Some recent research suggests that making a target appear easier than perhaps it is, may help improve performance.
Researchers from Purdue University put students putting golf balls. The researchers used a projector which showed a ring of circles around the golf hole, thereby altering its perceived size. In the first trial, they projected a ring of 11 small circles that made the golf hole look larger than it really was. In the second trial, they projected five large circles that made the hole look smaller.
It turned out that students were 10% more likely to sink their putts when they thought the golf hole looked larger. This was a noticeable improvement. There are plenty of golf pros that may have one or two Majors if their putting was 10% better.
According to the study, an increase in the apparent size of the target may increase participants’ confidence in their abilities and improve their performance.
To get back to Sales. Could we numerically or optically structure sales targets that seem easier to hit. For example, give a sales person a target of 100 sales but characterise the legitimate market (in a Venn Diagram or in a Spreadsheet) as bigger that it might be (say 10,000 viable targets) so that they can get a negative response on 99% of calls but a 1% success rate will still successfully make their targets. Perception is the critical point here.
You could then allow them to see other targets in smaller markets where their conversion rates would need to be in excess of 1% to be successful. All of a sudden they may feel that their abilities definitely meet the 1% standard and embark on their sales drive with a 'can do' attitude.
A 10% improvement on any sales persons portfolio could be like working an extra month in the year. Conversely making targets conspicuously hard to reach make dent the sales figures as well as confidence and moral.
If your CRM or Sales Tracking system allows it, you could investigate previous targets and success rates to see if there is any correlation with the study from Purdue University. If there is, then you may have a new strategy you can adopt at sales meetings. If not then at least you have a new tip to help improve your short game. What sales person doesn't need that.