Detached Intention

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-by Matt Leedham

The more I work with clients, the more they are becoming comfortable setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and action plans. They continue to achieve and hold themselves accountable. However, I am beginning to see a common challenge around goal setting and achievement. Things become a little dicey when you attach yourself to the goal’s outcome. This can be particularly devastating for entrepreneurs, or anyone that is in sales, or anyone that needs to influence others.

When we attach ourselves to the end result, we essentially depend on others to define our worth. When we hand over the reigns to someone else, we give up the choice of what to think and feel.

Let’s say that you are a salesperson. Your job is to sell 10 widgets a month. Each month, you do all that is necessary to sell 10 widgets – e.g., you have all the proper training, you do all the necessary research on your target clients, you network with others to build a pipeline of business, etc. To your knowledge, you’ve done everything you can think of to be successful.

The result: You only sell 6 widgets this month.

What are you likely to feel like? Did you fail? More importantly, are you a failure? Is it your fault? Are you not good enough?

People that say the don’t like sales, or aren’t any good at it, usually have an emotional attachment to the outcome. It is very easy, especially for those that are new to sales, to feel like they did something wrong and are not worthy of the sale. But what’s the truth?

Those that are good at sales may have refined their technique over the years, but to stick it out in a “no thank you” environment, you need to shift your perspective. You need to engage in the process, not the outcome.

For any baseball fans out there, you’ll completely understand this. Without a doubt, baseball is a game of massive failure. In fact, failure happens much more than success. Think about batting averages. A very good hitter in the Major Leagues will have a batting average of around .300. That means that this incredible hitter (who is likely paid millions of dollars a year), is failing 7 out of 10 times when they step up to home plate. If these great hitters emotionally tied themselves to every outcome, you’d see Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Adrian Gonzalez crying in the dugout each night.

I’ve come to learn that setting goals is a great way to manage yourself for things that are 100% within your control. For everything else, I prefer to use the word intention.

For example, going back to the widgets, selling the widgets is not entirely up to you. You don’t have complete control over the process. You cannot control the financial resources of your clients, or whether or not the timing is right for each client. What you can control is your actions directed at selling widgets.

In this example then, selling 10 widgets is your intention. The goal then, based on your experience, is to call 50 prospective clients and do 25 demos each month. Now, you’ve tied your value to the things you can control, and have detached yourself from the outcome.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the outcome. Of course you do! You’re just not emotionally connected to it in a way that may make you feel unworthy to succeed. So, knowing this, if you call 50 prospective clients, and do 25 demos, and only sell 6 widgets, what is a likely response?

Perhaps you would say, “Hmmm…I’ve done everything I thought I needed to do to sell 10 widgets, but it didn’t work out this month. I wonder what the opportunity is here to try something different next month? Perhaps the economic climate has shifted and I need to tweak my strategy.”

This is the perspective of successful sales people. This is a smarter way to work. Don’t beat yourself up and just work harder. Instead, work differently. You have what you need to be successful, you just need to find the opportunity.