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9 Steps to Setting Smarter Sales Goals

If your reps only have one goal — meeting their quota — they’re selling themselves short (literally). Hold your reps accountable to smaller weekly or monthly goals, and you’ll increase the likelihood they’ll meet their bigger number.

Smaller goals let your reps build confidence with incremental wins. They also help track your rep’s progress toward larger goals, giving you more time to work with struggling reps.

A Dominican University study found setting specific goals increases motivation beyond simply telling yourself, “I’ll just do my best.” The study ultimately reported professionals who stuck to a goal-oriented plan performed better than those who didn’t. What would improved performance from each of your reps look like for you?

Below, find out how to set sales goals on an individual and team level. It might seem like a lot of work, but the result is motivated salespeople who have the support they need to succeed.

1. Calculate your monthly sales goal.

If you’re setting personal or team goals, they should align with annual sales goals. Figure your monthly sales goal by working backward from your company’s annual revenue target. Once that target is defined, calculate how much your department, teams, and individual reps need to sell to meet that goal.

Be sure to take seasonal or staffing fluctuations into account. If you’re onboarding three new salespeople this fall, it may be hard to meet aggressive goals during Q4, as staff may be tied up in training those employees. However, because you’ve planned for this, you can adjust goals and push harder in Q3.

You should pull it all together in a sales goal chart, like the one below.

Sales goal chart

Pro tip: Create your own sales goal chart using our free sales conversion and close rate template.

2. Set waterfall goals.

Budget for ramp-up time when you’re implementing new goals and onboarding reps. If your reps are currently sending 50 emails a week and you want them to send 100, don’t immediately double their weekly email goal. Instead, raise their goal to 60 emails next week, 70 the following week, and so on.

This approach is better for morale because missing goals can increase fear and squash motivation. The waterfall approach also produces higher quality work and better numbers. Your team won’t experience burnout from the increase in work, and you’ll give them time to ramp up quality.

3. Sequence goals.

This is another way of saying “prioritize your goals.” Determine which goals bring the highest value when hit, and make sure your reps are meeting those first.

If you’re sequencing goals for a junior sales rep, set goals around where they can improve.

If they need to get better at prospecting, make it a goal for them to increase outreach calls by 10% every week.

Sequencing means even if your reps don’t meet every goal, they’ll meet the ones that matter most to your company’s bottom line or their professional growth.

4. Set activity goals.

If your rep needs to close $4,000 of business this month, convert that target into activity goals.

First, use your salesperson’s historical performance throughout the sales funnel to figure out how many emails, calls, and meetings they need.

Let’s say they have to close an average of four deals per month to hit quota. If 50% of their demos convert to deals, that means they must demo eight prospects each month. If 30% of their calls lead to demos, they need to call roughly 27 people.

Working backward lets you turn a (potentially intimidating) revenue goal into manageable metrics.

5. Incentivize goal attainment.

Receiving bonuses, getting variable compensation, and even keeping their job are all incentives for reps to meet their quota. So what’s the incentive for meeting these smaller goals?

Consider what motivates your reps. Promise a cash bonus or a round of golf to reps who meet their weekly goals. Don’t have the budget to offer monetary incentive? No problem. Position company-wide recognition or extra vacation time as a reward for goals met.

6. Monitor goal progression.

Goals are of no use if they’re not being monitored. Track progress via a dashboard in your CRM or have reps enter their weekly numbers the old-fashioned way — in an Excel spreadsheet. If someone on your team isn’t hitting their weekly numbers, talk to them before it becomes an impediment to meeting their monthly quota. Monitoring these small goals makes them worth the extra implementation time, so don’t skimp here — even if it’s tempting.

7. Set stretch goals.

A stretch goal is a goal exceeding their primary goal, which can be effective. Think about the old saying: “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you’ll be among the stars.” Keep in mind that this isn’t right for everyone. If a rep is struggling to meet their quota every month, a stretch goal will only increase their anxiety. But if you have a high performer, set realistic stretch goals — perhaps 125% of goal — that will challenge and motivate them.

8. Suggest mentor goals.

If a rep is having trouble ramping up or hits a rough patch (it happens to everyone), suggest they find a mentor or two. Provide a framework you’d like them to work through or advise them to create one with their mentor. Having someone to confide in besides their manager can be just what they need to thrive.

9. Create a collective goal.

Provide an incentive that’s only awarded when everyone meets the goal. For example, all salespeople must hit X number of calls/meetings/emails, X amount of revenue, or X% client retention.

Dangle a company-paid happy hour in front of your team and watch them work together to help each other succeed.

Now that you know how to set goals, let’s take a look at some templates that can help you create them without needing to start from scratch.

