You’ve all heard that “you have to set goals” for your life.  But who knew it would be so effective in business, too?

When I contemplated how to save our business after our only distributor failed to pay on time – read all about it in the post, Crippling Challenge + Determination = Business Reward/Failure (Part 1) – I set specific goals so I’d be able to gauge our success in a concrete, un-emotional way.

And while we’ve hit a lot of our goals, there have also been times where we came up short and I’ve been forced to reevaluate both our results and the original goal.

Here’s a list of our recent sales goals and the results:

Each of these goals felt unrealistic before the specific show, but, as you can see, only one fell short.

But my inquisitive mind doesn’t rest on the successes because it’s so much more fun (wink, wink!) to obsess about that one failure.

What did we do wrong at the 2008 Kentucky convention?

First, we didn’t get to select a location.  Not that it would have made a huge difference (the organizers did a good job of getting their visitors to travel every aisle), but being able to choose a location would have given us just a teensy bit more control.

We did, however, make a tactical error by not signing up to be a part of the Ketucky Salesman’s Club.  This group gives away $1000 during the show, but only to attendees who get their “Club Card” signed by vendors who are members.  The cost to participate this year was just $60, so I should have taken part.  Those exhibitors who did spend the money got a steady stream of visitors looking for a signature.

In the end, I think our biggest mistake was believing that we could sell so many covers our first year exhibiting at the show.  The over-exuberance was partly due to our success at the 2007 NFDA Convention and partly due to strong sales throughout the first half of 2008.

It’s a delicate balancing act to accurately predict a reachable goal for a convention.  And while I don’t want to pressure my sales staff, I also want to give them (and myself) the motivation necessary to push for that last sale or to connect with just one more visitor.