Stop worrying about your end-of-the-year print goals

Does your company have an end-of-the-year target? Most printing companies set a goal they aspire to hit. Some are more realistic than others. The business is often relentlessly focused on achieving the figure that has been set. At the end of the year comes celebration if the goal is met or even exceeded. Or there is disappointment.

The annual target can actually be dangerous for a business. Creating all your business plans around this single figure can lead to a loss of focus on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s find out why.

3 reasons annual targets do not work

First, most end-of-year planning is hopelessly optimistic. Most print companies are aiming for constant growth. Even those that are happy to keep the same turnover are being too hopeful, unless they plan to go out and win new work during the year. Most companies fail to plan for decline.

But research shows that any business should plan to lose 15 percent to 20 percent of their customers every year. Some of your customers will go bust, some will stop using print and some may start using the competition. So if you want to increase revenues by 10 percent, you better have a plan to win a lot more new work than you might have expected to need.

Next, there is a lack of urgency with an end-of year goal. Many people find it hard to get going in January. They do not start planning their new sales activity until far too late in the year. By February, they have lost nearly 10 percent of their sales time. It is also easy to take your eye off the ball when it comes to making sure there is a steady stream of new work.

After all, surely a small dip in work or a lack of new sales for just a week or two will not make any difference to the end-of-year results. Or will it?

This highlights the third problem. With an annual figure, it is often hard to know if you are on target or not. You may feel you are badly below where you need to be. Yet, even toward the end of the year, there is always the hope you might land that big opportunity that gets you back on track.

Equally, you might have a bad month that suddenly derails you. An annual target is a lag target—you never know whether you have achieved it or not until it is too late to do anything.

Here’s the alternative: A 13-week sales plan

It is far more effective to make a shorter-term sales plan. Here are three reasons why they are so much more effective. First, they are extremely focused. Because you only have three months to make the target, there is a real sense of urgency. People like to get going straight away.

Second, a good 13-week sales plan is very specific. You set a precise sales goal. In addition to the revenue and profit figures, it should include the exact type of work you are going to win. It should also state whom you are going to win it from and the actions you are going to take to achieve your goal.

Third, a 13-week sales plan is based on lead targets, not lag targets. You measure the activity you are carrying out. You also measure if the activity is creating the right results. This is all about whether the prospect is carrying out the next step that you want them to in the sales process, rather than analyzing actual sales.

This means you know early on if you are on track to win the right sales or if something needs to change in order for you to achieve your target.

What should you do next if you want to start a 13-week sales plan?

Here are three things to think about before starting a project like this:

  1. Think about what type of work you want to win from a focused sales campaign. Is there a particular type of customer you want to win, or a particular product or service you would like to sell?
  2. Set a revenue and profit target for selling this work over the next 12 weeks (you are allowed a week off in the 13 weeks).
  3. Decide what activities you need to carry out to win this work. Are you going to try and win this work on social media? Will you carry out a direct mail campaign? Will you create leads from attending events? Or do you have other sales channels that work for you?

Think about exactly what type of work you want to win from a focused sales campaign. Is there a particular type of customer you want to win, or a particular product or service you would like to sell?

There are two other things you should do as well. First, look for my article in the next edition of CANVAS, where I will take you through how to create a successful 13-week sales target. If you cannot wait that long, I have shared some other resources below.

Remember, it is easier to get the next three months out of the way before worrying about your year-end goal.

PS: Find out more ideas on how to increase sales with today’s buyers. Download my free e-book “Ten Common Print Selling Errors and What To Do About Them” right now at

You’ll also receive my regular “Views from the Print Buyer” bulletin, which is full of ideas on how to sell print effectively.

Also, if you want to start using 13-week sales plans straight away, check out my book, “How To Succeed At Print Sales: Setting Targets, Planning the Right Activities and Making Sure Goals are Met.” I detail exactly how to plan and carry out a successful sales project like this. It is also full of practical, simple strategies to organize your week, manage your time, and make your day-to-day life easier and more productive.


Matthew Parker is the Champion of Print at Profitable Print Relationships. He speaks globally at print events and is the author of “How To Stop Print Buyers Choosing On Price.” Parker also trains and mentors printing companies as well as produces content for them. As a buyer of print, he was sold to by more than 1,400 different printing companies, so he knows what works for customers and what doesn’t. Download his free e-guide to using social media to sell printing and similar services at