As most of us look ahead to the New Year, we are considering the best way to plan and achieve our major goals and other business and personal “resolutions.” Setting goals for yourself is easy. Sticking to the plan to attain those goals can be quite difficult. If you have set New Year’s Goals before and found that your game plan lasted only until the final football kick-off, read on.
Years ago, studies conducted on Harvard University graduates showed that three percent of those students who set career goals achieved three times as much income as their peers who failed to plan. Is a change of direction even better than no direction? I once consulted a mortgage originator who was dissatisfied with the way he was prospecting. He needed to make some changes. First, he used mailings to bring in business. Then he marketed to builders. Lastly, he got up close with Realtors and his sales went up. But the biggest change occurred when he started to follow up by phone after mailings. His production increased dramatically in spite of his directional change. His peers who were undirected were consistently out-produced.
Write Your Goals
If goals are so important, then why do so few of us even do the minimum and write them down? A lot of the difficulty may be in your own fear of failure. I sat in on a management planning session during which a supervisor asked a salesperson what the next year’s production goals were. The salesperson said, “I don’t know. I really don’t believe in goals. They’re just resolutions made to be broken.” The supervisor said, “Look, I need to put down something for you.” The salesperson replied, “Okay, write down last year’s sales—10 percent. The point is that many people are unused to setting goals, based on their fear of meeting them. They are so worried about failing to achieve objectives that they avoid setting them at all. Have you ever avoided setting a goal to lose weight? The problem compounds if you have told others you were on a diet before. They all know that you weren’t able to hold to your commitments.
Fear of failure is the major contributor to poor goal achievement. The logic follows, “If I don’t set goals, I don’t fail. If I don’t fail, I won’t have to face a loss of self-confidence.” We’ve all heard that it’s better to set high goals and miss, than to fail to set them at all. But this simple philosophy doesn’t always work, because it doesn’t account for a salesperson’s (and others) basic fear.
What can we do specifically to achieve goals? The answer lies in being smart when you set them. When you set goals you can achieve, you want to make them long term and big. A long term objective is one that exists one to five years out. For example, adding three new niches, or expanding your business to numerous states or cities. Next, work backwards and set a medium-term goal that can be achieved between one month to one year. This might be doubling your Realtor referrals or starting a new telephone follow up on the direct mailings you use to prospect for new business. This mid term goal objective should really be a stepping stone to hitting the long term dream. Next, work backwards again from the medium-term goal and set short-term objectives. Short-term means setting goals you want to accomplish today or this week. For example you may want to see three Realtors before you go to lunch today. You may want to write the letter you will send out this week by the end of work today. The bottom line is those who are best at setting objectives work to achieve their goals by the day and often by the hour. The do this or they don’t allow themselves to go home. They are committed and focused to achieving the goals by the date they want them.
To show the importance of focusing on days and even hours to achieve goals, consider the loan originator who wants to be one of the top 10 in his market by certain date. He would need to establish a goal over a three- to five-year period. He would then set a one-year schedule of milestones to reach; which might include increasing his own production, hiring an assistant, and developing a strong relationship with the top five Realtors in his market. And lastly to acquire a net income of $2,000,000 (or appropriate amount) in the fifth year.
He would need to determine the amount of business needed by year/month and so on. He would need to know the weaknesses and strengths of his competitors, including the number of salespeople they have and the amount of business they receive from certain Realtors. Working backwards to short term goals, he would then know what he had to do today and this week. He might have to set up a list of the top 100 Realtors in the area. He may have to also set up a file on the loan officers who command the most business right now.
This originator (and all of us) would be wise to add the list of his objectives to his office wall and include them anywhere else that would serve as a good reminder. Some of the greatest salespeople and achievers I have met were so single-minded and focused, they never take their attention off what they wanted.
Many people consider it easier to reach goals than it is to set them. I suggest you take some time to evaluate what you want and when you want it. If you start to achieve your objectives using the techniques I’ve discussed, you’ll be more successful without working any harder in the long run. No great achiever has ever succeeded without goals. They help us become profitable, productive and build self-esteem.
By Kerry Johnson, Ph.D.
Kerry Johnson, MBA, Ph.D. is a a Tustin, CA-based international speaker and the bestselling author of seven books including, “Peak Performance: How to increase your business by 80% in 8 weeks,” “Will Power: The Secrets of Self Discipline,” and his newest book, “Behavioral Investing: Why smart people make dumb mistakes with their money.”