Sales goals are targets businesses use to motivate and measure the performance of their sales team. Setting effective sales goals means starting with the end in mind, creating SMART team and individual goals, evaluating performance, and adjusting goals as needed over time. Following these steps will ensure you set goals that positively impact the overall success of your business.
Here’s an effective way to set sales goals for your team in seven steps:
Table of Contents
1. Start With the End in Mind
The first thing I would encourage any business to do when setting sales goals is to think about what they want to accomplish overall. Ask yourself what the end result you’re looking to realize is so that you can make decisions and set goals that will help you get there. Too often, businesses set goals that aren’t connected to the overall mission of the organization and the vision of where they want their business to be in the next quarter or year.
For example, if you want your business to expand your customer base over the next 18 months, the incremental goals you set should support that broader outcome by defining the activities and results that will help you get there. The key at this stage isn’t to pick the specific goals, but rather to define the desired outcome for your business. Record your desired end outcome, then use it as a guide to evaluate and measure the goals you’ll develop.
When developing your sales goals, keep in mind that they can be broken into two categories: outcome goals and activity goals. Both are equally important as you consider the results you want to generate and the performance you’re trying to motivate. Therefore, most businesses will benefit from setting a combination of both types of sales goals for their team.
The difference between the types of sales goals is this:
Outcome-oriented goals are straightforward because they are based on the desired end result of a sales rep’s efforts: increased sales revenue. These goals are defined by the total amount of sales generated by the customers in a salesperson’s portfolio or territory. They can also be based on outcomes such as increased sales in existing customers, new revenue generated, or the number of deals closed.
The main thing to remember about outcome-oriented goals is that they are measured by the resulting performance, not the effort. The salesperson is measured and evaluated in a tangible way, i.e., whether their sales efforts have produced the expected level of corresponding results, most often in revenue generated.
On the other hand, activity goals are based on completing specific sales activities such as the number of customer appointments, the number of cold calls made, or new leads generated. These goals aren’t directly related to outcomes but are just as important for keeping your sales pipeline full and your sales process moving forward. In some circumstances, they can actually be more important than outcome-oriented goals at improving your sales performance.
For example, as a sales rep at a growing tech startup, I relied on sales development reps (SDRs) to make cold calls and emails to set up my demos. The more calls they made and emails that resulted in demos, the more pitches I was able to conduct and the more sales we eventually won. We evaluated SDRs based on the number of appointments they were able to make and demos they set up rather than revenue generated.
2. Evaluate Your Current Situation
After you’ve spent some time imagining the future you want for your business, the next step is to take a hard look at where you are now. Evaluate your business based on your current strategy, customers, resources, and staff. Ask yourself how equipped you are to reach your vision and what you’ll need to get there. These reflections will help define the goals you set by helping you define the performance and activities that support your company strategy.
In order for goals to be effective, they should focus around both your desired future and your current reality. A good sales goal is a bridge between where you are now and where you see yourself in the future. In the example I mentioned about expanding your customer base, if a large portion of your current business comes from existing loyal customers, it’s a good idea to start by cultivating three referrals from each customer and set that as a goal.
3. Consider SMART Goals
To make sure goals are easily understood and have the greatest chance of success, you should set SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time sensitive. For example, “increase sales by 15% this quarter compared to last” is a SMART goal.
SMART goals meet the following criteria:
In order to be helpful, goals must be specific. For example, “do better” is not a specific goal. Do better at what? Your goal should lay out exactly what it is you intend to accomplish without ambiguity or confusion. If it’s an activity goal, it should lay out exactly what activities you are measuring, and how many you expect a salesperson to complete. If it’s an outcome goal, it should define the desired outcome and clearly articulate what will be considered a success.
The goals you set also need to be measurable. If your objective is to grow sales revenue, the goals you set should be clear about exactly how much. That allows you to measure the results and determine whether you are meeting your goals. “Increase sales by 15%” tells you exactly how much to increase sales, and everyone is clear about whether that goal has been met by measuring the sales revenue and comparing it to the baseline standard (last quarter).
