Goal Planning – How to Develop Clear Goals as an Expert or Specialist

I am inspired by other experts and specialists who have achieved what I aspire to, and I’m sure that most started with clear goal planning, or developed and refined their goals along the way. I think it’s highly unlikely that the visibly successful ones got there by chance. More likely they took time to develop clear goals, and then put in concerted effort to achieve them.

Here’s the approach to goal selling which I use to guide my efforts. I’m going through my own goal planning process for 2019 as I write this article. And it’s an opportunity to share as well as to refine my own approach.

I’ve developed what’s become the LinkedWIN goal planning framework over several years as an independent consultant and trainer. I come from a sales and business development background, so I’ve had a lot of experience with sales targets and similar goals. However I have also experienced a gap, and a mis-match, along my own independent career since 2009. I hope this helps others to avoid some of the pitfalls and self-discover angst I’ve encountered and experienced.

As a specialist and/or expert, (a subject matter expert or subject leader), whether independent or employed or leading a business, there are more layers involved than just sales, financial and activity targets.

One of the biggest challenges I find is balancing the cutting edge innovation and peer group pioneering (with other LinkedIn, Business Development and Sales experts) against the discussion, diagnosis and delivery of business development strategy with clients, and the delivery of practical, day-to-day techniques and tactics that clients want and need on a daily basis.

NB. Do drop me an email if you’re wrestling with a goal-related challenge today.

I hope this article and approach is helpful if you are also an independent consultant, expert or specialist. And if you are leading a business (as MD or CEO for example) you might find this helpful for yourself, or for members of your team.

Two levels to this approach to goal planning

Goals are useful as a way to allocate time and resources, to help when making a multitude of decisions day-in and day-out, and to review progress – to re-inforce a successful model or to correct and fine tune one that is not delivering as expected.

The challenge that many people face (especially those in business) is the separation of the goal planning and review process from day-to-day decision-making. Too often the Goal Planning document is filed away for months and only retrieved at a formal review.

What the Goal Planning document ought to be is a working document, kept alongside us, beside our computer screen, in the front of our diary/note-book, or whatever works best for each of us.

With this in mind I’m creating a one-page Goal Planning document that you can request at the end of this article. There are also some useful third party resources highlighted there too, such as Goal-Mapping by Brian Mayne.

I find this approach to goal mapping useful and beneficial in many ways:

  • It gives me something to aim at – a destination as it were – and a way to assess what activity and resources I’m likely to needs to get to the destination, and to be effective and productive.
    • Doing the maths, based on a target income level, client numbers sales process, conversion rates and activity is a valuable way to assess top line feasibility of a consulting and training business model.
  • It is a good way to review progress against objectives, tracking key measures and activity on a regular basis, say monthly or weekly.
    • Landing a big client contract is great for income but usually means regular business development activity is scaled back considerably. This leads to a feast and famine roller-coaster for many consultants.
  • It helps me to make good decisions on a daily basis.
    • I can quickly check whether an activity or opportunity helps me to get close to one or more of my goals, or if it is a distraction?

But enough of the scene setting – let’s introduce the LinkedWIN Blueprint Goal Planning Framework.

FIVE Goal Types in the LinkedWIN goal framework

The graphic below identities and positions the FIVE elements in this framework. The diagram represents them when viewed from above – the concentric rings – or from the side – the pyramid. 

What follows is firstly some explanation, then some suggestions on how to use the model for goal planning, and finally some additional resources.

Five Goal Types - LinkedWIN



As a specialist or expert we are by definition at or close to the cutting edge in our area. We are unlikely to be an exact replica of someone else. And if we were then we ought to identify and communicate what makes us different, unique etc, and how this is of value to specific people – our ideal clients. Which is the first and highest order goal.

1. Purpose Goal

Identifying and articulating Purpose is really difficult. It is the reason WHY we do what we do.

Simon Sinek has an excellent, and very popular, TED talk on “Start with Why”.

Brian Mayne also has a very clear purpose – to educate 7 million people is Goal Mapping “.. to help you turn your dreams into realities”.

For some people their purpose is very self-centred, for example ego, status, financial reward, being competitive and wanting to be #1.

As a Trusted Advisor one way to increase Trust is to clearly demonstrate that we have the client’s interests foremost in our intentions. And this can start with a clear definition of Purpose that is client benefit oriented.

