Why is starting a project easy, but finishing it is often difficult? I read a book that explores that question: Finish, by author Jon Acuff. Acuff’s book aims to discover why people lose momentum, get distracted and give up on their goals. It’s something we all struggle with–and in sales, it’s one of the most dangerous pitfalls. After reading Finish, I came away with two key messages about how we can all complete the projects, deals and tasks necessary for success.
Listen to the Data
“[Data] cuts through all the distractions and hype and hopelessness and anything else that’s in your way right now. In its wake, it leaves you with everything you need to make a good decision for tomorrow.”
The above quote from Acuff illustrates how data can help both individuals and organizations on track to meet their goals. For an individual, data can point to both success and failure, as well as the paths that led to them. For companies, it’s a clear map of where you’ve been and where you might end up. And for both, it’s an incontrovertible way to hack through any barriers like hesitation or procrastination. Finally, data can point toward which way to go next, and how to improve outcomes the next time around.
Sales and marketing teams must use data to evaluate goals–setting goals without monitoring and analyzing the resulting data makes it impossible to see progress. And tracking several data points can also help you pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t–and how to fix what isn’t working.
Degrees of Doneness
Another key theme of this book is that perfect is the enemy of complete. And setting unrealistic or overly aggressive goals is a surefire way to ensure you won’t meet them. It’s tempting to believe shooting for the moon will land you in the stars, but prioritizing achievability in sales and marketing goals can help you calibrate them and make them easier to achieve. Aim for perfection, but accept completeness.
According to Acuff, perfection “uses shrinking levels of success as proof that things aren’t going well.” When one of your only data points shows failure, it’s hard to lift yourself out of that rut. Everyone wants to blow its goals out of the water–but in most cases, honoring speed over completeness is the smarter move.
Sales is often a long game, so instead of getting distracted by the destination of meeting sales goals, focus on completing each element of getting you toward the desired number. Of course, that’s easier said than done. “In the middle of a goal, perfectionism is trying to convince you the results aren’t good enough and that you should quit,” Acuff wrote. “What better way to discourage you than to point out your glacial progress?” Pushing through a slow-going project is the only way to reach the finish line.
Finish serves as a reminder that there’s more to reaching goals than simply setting them. It takes diligence, data savvy and a whole lot of tenacity. Reading Finish is helping me learn to get more things done.