Sales Goals Templates

1. Sales Conversion and Close Rate Calculator

Sales goals template: Conversion and close rate calculator

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Want to get to the numbers straight away? Then use our sales conversion and close rate calculator to outline your financial goals in one simple, frills-free place. It’ll help you automatically create annual goals with the months broken down as well.

2. Sales Plan Template

Sales goals template: Sales plan

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Our sales plan template will help you create more traditional, qualitative goals. You can write goals not only in numeric terms, but in terms of what you want your sales organization to achieve at large. It’s a great starting point if you don’t want to dive into the nitty-gritty of your sales goals just yet.

3. Sales Metrics Calculator

Sales goals template: Sales metrics calculator

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To set realistic sales goals, you first need to know how you’re doing and track these metrics across time. Our sales metrics calculator will help you lay the groundwork for creating better and more effective sales goals. It will also help you get more acquainted with sales metrics you might not have considered tracking in the past.

4. Objectives and Key Results Template

Sales goals template: Objectives and key results

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Setting OKR sales goals is another effective method for improving your team’s performance. Like our sales plan template, this OKR template will help you set goals in more general, qualitative ways — so you don’t have to know the exact numbers just yet. You can refine as you go, change goals as necessary, and track your key results.

5. Sales Dashboard

Sales goals template: Sales dashboard

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Pull it all together in a sales dashboard where you can see all of your goals — and your progress toward those goals — in one place. You can set targets and track your progress toward those targets. If you don’t work in the tech industry, you can change the names of the fields to better fit your business.

Once you’re ready to set goals in a more automated environment, consider upgrading to a CRM that will help you set better and better sales goals every quarter.

Now that we’ve talked about how to set goals, let’s take a look at some examples that you can adapt for your team.

If you’re a sales manager, you can set several types of goals for your team:

  • Monthly sales goals
  • Waterfall goals
  • Sequence goals
  • Activity goals
  • Incentivized goals
  • Progression goals
  • Stretch goals
  • Mentor goals
  • Collective goals

We’ll provide an example for each type.

Sales manager goals

1. Monthly sales goal example: “Sell $100,000 worth of product by the first day of each month.”

This monthly sales goal is easy to understand — but don’t let it stagnate your team. If you keep the same number every month, it’ll be easy to plateau and fall out of pace with overarching revenue goals. You can increase this number every month, or keep it the same until your team meets it and exceeds it.

Remember to work backwards from the companies’ annual revenue target. Be sure to bring in any higher-ups who want to have a say on the monthly sales figures they’d like to see from your team.

2. Waterfall goal example: “Add $3,000 more revenue in Q2, $4,000 in Q3, and $5,000 in Q4.”

Get each of your reps contributing $5,000 more per month than their current averages by ramping them up over the course of the year. Waterfall goals are fantastic for keeping team morale high and for being more flexible. If, for instance, one of your reps falls just slightly behind, while another exceeds expectations, you can adjust their individual numbers accordingly.

3. Sequence goal example: “Set up X product demonstrations per week/day.”

For a rep who struggles with product demonstrations, set a goal of giving a team member a demonstration once a day, then twice a week, to sharpen their skills.

If a rep struggles to move discovery conversations to the next phase, make a goal for them to set up three demonstrations per week, then four, then one a day.

4. Activity goal example: “Share one sales article per week.”

Does your rep need to be more visible within your organization? Set a goal of having them share one article per week on your team Slack channel or internal communication portal. Or ask them to contribute one article per quarter to your company’s blog.

5. Incentivized goal example: “Hit a retention number greater than X%.”

If your reps are easily closing new business, but that business churns three months in, that’s not good. Set goals that incentivize reps to close only quality leads that are a match for your business. For example, you might give a cash bonus to every rep hitting quota whose retention number is higher than a specific percentage.

6. Progressive goal example: “Reduce the amount of time it takes to convert a lead to a customer.”

Speeding up the sales process closes deals quicker — this means the company will realize the revenue faster, and the sales rep will have more time to spend on other deals and prospecting activities. Creating a goal to reduce the amount of time it takes to move a lead to an opportunity or an opportunity to a customer will speed up the sales cycle.

7. Stretch goal example: “Upsell 12X more customers than you did the previous month.”

A stretch goal pushes your high performing team — or, at least, your highest performing rep — to do their best work by putting a seemingly unattainable goal before them. Remember, you should only suggest stretch goals if your team is already exceeding expectations. If they’re still progressing toward your primary goals, it’d be wise to use another type of goal to motivate them and track their progress.

8. Mentor goal example: “Attend one professional development event per month.”

If a rep isn’t attending professional development events, set a goal of one per month to start. That’s an easy way for them to get the mentorship they need from distinguished voices in the industry.

9. Collective goal example: “Book the most meetings of any rep on the team.”

Strike up friendly competition by challenging your reps to see who can book the most meetings or demos this week. If you’d like to truly have fun, you can post the numbers up on a leaderboard, highlighting the top three or the top ten sales reps.

