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14 nights at sea and reaching your sales goal

For those of you who have been following me and wondered why I have been silent, I took a much needed break from the day to day of running my business. I dropped off the grid so to speak and took at 14 night cruise across the Atlantic. I’m still struggling getting back to reality!

During that time at sea, being the mariner that I am, I sat in wonder of those old-time mariners who crossed the ocean without any tools. I was on a modern ship with all the bells and whistles. The Captain had all the tools he needed to keep us out of the storms, in calm seas, sunny days, and warm weather. Every day was perfect. But every time I looked out into the distance, I wondered how the Captains of old got to where they needed to be, when they needed to be there. Everywhere I looked, I saw nothing but ocean! No birds, no fish, no whales until we were a day away from the African coast. It was amazing to think of a compass and a sexton with a crude chart as my only tools in crossing the ocean and the wind in the sails as my only power. I have seen some of those early charts and they were nothing more than a rough outline of a continent. And there are those that made it successfully across the Atlantic without even those minimal tools.

The ship I was on did about 20 knots each and every hour. That’s much faster than the largest windjammer I’ve been on. The course we followed was pretty much due east. We took the most direct route across with slight changes to avoid any bad weather. The old sailboats were loaded down with supplies and goods, the wood made it heavy, often there was water in the bilge, the winds were unpredictable and they had nothing more than observation for weather and shoals. One port we stopped in talked about a shipwreck a week was the norm.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, a series of blogs about ships, sales and comp!

Seeing I ended in Barcelona, I will first talk about Christopher Columbus. His goal was clear, find a new way to reach the East Indies by sailing westward. Sounds pretty simply, right! He was a well seasoned navigator and had all the skills needed to ensure a successful trip. But his tools and informational needs to accomplish the goal were lacking.

Your sales reps should be well trained in selling your products and services. Your goals should be clearly defined. The sales goal should be in strategic alignment with the company’s goal. The rules of what counts, when it counts, how the value is determined needs to be writing and signed by the sales rep. The crystal clear goal combined with the right incentive will focus your sales organization on delivering.

But just giving your sales rep a goal isn’t enough. Your sales team needs the right tools to be able to monitor their progress toward the goal and stay on track for success. On the ship, I could see exactly where I was in the great blue ocean at any point! For the mariners, finding latitude was relatively easy from the noon sun and the night stars. Finding longitude proved much more difficult. Without knowing both latitude and longitude, they were not able to take the most direct course, extending the voyage by following the latitude they knew and then running down a westing (or easting depending on your direction) basically hugging the coast until you got to where you needed.

Just providing your team with where they are towards their goal once a month won’t help much to focus them on delivering. Take the time necessary to identify the need tools in your sales process being mindful not to have so many tools that it actually slows the process down and wastes the sales reps time. You want to focus your reps on their goal not distracting them with too much or too little information.