I’m bucking the annual tradition of pitching predictions about what is or is not going to happen in sales, marketing and business in 2020 or the decade ahead.
It seems pointless.
Predictions aside, for the past decade buyers have clearly communicated their displeasure with traditional, outdated selling approaches; yet, old behaviors rage on.
It seems pointless to predict what could happen when what has happened isn’t even being addressed.
It’s a New Year and things are bound to be different, right?
I’d like to think so. Could 2020 be that year?
If you follow numerology at all, you know that 2020 represents a year of insight, perfect vision and accomplishment. It is the number for “work” and about getting things done. The right things.
I wonder what would happen if more companies challenged themselves to set the intention to THINK different, SELL different and BE different leveraging 20/20 vision and insight to make that happen.
Intentions versus goals. Is it one or the other or both?
Goals are meant to help us reach an objective within a finite period. Basically, it is about establishing clear tactics and setting deadlines to get what we want.
With intentions, we have a plan we intend to carry out, but those intentions may or may not be linked to a specific deadline. I view intentions as being a bigger vision of something we want but setting arbitrary deadlines may not make sense. At least not at first.
Setting goals sounds like the smarter way to go.
We’ve been trained to believe that the only way to reach our goals is to set deadlines. SMART goals. Specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time stamped goals. Goal achievement experts proclaim that without setting actionable goals you don’t fulfill your true potential, which to me, is a lie we should not believe.
More will be revealed, and timing is everything.
The difficulty I’ve always had with traditional approaches to goal setting is that I don’t know what I don’t know.
In sales, goal setting is easier in the sense that you are assigned a quota for the month, quarter and year. That’s your goal. Following a consistent sales process backed up with the right activities, you can work backwards to lay out the steps needed to achieve your objective. You don’t have to guess at the right activities, there is enough research and proof to know what they are.
On the other hand, you may have a goal to become a sales manager. You could set your achievement deadline to be December 31, 2020. But I would argue that there are many factors that will impact your ability to achieve that goal or not. You could lay out all the steps, execute them well, and still not achieve the goal by the deadline you set.
That’s the big problem I have with traditional goal setting. It feels like a forced process, as if we can control circumstances often far beyond our control.
There is nothing wrong with thinking big, striving for the best version of ourselves or dreaming of big rewards to keep us motivated.
When I think about intentions and whether or not I should focus my energies on this or that, I have to know in my heart that it feels right, and I want it. I may have no idea how it will all come together but I have faith that more will be revealed. That the people and the resources I need to make my intentions come alive will show up at the right time.
A personal example to prove my point.
In 2009, I created a list of publications who I wanted to publish an article of mine. I had no idea if this intention would come to pass. At the time I was a less confident writer even after being signed to have my book published the following year!
Anyway, one of those publications was the Harvard Business Review. I could have taken my list and created “goals” to make my desire a reality. My book on Social Selling was published in 2010, so logically, that might have been the year to push to get at least one of those publications to publish me. But what if the timing was all wrong, or I didn’t have the skills required just yet? And, if I didn’t achieve my objective in the time frame I’d committed too, would that motivate me to adjust and carry on or simply cause me to give up? Hard to say.
What did happen is that in February 2012, one of the editors at the Harvard Business Review contacted me (email and Twitter!) to ask me to write an article about Social Selling for their July 2012 magazine. They had decided to devote an entire issue to the topic of sales evolution. As a result of them following me on social media and hearing me on webinars, they had decided to invite me to write for them. They felt I had a unique perspective to add to their magazine focus. No PR agent created that opportunity for me. Had I set the goal to make this happen in 2010, it probably wouldn’t have. It was clear that buyer behavior was changing and that social was impacting selling but it took another two years before these new ideas began gaining traction.
I set the intention. It had no deadline. I certainly took action to walk my talk and demonstrate how I used social in my own business and taught clients to do the same. The visibility I created for myself ultimately paid off but I didn’t try to force the achievement of a goal.
To some of you reading this post, you’ll be thinking – that’s airy fairy, new age nonsense. For me, it works. It feels more authentic, and I have accomplished quite a lot in my lifetime approaching things this way. I simply don’t try to force things into existence merely to prove I can set goals and achieve them.
I take a combination approach and set goals and intentions.
For example, my #1 intention is to change the prevailing sales mindset about a salesperson’s role in the buying process. We are (or should be) problem solvers and value creators. Not product pitching demo dollies.
To turn that intention into a goal, how would I measure the real impact of my work and message? It doesn’t make sense to me to say I will make this happen by July 2021. How would I know? What would be the measure I would use to judge my success? Is it the number of people I coach who shift their approach and book more meetings? Could be. But what about the people who may hear my rantings for another 2-years before they decide to change? Does that mean I failed if it happened after my self imposed deadline?
My second major intention is to impact and increase the percentage of women who assume sales management and leadership roles in their companies. How do I put a number to that? Is there really an end date I could use to say that I made it? Perhaps the goal is to choose 1-2 key projects that I feel might move the needle in terms of awareness and change. But what activity is the right activity? Is it the number of blog posts I write, number of times I’m interviewed about the topic, is it the number of people who listen to my Conversations with Women in Sales podcast, or the number of consulting gigs I’m hired to do that confirm I’ve successfully achieved my goal?
You get the point.
Here in the United States, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we cannot get anywhere in life unless we set goals, as if we could have insight into all the steps it will take to reach them or the obstacles that might derail us.
I’m not saying don’t plan for your success. What I am saying is consider how to identify an approach that works best for you to live your best, most fulfilling life year to year. The approach is not going to be the same for everyone. If you don’t have specific goals figured out yet, you aren’t doomed to fail. It means you are human.
If, like me, you find the traditional approach to goal setting a challenge, ease up on yourself and try setting 3-5 specific intentions instead. Then give yourself permission to let more be revealed about when/how you can make your intentions more concrete in the 30-days after you set them. I’ve found that the answers I need start to show up pretty quickly once I set my intentions and read them aloud every night before bed and each morning as I kick off my day.
We enter a New Year in less than 15 hours. In whatever way you decide to approach the New Year and the new decade, my intention for you is that you love and live your life to the fullest!
Cheers to the journey!