To give you an example, my Purpose is “To help specialists and experts to uncover and understand how they can deliver more value to their clients, and be more successful in whatever terms they deem important.”

2. Positioning Goal

Positioning is about WHAT we Do or Know, our subject area. It can be difficult and challenging to narrow this down, to be a specialist rather than a generalist. However it is worthwhile to be a specialist, especially for referrals. This positioning is often multi-dimensional, such as:

  • Function – eg. Finance, Marketing, Operations,
  • Sector – eg. Technology, Media, Telecommunications
  • Process – diagnosis, options assessment, cost justification, execution/implementation, culture change, employee engagement etc.
  • Results – in a way this is the proof, but can also define the specialisation, eg. cost reduction, new product development/marketing

Again, to give an example, my Positioning is that “I help experts and specialists to be more successful through better business development and use of LinkedIn”.

3. Sales Related Goals

Compared to the previous two goals, many people find that the Sales Related goals are relatively easy to understand, (if not to construct in a realistic way).

Doing the maths, based on a target income level, then client deal sizes and numbers, delivery options and time needed, sales steps, conversion rates, number of first contacts needed and addressable market is a valuable way to assess top line feasibility, and refine the business model quickly and at low cost.

4. Asset Creation Goals

Assets that support Purpose, Positioning and Sales Goals are pretty important, in order to communicate our message to a wider audience in a memorable, effective and productive way.

I consider that there are principally 3 types of assets:

Content

This is WHAT we communicate – our message and also the format of the message. The message is driven by our goals. And there are many forats, from meetings and voice/phone to video, images and text. Our LinkedIn Profile, Posts and Articles are one channel, our website and blog, our YouTube channel and so on. 

There are so many formats and channels that content creation (and maintenance) can become an overwhelming task, if not very carefully planned. The other aspects are that content needs to be ‘shown’ to people, so promotion of content is vital in order that its value is consumed and something happens as a result.

Contacts/People

These are the WHO we are communicating with. People who know us, some with like us, some will trust us, some will be customers, others are prospects some are suspects, others are partners, and some role models.

It’s been said that our Network is our Net-worth – and that our value is no longer what we know, or who we know, or who knows us, but what people know about us. Being remembered by the right people for the right reasons is a major goal for pretty much every expert and specialist.

Sales Process

Although for many consultants their sales process is pretty informal, in order to scale and gain predictability then development of a more formal approach to sales is an important step in their evolution.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t need to be ridged and inflexible. But it is useful if a skeleton process at least is developed and put into practice on a regular basis.

After all, it is our sales process that facilitates our content being consumed by our contacts in order to move them through their buying process.

5. Learning Goals

Inevitably there are many things to be learned. It’s one of the exciting things about being an expert or specialist, and especially if that involves stepping out on ones own as an independent.

While it is possible to learn ‘from a book’ or from the Internet, there is no real substitute for ‘learning by doing’. The key question is what to do – in what sequence, and especially ‘at what level’. There is value in following a curriculum or framework or blueprint. It is a way to seeing the big picture, and understanding where the various elements fit in.

The other aspect is to learn from people who have a pretty direct correlation to the role, level and circumstances that we are each in.

While I admire Lewis Hamilton for example, but he’s not someone who I would turn to to improve my driving skills. His level of experience is so far ahead of mind that his advice may be inappropriate or even detrimental for the driving that I do.

It is useful here to consider the Donald Rumsfeld assessment, the Known Knowns, the Unknown Knowns, the Known Unknowns and the Unknown Unknowns.

  • Self-knowledge is a part of this
    • Which is the Identity part of the LinkedWIN blueprint.
  • Market knowledge is part of this
    • Which is the Network part of the LinkedWIN blueprint
  • Techniques is part of this
    • Which is the Work-it aspect, which identifies the most effective techniques and activities
  • And all of this in grounded in Business Development and includes LinkedIn as a major element of the execution toolset.

And quite often there are many benefits from being part of a leam, that are all learning at a similar level, or being guided by someone who is on a similar journey but is a few years ahead. has ‘been there’ done that’ got the ‘T’ shirt, and is willing to provide guidance, answer questions etc.