Sales goals must be actionable, meaning a sales rep should be reasonably capable of reaching their goal based on their effort and activity. Creating a goal that a salesperson isn’t able to achieve isn’t helpful since it doesn’t motivate or hold that person accountable for their performance.
For example, setting a goal for a salesperson based on profit margin might not be a SMART goal if the salesperson has no control over pricing negotiations. This is because he or she isn’t able to directly accomplish this goal through their own actions. Instead, find goals that measure your team member’s ability to directly affect the outcome.
Not only should a goal be something a salesperson can affect by their actions, it should also be realistic. You may have the most talented salesperson in the world, but their performance is still limited to some extent by external circumstances like the companies in their portfolio or the economy. For example, expecting a sales rep in an urban area to sign 10 new contracts a month could be realistic. However, expecting the same from a rural territory might not be.
In the same way, if you have a brand-new salesperson, it’s not realistic to expect the same performance that you would from a veteran top performer. The goals you set for each should be realistic and reflect both individual capabilities and the overall circumstances.
The final aspect of setting SMART goals is that they must be time sensitive. I once heard someone say that a goal without a deadline is just a dream. If you don’t have a timeline for accomplishing your goal, chances are good that you never will. It’s also much harder to measure your goals without a time frame to compare them to.
For example, if your goal is to procure 10 new customers, the question you have to ask is “by when?” A good SMART goal will clearly define the time frame for accomplishing the goal. “Sign 10 new customers each quarter” makes it easy to determine when this goal should be completed as well as the time frame when you’ll review whether or not you’ve met the goal.
4. Create Company-wide Goals
Before you assign goals to each member of your sales team, establish the overall goals for your sales organization. Look at both your current situation and your desired outcome to help you create big-picture goals that you can use to drive your overall business performance. This will help you determine whether or not the specific goals you create for each rep are going to help you meet your company and team objectives.
Most businesses set their current goals based on a comparison to their previous goals and performance. For example, a company might set a goal to increase sales this year by 15% compared to last year based on past company trends, current market conditions, and forecasts made by the sales team. In the same fashion, you could create an overall company goal to diversify your current customer base by increasing your prospects and qualified leads by 20%.
5. Assign Individual Goals
Once you’ve established goals for your team, you can assign individual goals that will help your team reach the larger objectives. Keep in mind that like company-wide goals, individual goals should be SMART and based on both the individual’s capabilities and portfolio.
An individual team member’s goals should be a combination of outcome-oriented goals and activity goals. They should be challenging, yet attainable. It’s important to set goals that motivate your team members to achieve more than they thought they could, but that realistically can be reached with the time and resources available. Also, remember that sales goals are usually the primary driver of salesperson compensation, and should be set accordingly.
For example, your overall business goal may be to increase sales 15% this year. If that’s the case, you should look at each rep’s portfolio and create a goal of increasing revenue by 4% to 5% each quarter. You could also set goals for the activities that will help make that possible, e.g., setting six customer appointments each day or signing up 10 new customers each week.
6. Provide the Necessary Resources to Help Your Team Succeed
One of the most critical aspects of setting goals is to actively set up your team for success. If your team doesn’t have the resources it needs to accomplish its goals, then the entire exercise is a waste of time and is sure to only create frustration and disappointment. As a sales leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure your team has everything they need to meet their goals.
Want to know more about sales leadership? Read our complete guide to sales management to learn how to be an effective leader.
Resources can take the form of technology tools, but don’t overlook the value of quality sales training and ongoing coaching. Since the success of your business or organization depends collectively on the success of each individual salesperson, it makes good business sense to train and equip your team for the job.
A few important resources include:
Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps your sales team stay organized and on task. One of the most important aspects of a CRM, in addition to the lead and deal management features, is the ability to record your activity and generate sales reports that help you see where you are at in relation to your overall goals.
