Question: What goals would you recommend setting for sales managers?

Answer: Great question. I believe a sales manager should be involved in goal setting in two ways. First, the sales manager needs to ensure that all of his salespeople have well-designed goals. Second, the sales manager needs to have a series of goals for his own performance and growth.

I don’t want to belabor the point about why setting goals is a powerful exercise for salespeople. Let me just emphasize that an effective sales manager makes sure that all the salespeople have well-defined, motivating goals.

Now, what about goals for the sales manager, apart from those of his group?
Generally, there is no need to develop performance goals because those have already been determined by the composite of the performance goals of the salespeople. His sales goal is the sum of the sales goals for each of the salespeople he supervises. This goal has already been done.

But there are two other classes of goals that could make a difference in the growth of the sales manager: Activity goals and personal development goals.
Activity goals describe the activities the manager wants to engage. For example, a sales manager may decide to commit to activities such as:

• Work one day a month with each salesperson;
• Call each salesperson on the phone at least once a week;
• Have a monthly formal planning session with each salesperson;
• Get to know the family of every salesperson.

Notice that each of these goals is not measured by results. The computer can’t measure the invoices that are created by calling each salesperson on the phone once a week.

However, each of these describes an activity, something the sales manager does, over and over, in a committed and measurable way, that indirectly leads to results.

Why bother with activity goals? For the same reason that it’s good for salespeople to commit to goals. The world is constantly pressuring us to spend our energy in different ways. We are constantly enticed to attend to more trivial tasks. Ask any sales manager how easy it is to discover, one day, that he has spent most of the week dealing with administrative trivia and not doing a thing to improve the performance of the salespeople. 

It happens constantly. Without a commitment to beneficial activities, you’ll find yourself rendered ineffective by the pressure of the urgent and the enticement of the trivial.

So, once a year or so, a sales manager should determine the most important things to do and decide on which activities to pursue. Then make a commitment to a measurable quantity of those things. For example, create a written goal to “work once a month with every salesperson,” or “call every sales person once a week.” This process will be a big step forward in a sales manager’s productivity by keeping him focused on the tasks that bring results.

The second type of goals are those dealing with personal development. These are goals that spur us to become better, more competent and more valuable people. They articulate an improvement in skills, the acquisition of competencies, the addition of knowledge, or the participation in learning events that a sales manager would like to achieve this year. I’ll explain each.

Improvement in job-related skills. Here’s an example of this goal: At the beginning of the year, a sales manager may decide that he needs to do better at coaching his salespeople. That’s a skill that will help him perform better, but takes time and practice to develop. So, when a manager decides to improve in this area, he makes a commitment to improve a skill that directly impacts his job.

Acquisition of collateral competencies. These are things that are learned to improve the employee’s value to the company and qualify him to do something other than the job he already has. For example, a sales manager may decide to improve his strategic planning skills. Not that he uses these skills too much in his current job, but it’s a competency that will make him more valuable to the company. And, who knows, if he becomes CEO one day, he’ll need that.

Addition of knowledge. This is when someone decides to learn things he doesn’t currently know. Knowledge is different than skill. For example, a manager can learn more about a certain product line or a market segment. That’s knowledge. Improving coaching ability is a skill. It requires the person to do something. Improving knowledge is acquiring information. For a sales manager to grow more valuable and competent in his job, he needs to do both.

Participation in learning events. Sometimes, an employee can invest in his own development by participating in a learning event with only a vague end result in mind. For example, if a sales manager decides to go to a seminar on “Leadership Skills for the 21st Century,” he’s not exactly sure what he’s going to learn, but he feels confident that he’ll come away with something.

In this case, the focus is not on a preconceived end result. However, the manager is more open to the serendipity learning that he expects to happen by attending the event.

Let’s put all of this together in a summary with some examples.

1. Consolidate the performance goals for the group. For example:
 • “My salespeople will produce $1,000,000 in sales this year.”

2. Create appropriate activity goals, like these:
 • “I will travel one day a month with every salesperson.”
 • “I will talk with each sales person every week.”

3. Focus on yourself. Identify some development goals for you personally.
 • “I will attend three seminars in the next 12 months.”
 • “I will improve my coaching skills.”

Having done this, a sales manager will have used the goal-setting process to identify the most important things he can do this year. Good job. He’ll be much more effective as a result.  

Dave Kahle is a leading authority on distributor sales. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has personally worked with over 287 companies, helping enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine.