Get Motivated to Hit Your Sales Goals

Women Leading Research: Christine Beckman

By Christine Beckman

SMITH BRAIN TRUST – Setting your company sales goals for a new quarter? The best way to get everyone motivated to hit their numbers is to get them invested in the process from the start. 

With my colleague Melissa Mazmanian at UC Irvine, I recently studied how the process of setting budget goals is the key to actually motivating individuals to hit their numbers. I looked at the annual budgeting process for a growing hotel management firm, and the findings hold lessons for any industry where numbers matter and employee buy-in is integral to meeting those numbers. Here’s how it worked:

Make it a ritual. At the hotel chain, the budgeting process was removed from the day-to-day work of running the hotels, so the process was a distinct set of practices that everyone knew would happen each year. Separate the budgeting process from normal business activities to make it a stand-alone ritual. A clear and predictable set of steps that are emotionally and substantively engaging rally firm-wide support for goals to be seen as fair and attainable.

Hash it out. Let everyone involved in the process have a turn to speak up. Give them a chance to provide their honest input based on their expertise. Even if you don’t end up taking their suggestions, thoughtfully engaging and responding to feedback will make people understand the process. At the hotel chain, middle managers first hashed out budget numbers among themselves, and then with top management to create the emotional investment in the final numbers.

Expect some downsides. There can be real negatives for the employees involved in the budgeting process. The time-consuming back-and-forth can be stressful and cause burn-out. All parties involved must acknowledge and respect that the process won’t be easy. Take time to acknowledge how critical mid-level managers are to the process and show appreciation for their hard work. An office lunch, happy hour or team-building activity can help everyone make it through.

Go for the goal. Once you have received input from everyone involved in the process and set the goal, the final numbers should be “set in stone” and all levels of the organization need to rally to meet them and drive growth. An organizational commitment to those numbers, regardless of the reasons why goals may or may not be met, is critical to the process having legitimacy. Organizational-wide buy-in and focus created by the ritualized budgeting process makes employees feel invested and less likely to “cheat the system” and inflate numbers because everyone understands where the goals come from and that they are achievable.

Beyond setting budgeting or sales goals, buy-in can be developed through other ritualized processes — forecasting, strategic planning, and new market analysis, to name a few. The bottom line: Getting those with the necessary expertise in your organization invested in the process is key to your success.

Read more: Mazmanian, Melissa A. and Christine M. Beckman. “‘Making’ your numbers: Engendering Organizational Control through a Ritual of Quantification.” Organization Science.

Christine Beckman is a Professor in the Management and Organization department, Academic Director for the Center for Social Value Creation, and Diversity Officer for the Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland.  She is a native Californian and received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University.

Research interests: How organizational processes and structures influence employee behavior and, most recently, the influence of communication technologies on our work and personal lives. More generally, she is known for her research on organizational learning, interorganizational networks and entrepreneurship, particularly on how collaborative relationships and diverse experiences facilitate organizational change. Her research sites are varied and include F500 companies, Silicon Valley start-ups, mutual funds, law firms, the U.S. Navy, German football teams, American baseball teams, and urban charter schools.

Selected accomplishments: Associate Editor, Administrative Science Quarterly;  Chancellor’s Fellow, University of California, Irvine; 2006 Ascendant Scholar, Western Academy of Management.

About this series: The Smith School faculty is celebrating Women’s History Month 2018 in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Daily faculty spotlights support activities from the school’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, starting with the seventh annual Women Leading Women forum on March 1, 2018.

Other fearless ideas from:  Rajshree Agarwal  |  Ritu Agarwal  |  T. Leigh Anenson  |  Kathryn M. Bartol  |  Margrét Bjarnadóttir  |  M. Cecilia Bustamante  |  Jessica M. Clark  |  Rellie Derfler-Rozin  |  Waverly Ding  |  Wedad J. Elmaghraby  |  Rosellina Ferraro  |  Rebecca Hann  |  Amna Kirmani  |  Hanna Lee  |  Hui Liao  |  Jennifer Carson Marr  |  Wendy W. Moe  |  Courtney Paulson  |  Louiqa Raschid  |  Rebecca Ratner  |  Rachelle Sampson  |  Debra L. Shapiro  |  M. Susan Taylor  |  Niratcha (Grace) Tungtisanont  |  Vijaya Venkataramani  |  Janet Wagner  |  Yajin Wang  |  Yajun Wang  |  Liu Yang  |  Jie Zhang  |  Lingling Zhang

Photo credit: Gresei



About the Expert(s)

Professor Beckman currently serves as Director of the Center of Social Value Creation (CSVC) and as the Smith Diversity Officer. She is an Associate Editor at Administrative Science Quarterly and is a Past Division Chair of the Organization and Management Theory division of the Academy of Management. She was the ADVANCE Professor for 2015-16. She currently teaches doctoral courses in organization and behavioral theory, Implementing Strategy for MBA students, and Social Entrepreneurship for undergraduates.

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