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Why most sales New Year resolutions fail

5 min readJanuary 23, 2019

Do you have any New Year resolutions for sales performance improvement? With the hope of change and improvement at the start of a new calendar year, resolutions can be difficult to resist. That’s why so many people have at least one, even if they don’t write it down.

Sadly, these goals are often abandoned by mid-February and have an overall success rate of less than 20%. So if your track record of hitting previous New Year resolutions has been poor, it doesn’t mean you need to have a repeat performance. What’s stopped you in the past? Knowing what’s getting in the way of your success may make the difference so you clear those obstacles to hit your New Year goals in 2019. Here’s the most common reasons most of these resolutions fail. Keeping these in mind should increase your odds of meeting this year’s sales New Year resolutions.

The biggest challenge with new year’s resolutions: they aren’t yours

One of the ways psychologists think about human motivation is to split it into intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivators are what matters to us on a deep, personal level – what we truly want. This is different from extrinsic motivators, which means motivation from others. Examples of extrinsic motivation include a boss telling us what to do, or even desiring something, like a fitter body, because we believe society wants us to look a certain way. Extrinsic motivators include what we think we should be doing.

Most new year’s resolutions fail because they are driven by extrinsic motivators. We think about how others see us, so we commit to going to the gym this year. We think we need to be seen in a better car, so we commit to finding a new job in 6 months to afford the car. The problem with extrinsically-motivated goals is that we tend to overcommit, making it nearly impossible to accomplish something that we weren’t that motivated to do in the beginning.

There are a variety of reasons extrinsically-motivated goals fall off the rails – we have described a few of them here:

Most goals we set are unrealistic

“Your eyes are bigger than your stomach” is a common phrase for perpetual overeaters, and goal setters are often the same way. Our ideal version of ourselves can do so much in our mind, so we overestimate what we can do. Failing at unrealistic goals damages our self-esteem for nothing.

This is common in sales – it is really easy to set a high revenue target without considering the intermediate metrics that should be tracked to know, if those revenue numbers aren’t achieved, where the process is breaking down and what needs fixing.

Poorly defined

Setting vague goals is like heading off on a road trip without knowing your destination. If you don’t know where you’re going how will you get there and how will you measure success? You need to have a clearly defined sales goal combined with a specific plan to get there and a detailed description of what success looks like. Otherwise, how will you know when you’ve completed your journey?

Being overwhelmed

We all have many things we’d like to improve or change when we have a fresh new year ahead of us. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s and set a long list of resolutions. But doing so sets you up for failure. It’s challenging enough to create one new habit, or change a single behavior, let alone changing multiple things at once. It’s best to focus on making one change at a time.

Failure to track your progress

If you’ve clearly defined your resolutions as well as what success looks like, you probably have a measurement that tells you when you’ve hit your goal. Monitor your progress along the way by tracking the appropriate metrics. This will motivate you to continue your efforts while showing you how close you’re getting to reaching the finish line. If you don’t track your progress, you’ll never know if you’re heading in the right direction and you cannot make the adjustments you need to reach your goals.

You don’t know why you want it

Knowing why you made a resolution is what will keep you motivated when things get tough and you might otherwise give up. How will achieving this goal impact your career? How will you benefit? How will your team benefit?

Treating a marathon like a sprint

Rome wasn’t built in a day and most resolutions aren’t achieved overnight. So set your expectations accordingly. Remember that you need to pace yourself or you’ll become disappointed when you don’t experience immediate success. This might cause you to throw in the towel before you make any progress. Changes take time. Be sure to allow yourself sufficient time to accomplish what you set out to do.

Being unrealistic

Make sure that your sales resolutions are achievable. Trying to sell your entire year’s quota in a month probably isn’t an attainable goal. Aiming to exceed your number by a percentage when you’ve been hitting it might be a more practical target. So give yourself a reality check when setting your resolutions for the New Year. It will increase your odds for success.

Lack of support

It’s difficult enough to stay motivated and moving toward your goals, so don’t try to go it alone. Be sure to put a support system in place when you set your plans in motion. Share your resolutions with co-workers or pair up with a like-minded peer to help keep you on track. Plan to connect on a routine basis to discuss your progress and challenges. This allows you to cheer each other on and talk through how to work through any difficulties you’ve encountered. This could be the difference in continued and stalled progress. Plus, having someone to share small accomplishments with will help motivate you along your journey to reaching your destination.

Lack of commitment

No matter how lofty or small the resolution, if you aren’t committed to accomplishing it, it won’t happen. Make sure that you are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to make your goal a reality. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure.


Keep these things in mind when creating your sales New Year resolutions. When you do, you’ll prevent failure. Doing so sets you up to successfully cross the finish line and accomplish your goals in 2019. What are you doing to increase your odds of attaining your sales New Year resolutions this year? Tell me in the comments below.