Using a SMARTER Method for Setting Goals and Attaining Desired Retail Outcomes

Retailers are now entering the Golden Quarter.  That is the biggest and best selling period of the year and as such it is worth taking a moment to consider how you – as a retail leader – will be ensuring that your retail store managers and team leaders will be staying on track for attaining the results your retail company needs to succeed.  And that often starts with communicating expectations and setting goals.

Over the next few weeks, take time out with your key leaders to take stock of where your business is in terms of attaining its targets and then reset your objectives – and the plans for attaining them – for the Golden Quarter.

Setting objectives helps retail leaders and sales representatives get focused by defining what success looks like.  For many years you have probably heard about using the “SMART” process for setting goals, but since you only have a few weeks left to finish out the year, shouldn’t your goals be even “SMARTER?”  Let’s look at the “SMARTER” method of goal setting:

Specific –When speaking with retail managers we often hear that their retail leaders will tell them that they need to “make more money” or “sell more than last year”.  These are non-specific goals that program them to fail and to disappoint.  After all isn’t doing one dollar more in revenue a sales gain?  Then again, that probably is not the result you are looking for is it?  Be specific in terms of your financial targets.

Measurable – Recently I was working with a client who was getting less than desirable results from their chain of wireless retail stores.  When we did the analysis we found that the store managers never saw the financial results (either P&L or scorecards) for their locations.  They wanted to do a good job and thought they were!  When we gave them a scorecard and then trained them on how to use it the business’ results did a 360!

Attainable and Aggressive –Working with your retail team leaders, and field managers you will want to define success in such a way that they know they can attain the goal with hard work and diligence.  Make them stretch just a little to get there as well.

Relevant –Goals and targets must be relevant to your team members and their personal needs.  Going back to the wireless retail client I mentioned above, they could not understand why their stores were not increasing in revenue year-over-year.  The answer was quite simple.  Their retail store managers were paid based on personal sales, not on store sales.  When we created a bonus plan that paid them on reaching store-level sales and profit targets results quickly began turning around!

Time bound –This part of goal setting is so simple that it is often forgotten.  You will want to work with your retail store managers and top sales representatives to great interim goals and targets.  Tracking results against timed goals creates a level of urgency for everyone and helps to eliminate procrastination.

Exciting – Excitement, like relevancy is critical to success.  Do you know what gets your retail team excited?  Do you know what they want?  Here is an example from my own experience as a young retail store manager.  I wanted to buy my first home and my District Manager was smart enough to know that.  He helped me develop a SMARTER plan that would help me earn the down payment through attaining the Company’s stretch goals for my store.  Needless to say, I was successful.  And my District Manager even came for a personal visit to congratulate me on the day of my closing! 

Recorded – Finally, you will want to make sure that you record and document your SMARTER goals with your team members.  That allows you to hold them accountable as they work to attain them AND it helps you to give them written recognition when they do.

If you want to learn more about SMARTER goal setting, consider investing in our Motivation and Goal Setting e-learning program.  It is part of a suite of retail e-learning training courses that we offer to the retail community at large. 

–          David Goodwin is the Principal of the Retail Advocacy Group.  As a 30 year veteran of the retail industry he has hired, trained, and performance managed thousands of retail sales representatives and retail managers.  You can learn more about instructor-led, e-learning, and other training solutions for retailers at