📈🐘😨When are my sales targets too damn high?

Posted by James Pember on 8/29/16 8:49 AM

If you’re remotely into goal-setting, you’ve probably read about the concept of “Stretch Goals”. Stretch Goals are audacious goals that inspire innovation and creative thinking in order to achieve it. However, setting unrealistic goals can have disastrous impacts on team performance. Read on to find out why.


"Stretch goals are ambitious goals that challenge current assumptions and processes, and inspire teams to re-imagine what they previously thought possible."

Stretch Goals - The Good

There are countless tales of stretch goals driving significant innovation in the enterprise: Japanese bullet trains were the result of an audacious new goal, GM invented scotch tape as part of a stretch goal.

“Stretch goals “serve as jolting events that disrupt complacency and promote new ways of thinking,” a group of researchers wrote in [the] Academy of Management Review business journal in 2011.”

When faced with a goal that in some ways seems unachievable, people need to use creativity and challenge the status quo in order to achieve it. Pretty exciting stuff.

Stretch Goals - The Bad

Stretch Goals can also be overwhelming. It’s a well-accepted notion that breaking down ambitious goals into smaller, easier-to-tackle chunks is the way to go.

Daniel Markovitz over at the Harvard Business Review comments“In his classic article, “Small Wins,” psychologist Karl Weick argued that people often become overwhelmed and discouraged when faced with massive and complex problems. He advocated recasting larger problems into smaller, tractable challenges that produce visible results, and maintained that the strategy of “small wins” can often generate more action and more complete solutions to major problems because it enables people to make slow, steady progress.”

Stretch Goals - The Ugly

Sometimes, Stretch Goals can be so ambitious that they are of course demotivating. Again, Daniel Markovitz over at the Harvard Business Review comments: “When stretch goals seem overwhelming and unattainable, they sap employees’ intrinsic motivation. The enormity of the problem causes people to freeze up, and the extrinsic motivator of money crowds out the intrinsic motivators of learning and growth”.

Ok, so how should sales leaders set about setting goals that are both ambitious, will lead to creativity, yet still keep their teams motivated and excited?

Here are some simple tips to setting better sales goals that drive results:

  • Don’t be afraid to set "stretch goals". Goals are meant to be a challenge, that’s why it’s a goal. Far too many teams set easy to achieve goals.
  • However, make sure you have “buy in” from everyone involved. If a goal is literally impossible, that will demotivate. The art of setting stretch goals that motivate is a tricky one, but if you nail it - you’ll motivate and inspire your team into higher success.
  • Make sure goals are visualised, and progress is communicated, at all times - in real time. Difficult and challenging goals need to be constantly top of mind if you want any chance of achieving them. See the section below on tools to help you facilitate goal progress visualisation.

Topics: sales, tips for sales managers, sales management, how to motivate sales team, sales motivation, enterprise gamification, sales coaching, sales goals

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