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Sales Training, Part 3: Establishing Goals With Your Client

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
12 min read

Key takeaways when establishing goals with your client:

– Identifying pain is essential in setting goals
– Specificity and SMART goals are key
– Once goals are specific enough, we need to find the value of those goals, in both qualitative and quantitative terms

Pain points are the problems that drive your customers nuts — the inefficiencies that inconvenience them, or the outdated processes that take up too much of their time and effort. If you can identify a genuine pain point and have a real solution that will solve the issues, you have your foot in the door for business.

This is where SMART goals in business come in, this can provide you the best possible set of goals for your client’s growth. They help you save time and energy by making the process of goal setting more efficient and productive.

No matter how big or small the goal—whether it’s building your client’s sales process to increase their pipeline by 40% or writing a book to establish themselves as an expert —help your clients make the change by planning and setting SMART goals.

Mentioned in this episode:

SMART goals

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.

Sales Training, Part 3: Establishing Goals With Your Client:

Full Transcript

In 2004, Michael Phelps, an American swimmer won six gold and two bronze metals in the Summer Olympic Games. Now, that may sound really impressive to you, it certainly does to me, but he fell short of his goal. His goal that year was to win eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games, so he wasn’t quite satisfied with his performance. For many other Olympic athletes, this goal seemed ludicrous. It hadn’t been done before, and so it seemed pretty crazy. Getting eight metals, not just eight metals, but eight gold metals in a single year is a great headline, but it doesn’t quite capture the true nature of his goals.

For each event, he estimated the time he would need in order to win the medal. From there, he looked at his current time, along with the coach, in order to determine what program to undertake in order to actually achieve the goal of eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games. That gap that they identified, where he was now compared to where he thought he’d need to be in order to win gold in a given event, determined the specific steps he would take in order to give himself the best shot at winning gold.

In other words, it’s more accurate to describe his overarching goal of eight metals in a single year as a dream. The goals themselves were centered around performance. That is, the time he’d need to get in each event, and those goals were supported by a rigorous, well tracked, and incremental training program. Of course, Phelps went on to achieve that goal of eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games and is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time with 28 total medals, including 23 golds.

Phelps describes this process as dream, plan, reach. That boils down to three key questions: What do I want, what do I need to get it, and how will I implement that plan?

You may not be going after gold medals, but you do have some goals in mind and your clients do, too. In this episode of Modern Sales, we’ll talk about goals, why they’re so important, and how they lead you and your clients closer to the conclusion of the sale.

Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and sales people looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics, and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Hello, and welcome to Modern Sales. This is episode three in the SDS, that is the Serve Don’t Sell training series of podcasts, where I’m reviewing the core topics and ideas you would get in my sales training. If you’d like to start from the top, just go back to the episode two episodes ago, The Sales Process You Need To Win Big Clients to hear the overview, or go to the last episode titled Finding The Pain if you haven’t heard that one yet.

You can also get all of my training decks by visiting my website, and there’s a link right on the homepage that gives you instant access without even giving up your email address. I’m trying something new. I can’t guarantee it’ll be that way forever, but for now you can access the training without giving over your email at all.

And finally, if you’d like to receive sales insights to your inbox weekly, be sure to sign up for the Serve Don’t Sell newsletter, which is painfully obvious and easy to do on that very same website,

Today we are talking about goals, but first I want to give you a quick review of how we got here. Last week I talked to you about finding the pain, which your entire sale is predicated on. No pain, no change. So we have to find the pain before we can move any further in the sales process. The pain is essentially where your client is now. Ultimately, they want a bright, shiny and wonderful future, which you can provide them, but a perfect future is a murky idea. It’s like a translucent window. You can see some things on the other side, but you’re not exactly sure what it is. You can’t make out the details. You can’t tell exactly what it is, what the colors are, where the edges start and stop.

The first step in helping your clients get to that ideal future is translating their pains into goals, which will start to clarify that future for them. So if a client’s pain is all of those nasty things that are holding them back from the life and business experience that they want to have, then the goals are the opposite of those pains. So if a client comes to you and says, “We’re wasting a ton of money on service provider XYZ,” the goal obviously is to waste less money. But that’s obvious, nobody wants to waste money. We know that for sure. So a related goal is what they’re going to do with that money instead. How else would they deploy those resources? How else would they deploy the time that they’ve recovered, if that’s something you can offer them?