These are all excellent goals you can set for your team, but if you’re a sales rep, you can also set goals for yourself. As a sales manager, you might also be able to suggest the following goals to the sales reps working under you.

Personal sales goals1. Increase your closing ratio by X% this quarter.

Perhaps you’re a rep that contacts a lot of leads, but you’re not reaching the finish line with a lot of your prospects. The closing rate is one of the most important metrics to monitor, and you’ll want to progressively increase that number. You should procure additional training if needed and hold yourself accountable for your percentages.

2. Touch base with each new client at least once a month.

Some sales reps struggle to stay in touch with new customers. If that’s you, make it one of your goals to touch base with each of your new clients at least once a month, then once every two weeks, to keep relationships strong.

3. Schedule at least three demos with enterprise-level prospects.

Are you a strong sales person for small businesses, but not so much when it comes to enterprise deals? Set a goal for yourself to schedule at least three demos with enterprise-level prospects this quarter.

4. Prospect X additional clients per industry.

If your company is trying to expand into new verticals, why not help them reach their goals by prospecting a number of new clients per target industry? You’ll not only impress your manager, but you’ll also help the business break new ground, giving you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

5. Schedule five additional discovery calls every month.

If you’re having trouble finding prospects and scheduling discovery calls, it’s time to set that goal for yourself. And if five seems like a big number, you can take the sequencing route and try to schedule one more discovery call than you did the previous month or week. If you scheduled five discovery calls last week, next week you’ll go for six.

6. Shadow one high-performing sales rep every quarter.

You can run this goal by your sales manager to see whom they think would be the best fit. But shadowing someone who consistently exceeds their sales numbers may just be what you need to help you reach your sales goals and refine your skills.

7. Sell X% more than the team’s sales goals every month.

Want to push yourself just a tiny bit more? Why not set a percentage above the stated sales goals for your team? This doesn’t have to be a big percentage — just 1% is enough to give you an edge over the rest.

Now, let’s break these goals down even further by aligning them with the SMART goal framework.

SMART goals are a proven framework for progressing toward a desired end result. They can help you stay focused. “SMART” stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

All of the above goals are SMART sales goals. Let’s dissect a few of them.

1. Sell $100,000 worth of product by the first day of each month.

This goal is specific and measurable because it offers a number: $100,000. It’s also attainable, especially for a big business that sells enterprise-level products. It’s relevant because it’s directly tied to revenue, one of the primary goals for a sales team. And it’s time-bound: The $100,000 worth of sales must be achieved per month.

2. Share one sales article per week.

What about something less quantifiable, like the above goal about articles? This is a stellar SMART goal for increasing the influence of a certain sales rep.

It’s specific and measurable, because the sales rep has to share one article. It’s attainable: An article about sales processes and techniques can be simple to find. It’s relevant, because it helps the sales rep refine their skills. Last, it’s time-bound to a week.

3. Reduce the amount of time it takes to convert a lead to a customer.

Here’s a more flexible goal that can be taken any number of ways, but that still falls under the SMART framework.

This goal is highly specific and measurable because you know the length of your sales cycle and the stages of your sales pipeline. From there, you’ll be able to calculate your newly reduced timeline (from 40 days to 30 days, for instance). Such a big change won’t happen in the short term, either, so this goal would take up to a year, making it time-bound.

4. Attend one professional development event per month.

This is another SMART goal that has a number, had a time range, and is highly attainable. It’s also relevant. Professional development events can help your reps (or you) become better at their jobs, impacting revenue at your company.

5. Increase your closing ratio by X% this quarter.

This is a fantastic SMART sales goal that offers a quantifiable measure of success and a deadline. The best part is that you can set the attainability level based on what you know about your team. You can turn this into a stretch goal, or you can keep the percentage in a lower range. Either way, this goal fulfills every requirement of a SMART goal.

6. Schedule at least three demos with enterprise-level prospects.

SMART goals are often quantifiable, and this is one such example. It’s also highly specific because it’s not asking for demos with just any prospects, but rather with enterprise-level prospects. When you’re creating your SMART goals, be sure to go deep into the specifics so that you can attain those goals in exactly the way you envision.

7. Schedule five additional discovery calls every month.

Discovery calls are what makes or breaks a deal, and for sales reps, it can be the most important predictor of success in their role. This SMART goal pushes them to schedule five more discovery calls than they usually do — and it may prompt some sales reps to reach into new verticals, helping your team cover new ground.

Keep Your Sales Reps Happy with Sales Goals

As you’re setting new goals or revisiting old ones, check in with your reps and ask how they’re feeling. Make sure goals are remaining realistic, challenging, and attainable. That’s the recipe for happy, successful reps.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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