In this spotlight piece, one of the UK’s leading experts on sales Gavin Ingham, talks to Sales Mastery magazine, on the subject of goal setting, the theme for this issue. Gavin is the author of three books and helps executives face-up to making tough decisions, leaders take massive action, and sales teams win more sales.

Sales Mastery: Gavin, I am honored that you have taken time out of your very busy schedule to speak to Sales Mastery, especially as this is my very first issue as its new publisher, so I thank you ever so much! So, getting right into it, I know that one of your main specialisms is mental toughness. What role do you think it plays when it comes to setting goals?

Gavin Ingham: Mental toughness is not just about achieving results at all costs, it is about balancing your life to achieve the results that you really want. I guess that I would say this but rather than having mental toughness as part of goal setting or helping with goal setting, I see goal-setting as an essential part of mental toughness.

But either way, it plays a huge part. When you set goals, you need to have mental toughness right from the offset. Many people spend their whole lives chasing down goals that they have little or no interest in. Goals that they have inherited, or had beaten into them by parents and teachers and just never let go of. Having mental toughness is critical to helping you to spot this so that you set the right goals for you and at that time in your life. If you fail to do this then goal setting is going to be counter-productive.

Mental toughness is also critical for helping you to stay on track, avoid distractions and keep on taking positive steps towards your goals. Mental toughness is required to avoid the constant pinging of emails, scrolling through Facebook and twittering on Twitter.

SM: That is so true Gavin. Can you give us some tips on how to set goals effectively? What are the practical steps you recommend an individual taking?

GI: First off, work out what is really important to you. This is really important… not what you think it is, not what someone told you it is, and not what you have carried around since childhood… what is really important.

When I work with salespeople, I ask who has goals and targets and virtually every hand goes up. I then ask people to put their hands down if those goals were set by their managers and virtually all of the hands go down. A goal set by someone else is not yours. What are the chances of it perfectly coinciding with your true goals? Slim to none.

You can tell when someone is sharing a goal that they are totally into. Their face lights up, their breathing and body language changes and they use different vocabulary. You can even see their eyes twinkling. These are the kind of goals you want to set for yourself. Goals that fire you up. Goals that motivate you. Goals that get you up early in the morning and keep you up late at night.

Clear your mind. Think about what’s important to you. Think about your whole life not just your sales. Set goals that motivate you and work for you. Set goals that work for your life. Set goals that you wake up feeling good about. Set goals that take you on a journey that you want to go on. Set goals that see you working with people and clients that you want to work with in a way that you want to work with them. Set goals that you are responsible for and that you can bring to fruition.

SM: So, what do you think are the main difficulties people face when setting goals and how to overcome difficulties.

GI: Not setting any. Ha! Ha! But seriously, I mean that. Also setting goals for others. Setting goals that they think society wants them to set. Setting goals that they do not really care about. Setting goals that they are not and will never be motivated to achieve. Setting goals that are out of alignment with who they are.

My father died when I was 13. I talk about it in one of my talks and the profound impact that it had on me as a boy, as a teenager and as a young man. I left school at 18 without the qualifications that I had been expected to get and decided not to go to university. Instead, I opted for “adventure” and joined the Metropolitan Police! Whilst I did enjoy this at some level and learnt a lot, it was not for me and after a few years I was casting around to work out what to do with my life. Even in my early and mid-20s I could still hear my father talking to me and I set a goal to be a barrister and decided to return to education and study law. This could not have been a worse decision but I took it anyway. It took me a year of pain and anguish before I finally cleared out my head and decided to really work out what was important to me and set goals based on that, and I have never looked back since.

SM: Wow, that’s great! Now we all hear about setting SMART goals, but is there any other way that you would recommend sales professionals set their goals?

GI: In the original “SMART” acronym,  A was for achievable and R was for realistic. I hate both of these in many ways. First off, who is to say what is and what is not achievable? You? With your limiting beliefs based on your current situation? I don’t think so. And R, realistic? Who wants to be realistic? There is nothing sexy about being realistic either for you and your subconscious or for anyone you are leading. And, again, it is defined by your current beliefs.

