I was listening to the audiobook version of “A Better Human: The Stoic Heart, Mind, and Soul” by George J. Bradley the other day, and he spoke about a concept that is really important for both salespeople and sales leaders to understand.

…and one that most tend to get wrong.

It’s the difference between internal and external goals.

 

WHAT ARE INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL GOALS?

Simply put, an internal goal is one that is within our direct control, for example:
– What I am doing right now
– How I choose to react to something
– How I choose to feel about something

An external goal is a goal that is NOT within our direct control, for example
– What someone else is doing
– How someone else reacts to a situation
– The weather or the traffic

 

SO HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO SALES?

They say that sales is one of the most measurable jobs in any company – all you need to do is to tally up how much someone sold and you can know “the score”

The problem is that there is a lot more to it than the score alone. The score is highly visible, but it’s how you got there that impacts the actual score itself.

The problem is, the score – or more specifically, your sales results – is an external goal.

 

BUT HOW CAN ANYTHING MATTER OTHER THAN RESULTS?

It’s true that results are important, but what can you do with results? You can know that things are going well or not going well, but that’s it.

What you don’t know from just the result is how it got to be that way.

This is because results are an external goal.

Think of it this way:

A salesperson can’t control how a prospect will respond to their efforts to sell. The rep can try to influence them, but they can’t control them.

So sales results – how a prospect responds to the efforts of a salesperson – is an external goal, out of the direct control of the salesperson.

And remember – external goals are great for keeping score, but if your job or your goal is to IMPACT the RESULTS, you have to look at what is in your control – the internal goals.

 

YOU CAN’T MANAGE A RESULT

You can’t manage the score. You can observe it. You can measure it. You can think about how you got there (or failed to get there) – but to impact the score of the game you are in, you can only manage and actually DO something about the things it takes to reach the score, not the score itself.

This is not to say that results are not important. Of course results are important, but unless you deeply understand how someone got to a result, you can’t do anything to the result other than to observe it.

 

SO WHAT SHOULD WE FOCUS ON INSTEAD?

To reach external goals (results) salespeople should focus on that which is in their control – internal goals. Specific things they can do, things they can control – and make sure those internal goals are directed at revenue producing activity.

For example, you can’t control the outcome of any given sales encounter, but you can:

– Have more encounters
– Qualify them better
– Ask better questions
– Prepare more thoroughly for each one.

Each of these activities that IS in the control of the rep will likely lead to better results.

That’s where you want to focus.

You can and should and certainly will measure the results, but if you want to have an impact on the results, you have to measure them against what can be controlled to help reps improve, and win.