Processes vs Projects

At this stage it could be useful to introduce two situations where goal planning applies, and again this framework can be applied to both.

Processes – regular activities that are a repeat of something that has already been created can be looked upon as a process. From a planning point of view there is, or should be, some history, and experience, about what is necessary, what activity, resources are needed and also what results are likely to be achieved, based on some sort of conversion ratio.

In established businesses this is a large part of their planning – looking to repeat and improve on previous experience – to move the needle, make the boat go faster, achieve marginal gains etc.

However, in new and young businesses, start-ups etc. of those going through a substantial step-change or transformation the goal planning is undertaken with pretty much a blank piece of paper. This is where the benefit of someone who has experience of this situation is extremely useful.

And even established businesses that are embarking on a new activity, such as entering a new market, replacing and/or improving their IT and Communications systems, updating or changing their approach to business development, sales or marketing, will turn to and benefit from outside advice.

This is the area where people and businesses turn to Trusted Advisors – to guide them about the process, and help them to avoid the pitfalls.

If Goal Planning as a consultant is a new activity for you then hopefully you are finding this article helpful, having read this far.

Goal Planning across multiple time-frames

Having outlined the FIVE types of goals let’s look at how this can be applied in practical situations.

An advantage of this approach is that it works across multiple time frames. For example:

  • Annual – I use the framework to review the previous year and to plan the next. I review and plan my positioning based on what I’ve learned about myself and how the market is changing. I plan financial and activity targets and look at what assets I have, and what I need to develop.
  • Quarter/Term – I find it helps to work on a 13 week cycle for campaigns and delivery, to decide on a focus area, to run a targeted promotion campaign to generate leads over 2-3 weeks and then focus on delivery for 10 or so weeks.
  • Monthly – there are some activities that have a monthly cycle, such as the open training courses I run, and network and partner events I support. It’s also a good cycle for things like LinkedIn Profile Rewrite campaigns, to have a promotion campaign early in the month and then focus on writing profiles later in the month.
  • Weekly – I’ve learned that it’s better to focus on certain activities on particular days – because it suits my audience, myself, and helps me to be more productive. For example, I do more prospecting on Mondays, client calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays, training sessions on Wednesdays and sales funnel and content creation on Fridays.
  • Daily – I find it helps to o certain activities at certain times of the day – typically 2 x 3 hour chunks, in the morning and afternoon, with shorter chunks early morning, around lunch and into the evening.

Referring back to the FIVE goal elements in order to decide my priorities is a really effective way of staying focused and optimising my time.

Set yourself up for Success!

Someone wise once said:

There’s no such thing as failure – just learning opportunities”

Planning your business around these types of goals should ensure that you are able to succeed in various areas, even if you fall short in one or two.

If your decisions and actions are informed by and support the furtherance, enhancement and progress towards the following:

  • Your Purpose
  • Your Positioning
  • Your Sales Targets
  • Your Asset creation
  • Your learning

Then it’s hard to imagine a situation where you have failed at everything.

In fairness, you may not have achieved as much as possible, it may have taken you longer, taken more time, cost you more morey etc. You may have gone down some cul-de-sacs along the way.

But, if you’re reviewing decisions and outcomes regularly you should be developing your learning and knowledge by doing, not just by research.

The other danger is procrastination. It may be tempting to avoid a difficult decision, to feel that more information is needed, or that there are too many inter-dependent activities that time is lost constantly cycling round a series of partly progressed projects. I’ve experienced this myself, and encountered many clients who are, or have been, in this situation. Some will acknowledge it. Many though are in denial.

Next Stepson your Goal Planning journey

Congratulations for reading through this far. I do hope you’ve found the approach and material useful to raise various aspects of planning and put them into context and structure.

If you’d like to take things further then here are some useful resources around the subject:

Goal Planning Worksheet – under development

  • email Mark Stonham for a pre-release copy.

LinkedWIN self-assessment

  • an online tool to help you identify business development strengths and weaknesses

LinkedWIN eBook – under development

  • email Mark Stonham for a pre-release copy.

Goal Mapping by Brian Mayne

  • very useful template for identifying and planning ‘life-goals’

Book a call with Mark Stonham

  • For an introductory chat (20 minutes) to answer questions, help you prioritise and sign-post relevant additional resources book a call here.

 

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