Goals are the opposite of pains. Now, the valuable thing about identifying pain is that we are all averse to losing. In fact, some studies have shown that people are impacted twice as much by the idea of loss than they are by the idea of gain. Now, when you’re focusing your attention on the pain, we’re looking at loss aversion. What are you losing right now by not doing anything? What is this costing you? What are all of the downstream effects of not making a change? All of that is triggering loss aversion in your clients, but we are also attracted to gains and in some way losses and gains are opposite sides of the same coin.

I’ll give you an example. If your client feels she’s wasting money on her particular service provider right now, that brings into question her own value as an employee. That brings into question her management decision making. That brings into question all of these other things that she may be thinking about or potentially her bosses may be thinking about. Now related to all of that stuff is the gain she would be getting from making a change to a more qualified service provider like yourself, of course.

So what’s the opposite of what we just said? She’d secure higher esteem. She would show everybody what a superstar she is. She’d be spending her money wisely and judiciously, and she would reserve more budget for other things. Those are all gains that she can experience if she’s not wasting money. And this, my friends, is where most people get goal setting wrong.

So most people will stop here. When I ask people, “What do you sell to your clients?” Usually they say something like the specific service that they deliver, which is not really the case, right? Clients don’t care about your service so much as what’s in it for them. So, what’s in it for them? I usually hear things like, “Well, they save money, they save time. Operational efficiency,” that kind of thing. But in order to do goal setting properly we need to add specificity. What specifically do you do? And the best template for making goals a lot more specific is what’s called SMART goals. Now maybe you’ve heard of this already, but SMART is an acronym, so just bear with me as I describe this. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. So, I’ll take each one of those one at a time.

Specific. If I tell someone this goal, will they know exactly what it means without any ambiguity? That’s important. Measurable. How will I know if I achieved the goal? How much is enough? Achievable. Is this goal realistic based on known data, known experience, case studies, or is this goal way off the mark? We also want to make sure that we don’t set the goal too low. We want it to be high enough. Relevant. Will achieving this goal matter to our overarching goal? So whatever it is that you do for your clients, it’s attached to something much bigger, even if you’re in a field as broad as change management. What your clients need to know is will achieving this goal contribute to our strategic initiatives? If the answer is no, we probably wouldn’t pursue that goal. And finally, time-based. When do I need to have this goal achieved by, or what milestones do we need to achieve, and by when?

So just an example, an inadequate goal for sales training, which I’m using as an example because I know it very well and also it’s relevant to this podcast is this. This is an inadequate goal. “I want to help my team be better at sales.” Okay, that’s a start, but we want to get much more specific than that, right? The S in SMART stands for specific. But also, this goal is not measurable. We definitely know it’s achievable. We can help your team be better at sales. Anything can be improved. Is it relevant? Well, I don’t know. What are we trying to achieve? And it’s definitely not time-based. There’s no time component. So in order to make this broad and vague goal a SMART goal, all I would do is ask the questions that are related to each thing that I talked about.

So, specific. Who’s on your sales team? Who’s going to be part of this training? My client may say it’s their account managers. “Well, I have a lot of people interacting with clients directly. They’re not contributing to business development, and I want them to be bigger contributors.” Okay, cool.

How will we measure this? How will we know if it worked? Of course, my client may be looking at bottom line metrics. “Well, we want our department’s revenue to increase by X percent within Y months or Y years.” But we probably also look at leading indicators. How is your pipeline changing? How many new opportunities are you getting? So that’s how we would measure it.

And, achievable. We’d start with a baseline. Where are you now? What is the output and productivity of each account manager on your team, and what would we like it to be? Is that achievable?

Relevant. Why do we care about this? Well, because business development is an increasing part of our additional revenue from account managers. Okay, great.

And, time-based. When do we need to achieve our overarching goal? So just to wrap it all up, this is how a SMART goal would sound for sales training.

“I want to help my team of account managers learn sales fundamentals so they can increase our business development department’s pipeline by 40% and our department’s revenue by 15% within 18 months.” Great. We’re all on the same page. We will know for sure if we achieve that or not, and we will also know if we took all of the right steps in order to give ourselves the best chance of achieving it.

