Don’t Confuse Goals and Disciplines

There is a difference between goals and disciplines. As obvious as that statement may sound, many people—salespeople included—mistake these two ideas.

The reason some people don’t weigh what they want to weigh is because they have a goal of weighing a certain amount. But weighing a certain amount isn’t a goal; it is a discipline. To weigh whatever your target weight is on a daily basis requires that you eat a certain number of calories of certain foods, forego other foods, and exercise in an amount that causes you to remain at a constant weight.

Your weight is the result of the daily disciplines that you keep, for good or for ill. If your daily discipline is two scoops of ice cream before bed, then you will weigh exactly what your discipline dictates.

The same is true of your sales results.

Some salespeople believe they have a goal of making four sales calls per week. Making four new sales call per week, much like maintaining a certain weight, is made up of certain activities, including spending time prospecting each and every day, making cold calls, asking for referrals, attending networking events, and nurturing the relationship that you need in order to schedule these appointments.

Making four sales calls per week is a discipline. It is a constant, much like your weight. If your daily discipline is surfing the web, hanging at the water cooler, and avoiding your prospecting work, your sales results will be exactly what your daily disciplines dictate.

Disciplines are the things that you do every day, every month, every year, over and over again and without failure.

Goals Are Singular Events

Goals are single events. They are one-time occurrences. You may have a goal of billing $2,000,000 in 2010. At the end of the year, you will or will not have reached that goal. You may have goal of winning your $1,000,000 dream client, of increasing your wallet share by 25% across your top five key accounts, of opening a new market, or of launching a new product in the fourth quarter. These are all events. They are goals that can be measured and reached.

Disciplines Are More Powerful Than Goals

Disciplines are way more powerful than goals. Reaching your goals is the result of having maintained all of the daily disciplines that make up and lead to your goal. The reason so many goals are never achieved is not because the goal is unreachable, but because of a failure to maintain the daily disciplines that would have resulted in the goal being achieved.

A goal cannot easily be executed. But all of the activities that make up the goal can be.

Instead of making a goal to read one book per week, adopt the daily discipline of reading one hour a day and put it on your calendar. Executing this discipline leads to the achieving of the goal.

Instead of making a goal of making four new sales calls per week, adopt the daily discipline of making 2 hours of prospecting calls per day, attending one networking event per week, of asking every client for a single referral, and of executing the activities that you built into your nurture toolkit with devotion that borders on the religious.


  1. What are your goals as a salesperson? Are they single, measurable events, or are they really disciplines that you wish to keep?

  2. What are the daily disciplines that you are required to keep to reach your sales goals?

  3. What goals do you believe that you have that are really disciplines that you wish to keep?

  4. Make a list of your daily disciplines. Then, write down what will occur at some point in the future by keeping those daily disciplines. That is your goal. Then focus on keeping the your commitments to yourself and keeping your daily disciplines.

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.

Read my interview with Tom Peters (Part One and Part Two).

Read my featured guest post on the Top Ten Sales blogs.

Read my monthly post on Sales Bloggers Union.

Get The Sales Blog iPhone App to read The Sales Blog and Twitter Feed on your iPhone.



  • Don F Perkins


    There’s a lot of practical wisdom in this post. What strikes me most on reading it is that goals are like projections; they are what we “hope” to do based on mix of what we want and what we assess we are capable of. Disciplines on the other hand are entirely within our grasp; they are tangible, achievable and ultimately beneficial regardless of whether the goal we hoped for ever materializes.

    Goals are important in that they give us something to strive for, but as you point out – disciplines are what are going to get us there. I am not convinced that either is more important than the other, but they certainly are different in essence and it’s important to note that difference in order to succeed.

    I’m betting that a successful sales person without clear goals and solid commitment to some well-thought out disciplines would be a rare individual indeed.

    Don F Perkins

  • Ivan Hernandez

    Hi Anthony,

    I just want to sincerely thank you for this post. I am a very focused and goal oriented person, who unfortunately for long time I have made the mistake that your post addresses. Particularly about selling!

    That remark about goals being single events and one-time occurrences is priceless. So true!

    Your post has really made me see things differently and as a result I will completely change my perspective, and as a result I am sure my achievements will be positively affected.

    Thanks again!


  • Daniel M. Wood

    You are very right Anthony,
    Habits and goals are two very different things.

    They are both the cause and effect of eachother.

    I have always taught to start with your goals, setting long term and short term goals and getting that perspective and then from that furnishing the habits you will need for their completion.

    Just like in your sales analogy, if you want to bill 2 000 000 dollars in 2011 you will need to bill on average about 170 000 dollars per month. That can be broken down even further, down to how many calls per day you need to make in order to complete your goal.

    The combination of a goal and focused habits on its completion is what makes us powerful.

    Thanks for the article Anthony keep up the good work.