Before the end of last year, most of us set or received our production goals. These goals may have been a straight percentage or a flat dollar amount increase over the prior year, based on either commission, premium or a combination of each. Many of us also set our individual goals, based on factors such as income, incentive travel, and industry awards and recognition.
No matter what your objectives are, I have some ideas that can help you develop plans and actions to help you make improvements in order to achieve those goals for 2014.
The Problem with Yearly Goals
The major problem with setting annual goals is that you have 12 months in which to achieve them. This means that if you’re not on track at the end of January, there is no need to worry – you still have 11 months left in the year. Even after February and March have gone, you still have a false sense that there’s plenty of time left in the year. But as the months go by, falling behind on our goals can be daunting, and it soon becomes downright challenging to right the ship by year’s end.
For example, did you set a New Year’s resolution to lose 18 pounds during the year? Hey, that’s only 1.5 pounds a month. So if you do not lose anything in January, there is no need to worry. There are still 11 months left, and after all, it’s still only 1.7 pounds per month you have to lose.
April rolls around, and it is still only two pounds per month you have to lose. But around June – that is, if we are even thinking of resolutions by then – we start to realize that our goals are not achievable.
So it is with our sales results. If we are behind in January, we simply add the deficit to February and divide the total by 11. However, as the months pass, that divisor is reduced, and by June, the likelihood of achieving our annual goals may be in serious jeopardy.
Another flaw with sales objectives is that they are measured in actual sales results. The selling process relies on many steps necessary for the eventual sale to be completed and the coverage put in force. These include prospect identification, the approach, the initial interview, the solution-presentation interview and close, and of course, the underwriting process.
When you succeed at each step of this process, you have a sales result that moves you toward your annual goal. However, because monthly production reports measure only sales results, they can be misleading. Cases submitted at the end of one month may not issue until the following month, or the applicant might be declined during the underwriting process.
So we need to monitor our way through the steps in the sales process that will result in sales results. Sales keep us in business, but activity keeps us in sales!
Several years ago, I attended a seminar by Joel Weldon, who spoke about tracking 30-day goals. He suggested listing three categories – personal, business and family – on a 3-by-5-inch index card and keeping that card with you at all times. You then write on that card specific things you want to achieve during that 30-day period.
It’s very difficult to set actual 30-day sales results because of what I listed above. However, you can be specific about your goals for activities for those 30 days. Examples of activity goals are: Conduct 26 opening interviews or 18 closing interviews, join a networking group, or begin studying for your industry designations.
The only real focus over 30 days is activity. Further, this prevents you from listing unachievable or insurmountable goals. For example, if you want to achieve your Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation, obtaining that designation in the next 30 days is an impossible goal. However, the activity can be as simple as writing down that you want to investigate the CLU program, an achievable goal that will be the first step toward attaining your CLU designation.
Every 30 days, check on how you did and on your sales results. If you’re behind, make adjustments for the next 30 days either by being more active or by adding other activities designed to generate sales. After six months, you now have six index cards with the corresponding activity results for each month.
When you compare them with your sales results, you now have evidence of what’s working and what you need to change. If you listed “join a networking group” every month and still haven’t joined any group by the end of six months, decide to do so or else remove it from future cards. Do this for an entire year and you’ll begin to see concrete evidence of what activities are the most and least valuable in creating sales results.
Share your goals with those who can help you attain them: your spouse, your children, your sales manager or your business partner. Once you’re in the habit of listing and evaluating your activities over 30-day periods, your progress toward achieving your annual sales goals and making the changes necessary to achieve those goals will become clearly evident and ultimately achievable.