Sports Teams: To Goal or To Stretch Goal…What Is the Answer?


Somewhere, in the early 2000’s, someone decided that setting a revenue goal isn’t the answer….setting a stretch revenue goal is.  Huh?

Let’s look at how our revenue goals are set to start with.  Generally, a yearly budget is discussed.  Each revenue generating department looks at what their piece of the puzzle is and creates their revenue goal.  Simplified, but that’s how it was back in the day.  Along the way, in the past 15 years or so, the stretch goal was created.  And what happens with this?

Sales reps hit their goal. No kudos. No ‘you did it.’  Instead, the focus is on the stretch goal.  If you don’t hit that, then you didn’t hit goal.  But wait…I hit goal, just not the stretch goal. Doesn’t matter.  You didn’t hit goal.

When I work with sales teams, I encourage sales reps to create their own goal for the upcoming season prior to their director giving them revenue goals. Often, the goal they set is higher than that set by their manager.  If they have done a strong strategic plan, know what and when they sold the year prior, know when the bulk of money comes in, they can pretty much go month by month and know what more can be added on for the upcoming year.  But then we come in and say great…what’s going to be your stretch goal?  Reps will look at me and roll their eyes when I ask what goal is…the one that is there or the one they really want us to hit?  What a confusing message.

What  is a stretch goal?  It’s defined as an “additional goal set for a campaign in case you hit your initial funding goal.”  Please note:  “hit your initial funding goal.”  Help me understand here….why are we not thanking our reps for hitting goal? They hit the original funding goal… is it our desire is to simply not let them rest on their laurels and make sure they sell more.?

I have no problem with a stretch goal if the original goal is recognized and appreciated.  But to simply give the two goals and tell reps they have not hit goal because they didn’t hit the stretch goal is demotivating and quite frankly, not honest.  How many of our teams on the field/court/ice/pitch win, are told “wait…we have a stretch number for you to be able to win so we’re going to continue the game until you score 12 more points.” If we are satisfied winning on the field, then why do we change the rules for the game in the office?  What to do?

My suggestion is one of two: one, do away with 2 goals. Make the stretch goal their goal period if this is what you want them to do to start with.  Don’t use negative motivation to get to the number you wanted originally.  Second,   empower your staff.  Here is your goal.  Period.  Hit it prior to the end of the season.  Once hit, it’s time for you, as leader, to coach 1:1.  Here is how much time we have left.  Yes, we want you to prospect for the upcoming season, but we also would like you to set a new goal for the remaining time. Empower the rep. Let them create a ‘stretch’ goal with you.  Give them some ownership of their small business.

In my mailbag, I get notes from reps that have been fired for hitting goal, but not the stretch goal.  This is a mixed message, and one that eats away at culture, which is another question I get a lot for my mailbag. So let’s create an environment where goals are set, encouraged, celebrated, and, if needed, stretched together. Even if you set the stretch goal as the goal, and stretch it even further once hit.  Let’s take away the 2 goal system, create one,  and celebrate winning.

Kathy Burrows, Sold Out Seating

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