By Debbie Holden 18 Nov 2019 7 min read

When the going gets tough…tackling targets


We’ve all been there right?  You know the target, you know what’s required, you know the man power needed and more than anything you know it will be an uphill struggle.  But what you don’t know…is how on earth you’re going to get there.

Working in a target based industry, I am used to the relentlessness of a never-ending target. For me this is what drives me more than anything else. I love constantly pushing for more and I thrive under pressure. However not everyone is wired this way. Many times, I have heard a calendar year in the sales industry referred to as a “12 round boxing match”. Each month landing its punches on its worthy opponent.


Tackling targets at work

It is true to say that a sales role in the motor industry, or in any industry, is incredibly hard work. It requires tenacity, drive, courage, a strong sense of self and the ability to get up after that dreaded defeat, or to put it another way; when the clients say “No”.  When I started out in sales, I was responsible for my own numbers only. I used to create spreadsheets of what I wanted to earn annually, break it down month-by-month, day by day ignoring any targets I was set. The pay plan I was remunerated upon meant nothing to me. I knew what I was capable of and so would decipher from my required daily earnings how many prospect calls I would need to make to hit my daily target. I worked on a conversion ratio of 10:1. In reality, I would close one in three customers I spoke to, but by upping my closing ratio, the outcome was I would of course sell more cars. Needless to say I consistently over achieved on the targets I was set, but this didn’t happen by chance. It was a very deliberate outcome determined by a very deliberate plan.

Is sales a numbers game?

I have always found sales to be a calculated and controlled algorithm. Many will say, “It is a numbers game” but this I strongly disagree with. There is no point cold calling random potential customers. The activity needs to be specific and measurable and the client needs to have already taken the first step into your service or products industry. This is when the algorithm flourishes and individual targets can be maximised.


Managing a team with targets

When I became a sales manager, the rules of the game changed and I entered unchartered territory. I had enjoyed many years as a successful sales person; pushing myself to work the extra hour at night or calling the receptionist, aka the gatekeeper, enough times for them to see I wasn’t going away. On becoming a manager, however, I now had to get others to do the same. My results were no longer based on my potential, but on my team’s ability as a unit. This shift meant a completely new way of thinking for me, which initially I struggled with. Leadership is a completely different skill to management, of which I learned through working under both styles. 

Managing as a dictator was never a style I wanted to adopt and so instead, I have always managed as a friend and confidant first. I recognise that there is room for a hierarchy in any business, however I feel it is only needed at certain times. My day-to-day management style for my sales team has always been to demonstrate and be an example of how to manage a sale rather than a storyteller of demands. To this day, I still sell cars and I relish an opportunity to close a deal or handle a customer’s objections. Getting a team to a target requires far more than any person’s individual skill. It requires the team to go with you on your journey and play a part in its story. I often get criticised for still selling directly to customers, but I feel I gain respect from my peers by being able to demonstrate that I can do what I encourage them to.


One of the biggest lessons I have learned in managing people, is understanding their “WHY?”.  By tapping into your team’s driving force, you genuinely can achieve anything. Every one of us goes to work for a reason. Whether it be monetary reward, recognition, learning and development or status, the reasons are endless. It is the collective “why” which turns employees into families, and company mission statements into cultures.  

Once your business becomes a group of people all pulling in the same direction for a common goal, the once unreachable targets and knowing how to get there somehow become a journey rather than a struggle.  No manager is perfect and they will undoubtedly make mistakes along the way, but by helping others achieve their passions, a true leader is born. 


“Alone we can do so little: Together we can do so much.”