Paul Haarman explains How to Evaluate Business Objectives without Biased Feedback

Let’s say your boss, the CFO of a company tells you that it is time to create a new product says Paul Haarman. She has some ideas for what she’d like the product to be and how much it should sell for. Now it’s up to you as the marketing manager to research those ideas and present them back in such a way that gets buy-in from all of your coworkers.

There are many ways that this could go based on where those numbers end up, but let’s say that those objectives were:  A selling price of $15 and 100 units sold per month (optimistic) or 20 units per month (realistic). The important thing here is not whether we achieve these goals; rather, we want to ensure that our boss takes those goals seriously and doesn’t ask us why we didn’t sell more units simply because the number is higher.

In order to do this, there are a few things that you can do as a marketer to ensure that your numbers aren’t biased by the initial business objectives that were set at the beginning of the project. Remember, if someone says they want 100 units sold per month, they probably don’t mean it unless they make their sales goals or something similar. Otherwise, your manager will likely take much less interest in what you have produced if it’s not a high enough number for them.

There Are Multiple Goals Here

It may be obvious but it’s important to remember that even though the only thing you are being asked to do is increase the number of units sold, there are actually two different goals in this project. Your manager wants you to sell more units, yes, but she also wants you to under-promise and over-deliver. Thus, when evaluating your ideas take into account not only how much money they will make if they succeed, but also how much money they will lose (and for how long) if they fail.

Having multiple goals like this can be difficult when there’s pressure to present something quickly. Because it almost feels like we’re forcing an objective that wasn’t part of the initial; however, remember that both objectives were always at play. You just need to help your boss see them so that everyone knows what’s really important.

Numbers are Just Numbers

Anytime you hear an objective it should make sense to you. If your manager says she wants 100 units sold but you know that the company only has 20 customers, then these numbers mean nothing explains Paul Haarman. You can change them to whatever you’d like, but this won’t actually help anyone because the objective is still the same: sell more units.

If there are fewer people buying your product than expect then perhaps take a look at what they’re doing with the current product and see if there’s anything that could improve, or maybe even suggest changing what you are selling so that it appeals to a different market entirely. The key here is not to get caught up in the initial numbers your boss sets for objectives; otherwise, you may find yourself explaining why you failed to meet them even though it had little to do with your actual efforts.

Don’t Make It Personal

It’s understandable if the business objective that was to you feels slight, in some way but try not to let this influence your work. If someone tells you that they want 20 units sold per month, then take it at face value and don’t be offended by this number says Paul Haarman. They are telling you what they think is really just like anyone else would, but without knowing more about each customer or how much time they spend with your product every month these numbers are simply projections on a spreadsheet.

Do Your Research

The best thing you can do when presented with an objective is to try and get more information about what’s really at play here. If you’re selling to customers, then ask them how much they actually use your product and how much they would be willing to pay for it every month. Ask them when they would buy it, when they would stop buying it, if they’d still recommend it to their friends, etc.

For physical products that are in stores you can find out how well similar items in the same store are selling by asking the managers there. No matter what type of project you’re doing this research is always helpful because these numbers can help give you a realistic idea of whether or not the objective is achievable.

Always Be Better than Your Boss’s Expectations

No matter what your boss says she wants, your goal should always be to beat it. So, if your boss tells you that she wants 20 units sold per month then try to sell at least 30. This will not only help you reach success but also give you the opportunity to show her how much better you are than she thought says Paul Haarman.

Be Realistic, Not Relentless

Of course, there is definitely a point where being better than expected becomes unrealistic and unrelenting. If you’re selling 100 units per day one month and 500 the next, don’t expect your manager to thank you for all of this extra work just because you were able to do it; instead, back it down so that things are more manageable moving forward.


Your job isn’t to argue with your boss when they set objectives; it’s to do well and to help them see why their numbers don’t actually make sense. So, before you tell them that you’re going to sell 500 units per month come up with a plan and then present it in a way that values the best intentions of everyone involved. Then, put forward your idea so that you can achieve what you were hire for while also helping them realize what is truly possible.


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