Here’s the thing. We can’t much control the results of what goes into the training, but we can control the effort and we can control who’s there and we can control how long they’re exposed to these things and we can control the followup that comes afterwards, and we can measure and provide additional resources for the people who are part of this program in order to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to hit those goals.

Now in this example, you’ll hear that I started out with this inadequate goal for sales training and I turned it into a smart goal through questioning. The reason I did that is because it’s our job, yes it’s your job as a client services provider to help translate pain into goals and value. We’ll be tackling value in next week’s episode, but first we need to go from pain to goals.

What I haven’t said yet is what is the value of increasing pipeline by 40%? What is the value of increasing the department’s revenue by 15%? That’s pretty easy to show, both numerically and from a bottom line dollar perspective, but there’s going to be all sorts of other value associated with that as you’ll hear next week. But we can’t get to the value until we understand what the goal is. I can’t tell you how many dollars the training might be worth until I know what your department’s revenue is and that you want to increase it by 15%. I would also want to know where does that 15% number come from? Why is that so important? Maybe there’s a goal associated with that, too. “Well, if we increase our department’s revenue by 15% then maybe we can increase our head count by 20% comfortably, and freeze it there and increase our total revenue by another 20% over the next few years.”

Okay, right. Now we’re getting to the meat of what’s going on, right? So as we get from this translucent window where our future is really fuzzy, down to the specifics, all kinds of other details will have to emerge in order to get there, and those details are vital for us to understand what it is that’s expected of us and what our clients really, really want. So translating that pain into goals and eventually value, which again I’ll cover next week, is a critical component of this.

So here’s what I want you to do next time you’re talking to a prospect or a client and you’ve uncovered a pain, ask them why they want to fix it. Why is this pain the key thing you want to focus on? That will start to give you a picture of what their overarching organizational goals are. That information obviously is critical, because it serves as the core motivation to take on a project and it also tells you what levers you need to pull in order to help them get there.

Once you have that information, you’re going to want to get much more specific on goals. One of my favorite goal based questions is, “How will you know if we’re successful in fixing this?” This is a question about measurement. What metrics are we looking at, and how much do we need to change those metrics in order to high-five and share a glass of champagne? That’s what we need to know. So again, next time you’re talking to a prospect or a client and you’ve uncovered the pain, ask them why they want to fix it and then ask them how will they know if it’s fixed.

Follow the SMART template by simply prompting your client with questions like this. “How will you measure this? Does this sound realistic? How will this help you with your overarching plan or your overarching strategic initiative? And importantly, when do you need this done by? When do you need these achievements?”

So, here are the key takeaways. Goals will help you paint a picture for your client about why they should work with you. Goals are just the opposite of pains, meaning if you do a good job in uncovering the pain, which you can go back and listen to the last episode, but if you do a good job of uncovering that, the goals should be fairly self-explanatory. And you want to get much, much more specific. Your goal setting should follow the SMART template, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. And, measurement here is really the key. Even if your client won’t actually measure the impact of your engagement, what measurement will do for you is help get more specific with what you’re trying to accomplish and what your client is looking to achieve.

In the next episode we’ll talk about turning your goals into value, which is what your client is really buying from you. That’ll be next week in episode number four in the Serve Don’t Sell training series. Now if you aren’t already subscribed, please do so by clicking the subscribe button in your podcasting app. If you’re listening to this on my website all you have to do is click the subscribe icon to whatever podcasting app you use. All you have to do is go to All the subscribe links are there.

And if you’re so inclined, there are two things you can do to help support this podcast. Number one, leave a review in iTunes. You can do it from your iPhone or your desktop. I am an Android user, so I complain just as much as you is what a pain this is, but if you’re so inclined, please do leave a review. It helps other people find the show. And secondly, tell someone else about the show. You can email it, post it to your social media, send it to your email list, send it to other people in your company, however you’d like to spread the word, I would much appreciate it and maybe someone else can get something out of listening to this podcast, as well.

And finally, if you’re looking for help training your team of client services professionals to sell more to big companies, I can help with remote and onsite training options. Just head over to That’s S-E-R-V-E D-O-N-T It’s linked in the show notes. Click the contact button and you can fill out a quick form to begin the conversation. Thanks so much for listening. I’m Liston Witherill of Serve Don’t Sell, and I hope you have a fantastic day.

Modern Sales Podcast