Two salesman go into a coffee shop. No, this is not the beginning of a bad joke with some lame punchline.

As the real life story goes, two salesmen are getting a cup of coffee and talking about their futures.

Salesman Number One: “I’m starting over this spring and I’ll be selling XYZ. This is it.”

Salesman Number Two: “Do you see a lot of potential in that product?”

Salesman Number One: ‘I’m going to sell a lot of those babies.”

I want to hit the pause button for a moment. Salesman number one set an intention, as I discussed in a blog last week, and that’s very good news. But the trouble here is that salesman number one isn’t doing what needs to be done next: He needs to set a real goal.

Simply saying that you’re going to sell a lot is not really setting a goal. Your goal must be measureable and definable in order for you to succeed.

In fact, that’s a lesson that many salespeople learn the hard way because the goals they set are too vague and can quickly evaporate into thin air because they’re not mired in reality. How many times have you said, “I’m going to sell a lot” only to fall short of that goal because how do you define “a lot?” Perhaps it’s clear mid-month that you’re not anywhere near “a lot,” but that’s okay because it’s hard to count up what constitutes “a lot.”

Here’s the flipside of the situation. When I was a young salesman, I’d sit down in the first few days of the month and take a hard look at my territory. The next step is I’d review what I did last year at the same exact time and then review what I did the month before. It wasn’t about selling a little or a lot, but real numbers. At that point, I had a clear vision of what the upcoming month would look like and I would almost pre-program what I anticipated what my month would look like and who would buy what. I was armed with concrete facts.

By the way and without fail, each month, I was within five percent of where I thought I would finish. Remember that this is where I thought I would finish before I even started!

Keep in mind that intention and goal setting are two different things in the sales world. Both are necessary, but you have to separate them like two kids who are different, but look very similar. Intention is more of a choice of what you want to happen while goal setting is a tangible tactic.

Here are three musts for goal setting:

*Your goal must be specific and measurable. In a realistic way, you must decide what you will sell and how many of them. Words like “a ton” and “a lot” need not apply. You must decide on the actual numbers, so that as the month progresses you will be able to track your progress and make game plan changes as the numbers support your goal. You said you were going to sell 100 units and it’s mid-month. You’ve only sold 20. It’s clearly time to stop and revamp what’s going on in the field. On the other hand, you’ve stated clearly that you will sell 100 units and it’s mid-month. You’ve sold 80 so far. Congratulations! You’re exceeding your goal. (Now might be a great time to change your goal for the rest of the month, so you don’t get complacent.)

*You must have a time limit. There are many people who say that they will “someday” become millionaires or “soon” the cash will start rolling in. That doesn’t work because the goal is too vague. You need to be able to say that within six months you will sell 100 units of this product and make XYZ money. To measure your goal, you need to see the finish line and know you have a deadline to get there.

*Your goal must be communicated to others. It’s easy to keep a goal in your head and then you keep changing it while it doesn’t come true. It’s a far different process to communicate your goal to others because now it’s public knowledge. You’ve stated your goal; it’s concrete and you’re working towards it. You’ve told your sales manager that you will sell those 100 units; now it’s time to really perform because it’s out there.

To sum it up, you will say, “I will sell 2,000 widgets by March 31 at 5 p.m.” You’ve said it and have written it down, so everyone knows the deal.

But most of all, you know what you’re working towards when it comes to your sales life.

Now let’s change our story. Two salesmen walk into a bar.

Salesman number one: “Last month, I sold 50 units of XYZ.”

Salesman number two: “Isn’t that ten more units than you expected?”