If I were to ask you what was a high commission to make on a sale and you gave me a realistic figure, heck even if you gave me an outrageous figure it would probably not be as high as Donald Trump or Richard Branson would say was realistic. These words are too defined by the individual to be useful. For me the whole point of goal setting is about stretching, reaching, growing, achieving and words like realistic and achievable do not work.

SMART also tends to miss out the importance of the goals to you and your emotional connection. I believe that we make decisions emotionally and justify with logic. SMART is a very logical process and whilst there is nothing wrong with that, it misses out the all-important emotional connection.

All of that said, I do use SMART as part of my goal setting processes… sort of.

Here is an entirely non-exhaustive list of things to consider: What exactly do you want? Where are you at this moment in relation to your goal? How will you know when you achieve it? What will you see / hear / feel / smell / taste when you achieve it? Why is this so important to you? What will achieving it do for you? Where, when, how and with whom do you want to achieve this goal? What resources do you need to achieve this goal? What will be different as a result of achieving this goal? Do you believe that you can achieve this goal? How are you going to measure, monitor and hold yourself to this goal?

Now try, SMART – Specific and detailed, Measurable, Achievable but stretching, Relevant to you, Timed. And I would do more… but that’s a start.

SM: Definitely a great start indeed. Hmm, so exactly what should an individual’s frame of mind be like when setting goals Gavin, do you think?

GI: Positive. Motivated. Prepared to put the effort in. Ready to deal with setbacks. Taking total responsibility for the result. Embracing the journey. Believing that they can achieve it.

SM: And from your experience what are the chances of someone being successful if they set goals. What can they do to make sure the process is as successful as possible?

GI: Incredibly successful! Most people do not set goals. Of those who do, few set them properly. There have also been far too many books written by muppets who say that you can set it and forget it and that the results will just magically show up. Whilst I have seen this work on occasion it is not the best route to success.

When people set goals properly and with passion, they are incredibly powerful.

Gavin’s 6 Steps for Great Goal Setting

1. Set goals that are important to you.

2. Tell people about them. Share them. Involve others.

3. Work out core action steps and do them until they become habit. And then keep doing them.

4. Reward yourself as you progress.

5. Use visualization but also visual reminders.

6. Do this every day. Review and monitor your progress.

SM: Ok, fab. Now, I know that you train hundreds of sales professionals to do their jobs in sales better and sales managers too. What are your top tips for a sales manager with a team of sales professionals?

GI: To be a great sales manager you need to understand your individual team members and what motivates them and what is important to them. There is no substitute for one–on-one time as everyone is different. One size fits all management does not work.

Spend time with your team members. Find out what is important to them in work and in life. Understand what motivates them. Ask how they know when they have done a good job? (clue: it is NOT the same for everyone). Feed this back to them so they know when they are. Be positive. Be inclusive. Help people become autonomous (or as much as possible). Encourage training and development. Share success stories. I do HUGE amounts of consultancy on this… the stories we tell determine our sales, our mindset, our culture and our lives.

Help salespeople to unlock what is really important to them and set goals that inspire and motivate them.

Help them to turn these into an action plan that gets them there and then support them in this.

SM: And for sales professionals who are at the coal-face?

GI: Be the best that you can be. Challenge yourself to make every conversation and every interaction with clients, peers and bosses the best that it can be. Take responsibility for your own results. Know that you can always improve. Seek to deliver massive value to everyone you deal with. Connect emotionally, share of yourself, be authentic, care about your clients.

SM: Gavin, that was an awesome interview, with some absolutely fantastic tips on goal setting! I can’t thank you enough for your time. I know that we will be speaking again very soon. Thanks once again Gavin. I really appreciate all you had to say on the subject of goal setting and I am sure Sales Mastery readers do also.


As a dynamic, straight-talking keynote speaker, Gavin Ingham provokes audiences to think about business and life in a whole new way. His mantra, ‘Be More, Do More, Live More’ and practical strategies for taking positive action ensure that delegates do just that. Gavin asks the difficult, game-changing questions that other people don’t ask to help his audiences increase sales and work smarter, not harder for a better quality of life.
Further information: www.GavinIngham.com