Sales Targets and Self-Improvement: Drawing Parallels with ’12 Rules for Life’

I am reading Jordan B Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life; in the chapter about discussing his Rule 4: “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today,” there is a section where he, in his own insightful way of simplifying things, points out the obvious:

We cannot navigate without something to aim at, and while we are in this world, we must always navigate.

He continues on a much more philosophical path than I will go into in the article, but the obvious implication of this quote as it pertains to sales is profound. You need to have a laser-focused aim and a well-defined answer to the question:

Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today

What are you aiming at?

I write, coach, and teach about the principle of tracking what you want to grow. Bob Parsons, the founder of several software enterprises that you are likely to have heard of, including GoDaddy, in his 16 Rules, points out in Rule 9 that he believes you should measure anything of significance.

I will expand on my original question:

What are you aiming at, what are you measuring, and what is significant?

Too Much Hoping and Not Enough Aiming

I see too many salespeople wishing and hoping rather than aiming and measuring.

One of the things that I love about the business of sales is how measurable it is. If properly measured, you have the ability to predict and can forecast results based on historical data. If you know what you are aiming for, you can make plans on how to hit it.

Here are 5 Things Sales People Need To Aim For.

One:  Overall income

How much money do you want to make? Suppose you’re just starting out in sales. In that case, you might have lofty goals influenced by the people who lured you into the job with inflated income promises achieved after years of commitment, repeat customers, and a well-perfected sales process. That’s ok. Set your long-term income goals, and also set your short-term income goals. Setting short terms goals and more realistic income goals will give you the emotional satisfaction of reaching them. (This isn’t a “trophy for everyone” mentality because I’m asking you to reward yourself only when you achieve the goals, not just for “showing up.”)

Now, start tracking that goal and your progress toward it. And I don’t mean wait for your paycheck and see how close you are to hitting what you aim at. I mean, start understanding what it will take to reach that goal, to hit what you’ve aimed at.

Two:  Commission On Each Sale

How these first two items on this list relate to each other is rather obvious. If your goal is to make $10,000 per month, your commission per sale will be major in everything you do after this point. If you are new to sales, a quality sales manager who tracks results will be able to give you the average commission per sale for someone just starting out. You may already know if you’ve been at this for a while. If you don’t already know, look back on the historical data available to you, and get a number.

Increasing your commission per sale can either increase your overall income or reduce the amount of work you need to do to achieve your overall income goals. Tracking your success through the sales process and where improvement may be necessary will help you know what to aim for.

For the sake of this article, let’s assume that your commission is $500 per sale; you need to close and deliver 20 sales each month.

Three:  Closing Ratio

If you find that you are closing 20% of the prospects to whom you make a presentation, and you’ve already established that you need to make 20 sales per month to reach your income goal, you will need to get in front of a minimum of 100 prospects each month.

Four:  Appointment-Setting Ratio

Whether your employer provides you with leads or you are responsible for finding your own prospects, you have an appointment-setting ratio. If you sell furniture and feel like your only opportunities to sell are presented as people walk in the front door, you will need to track how many walk-ins you need to greet before you have a prospect to work with. If prospecting calls create your pipeline, door knocking or trying to grab people at a trade show, you also need to track how many phone calls, doors you knock on, or passersby you need to greet before you set an appointment.

If your appointment closing ratio is 10%, then you need to make 1,000 contacts per month to get in front of 100 prospects, so you can close 20 sales at $500 each and make $10,000 per month.

Five:  Activities Needed

To grasp the reality of this rule, you must close yourself with the Reduction To The Ridiculous Close. The Reduction To The Ridiculous Close helps your prospect understand how a big problem can be overcome by breaking it down into small, easy-to-understand increments of time, money, or another investment that will eliminate the problem. You may already realize that making 1,000 contacts monthly may not be easy. You may have just realized that the life of a salesperson may not be for you. Except I know that you have the ability to do this. I know it because sales is a series of repeatable and measurable steps that, with the proper training and motivation, even the timidest among us can succeed at it.

You are both the prospect (the person who wants to buy into a career in sales but thinks that the price is too high) and the salesperson (the person who knows that a career in sales is rewarding, both financially and emotionally, and if you can help your prospect look past this obstacle, you know that he will appreciate it.)

Lean forward, give a look of understanding to your prospect and use this word track:

“Gee, self, 1,000 contacts per month seems like an awful lot. It may even seem like something that you won’t be able to do. But let’s take a closer look at how you can do it:

  • I need to contact 1,000 per month.

    • That’s 12,000 contacts per year. Wow!

    • Wait, with an income goal of $120,000, that makes every contact worth $10.

  • On average, there are 4.33 workweeks per month

    • That’s 231 contacts weekly.

  • There are five workdays per week.

    • That’s 46 contacts per day.

  • I’ll be at work at least 8 hours per day, and I came to work to work.

    • That’s six calls per hour

    • That’s three calls every half hour.

  • I will need to chat with a prospect once every 10 minutes.

    • Since every one of those chats is worth $10, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to set a 10-minute timer and make sure I get a chance to chat with a new prospect every 10 minutes, does it?”

Aim for one contact every 10 minutes, and you now have the plan to hit the income goal you aimed at.

What if you miss it?

Is it possible that you will miss what you’ve aimed for? Absolutely. An often repeated statistic is that Ty Cobb, the baseball player with the highest batting average in the complete history of baseball, missed what he aimed for over 63% of the time. DeAndre Jordan, the NBA player with the highest field goal percentage, missed what he aimed for over 30% of the time.

I’m not a very big sports fan, so those statistics are somewhat incomprehensible to me. Since we’re talking about aiming, I prefer to break it down more simply:

If you miss what you aim for, you adjust your aim and try again. Don’t throw the weapon away after one shot, and give up. You practice, you hold steadier, you may adjust the sights, and maybe you’ll even move the target a little closer this time. Then you aim again and shoot for the target again. This time, I assure you, you’ll be closer to what you aimed for.

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