new business, will come in. That’s how the firm founders did it, and that’s how I’ll do it.

I’m not the salesperson type.

I can’t make cold calls, and I’m not pushy. I’m not going to talk to people who don’t want to talk to me, or ask for business, especially if they don’t want me to.

And why would someone want to talk to me, anyway?

People have already established their professional relationships. I’m young and inexperienced. I don’t have a pedigree or sales experience. People only want to talk with top leadership.

Sound familiar? These misconceptions often allow us to avoid uncomfortable facts. The truth is that building relationships is extremely important to creating a robust career, and we really can do it. Business development is a long-term, complex undertaking that needs to begin now with thoughtful, recurring planning. And selling is an undertaking that needs the discipline of everyday attention.

Harness the Power of Setting Sales Goals

Setting sales goals can help you recognize these facts and overcome limiting perceptions. The process can drive you to do the work that needs to be done to get clarity of direction and move forward in spite of all the distractions and competing priorities. Here are three initial goals to get on the right track.

Goal 1: Create the Vision of Sales Success

If selling your services is important to your career, and it is for most people, whether you like it or not, then begin by creating a vision for what sales success looks like. This is a powerful way to get sustainable passion behind your mission. Define how bringing in new clients will impact your career. Challenge assumptions. Talk to firm leadership. Enlist some support. Keep in mind your larger life goals and develop your vision within that context. The more meaningful and important the vision, the more drive and fortitude it will bring. With that vision, you can identify an effective and actionable plan.

Goal 2: Develop a Written Plan

The famous quote by Antoine de Saint Exupéry is true: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Creating a plan will put you in position to develop meaningful goals that will drive you towards success. You need to know exactly what you are selling, which may require going all the way to the micro-niche level. You need to know the characteristics of your ideal client; otherwise you will have difficulty prioritizing your relationship development activities. You need a good channel strategy to bring efficiency and effectiveness to your go-to market efforts. And finally, knowing how you are going to build relationships will give you the tools you need to stay in touch and engage with your prospective clients.

Goal 3: Set Actionable Goals

Establish measurable, time-specific, actionable goals. This doesn't mean just end-game metrics like revenue and profit, but also goals that measure the key activities that will lead you to these final results. Initial goals may include getting the plan together. Research and learning goals could be testing your market plans or finding the best places to speak to the type of people you want to reach. Level-of-effort goals such as investing four hours per week in business development can be effective, especially when you don’t exactly know where you are headed yet. As you develop your plans, your goals can get more specific, such as writing four articles this year or having three face-to-face meetings per week with prospective clients.

Keep in mind that goals will evolve over time – that’s why your goals need to be reviewed (and re-reviewed) on a regular basis, not relegated to an unopened file folder awaiting an annual peek.

Now It Is Up to You

When you put in the work necessary to get on a well-defined go-to-market program with a clear set of actionable goals, you start to see good things happen. You are a professional, and selling your firm’s services is an essential part of the profession. Let’s be just as professional about business development as you are about your technical skills, starting right now, and through strategic goal setting make your vision for the future happen.

Eric Lange

Eric Lange

Eric Lange is the founder of business development training, coaching and consulting firm EH Lange Consulting, developer of the a sales training program designed for professionals, The Sales PROcess.