For example, Pipedrive is an easy-to-use CRM that allows you to set up individual and team sales goals and monitor your performance against them. Plans begin at $12.50 per user, per month, and include a visual pipeline tool to move sales opportunities through your sales process. Pipedrive offers a 14-day free trial of each of their plans. Visit Pipedrive to start your trial today.
If you are setting goals to measure the number of customer appointments your team gains from cold calls, you should be providing them with training and practice in converting prospects over the phone. It’s up to you to make sure that your team has the tools and knowledge for them to be successful. For example, you might check out these top sales training programs that can help set up your team for success.
One of the most important motivators for a salesperson to accomplish a goal is knowing that someone is going to ask them about their progress. Along with setting goals, excellent sales leaders create a system of accountability designed to help their team reach those goals. Regular check-in meetings that keep goals front of mind, as well as coaching and encouragement, help sales reps stay focused on the activities and outcomes that drive success.
7. Evaluate & Adjust Goals Based on Results
The final step of setting sales goals is to evaluate your actual performance compared to these goals and adjust your activities accordingly. I suggest scheduling regular review periods to analyze goal performance and having a plan in place to make adjustments as necessary based on areas where team members are not reaching their goals. Making it a point to conduct regular sales meetings to evaluate your progress is an important factor in improving sales performance.
If you are a sales manager, knowing how your team should be performing on a weekly or monthly basis allows you to make changes and corrections before you fall too far behind. Software tools such customer relationship management (CRM) make it easy to generate reports that can help you quickly monitor and track your goal performance based on the metrics you define.
Want to learn more about how to conduct effective performance reviews? Read our in-depth article about how regular performance reviews can drive sales success.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are sales goals the same as metrics?
They aren’t the same, but they are related. A metric is a measurement or key indicator that helps you evaluate an aspect of your sales process. Usually, metrics also provide insight toward the accomplishment of a goal. Goals are typically more formal and are used to measure performance and hold salespeople accountable, whereas metrics often help you evaluate activities and variables that ultimately lead to success in reaching those goals.
For example, you may set a sales goal of increasing revenue by 15% this quarter. To do this, you know that the salesperson will need to both increase current customer revenue and close 10 new customers. You know that to generate 10 new customers, he or she will need to generate 50 new leads, which will require contacting 150 prospects.
You can establish a metric that measures the sales rep’s activities each week. In this case, he or she will need to generate 10 prospects, convert three to four to leads, and close roughly one new sale. You might use a “prospects generated” metric to help keep your salespeople moving toward their ultimate goal of increasing revenue by 15% this quarter.
How many sales goals should I set?
In order to be effective, you should set three to five sales goals per individual, and a similar number of goals for the team. Most people are only able to truly engage with a few goals at a time, and it can be counterproductive to make people accountable for more than that. Additionally, if you find that you are setting more goals, consider whether they are goals or metrics, or whether your sales process could be more focused and intentional.
How often should sales goals change?
As you evaluate performance on a regular basis, you’ll sometimes find a goal that you set isn’t realistic or actionable. In that case, it makes sense to make adjustments accordingly. While it’s not a good idea to constantly change your goals, it can be necessary as business objectives or circumstances change. Most users should make changes, when needed, at the regularly scheduled review periods, such a monthly, quarterly, and annually.
Sales goals are an important way to measure performance and provide accountability for your sales team. Learning how to set sales goals and effectively measure performance will help you motivate your salespeople and keep them focused on the activities that make the biggest difference in accomplishing your company objectives.
If you’re looking for a helpful tool to set and monitor sales goals, Pipedrive CRM includes both individual and team goal reporting. Plus, it’s built around a highly visual sales pipeline, making it easy to generate leads and deals and move them through your sales process. Plans start at $12.50 per user, per month. Visit Pipedrive to sign up for a 14-day free trial.