What To Consider When Creating Goals For Your Sales Team

By: dagne
December 27, 2022
sales goals

What Are Sales Goals?

The business world sometimes has a tendency for complicating simple concepts. While there may be more elegant and creative definitions for a sales goal, let us define a sales goal as the total number of sales your team is responsible for obtaining within a fiscal period.

Obviously, this can be broken down into monthly or annual goals and can be applied to an individual sales rep, sales manager, regional manager, or the company as a whole. For our purposes, we will be discussing sales goals as they relate to the sales manager.

Sales managers are often promoted from the ranks of quota-carrying salespeople themselves. While you can take the person out of the role, it is sometimes harder to take the role out of the person. Many sales managers find themselves so consumed with measuring and obtaining results (which is an admirable trait for a salesperson), that they lose sight of the behaviors to attain them.

A sales goal tells the manager what they are driving toward. It provides direction, giving the manager a “what” but not a “how”. 

Behaviors provide the how and should always be supportive of the results. It is critical for managers to have a clear understanding of their team’s average close ratios and the likelihood of progressing a prospect through the pipeline so they can determine how the behavior will affect the result.

The Relationship Between Behavior and Results

When conducting training, I like using this formula to explain the relationship between behaviors and results:

B1 + B2 + B3 = Results

  Each “B” stands for a different behavior. We’ll explore what those are in a moment, but for now just know that as a manager, you must identify, teach, and monitor the behaviors that drive results. 

Managers need a way to inspect what they expect. Setting expectations for your team without a way to monitor those expectations is going to undermine the importance of your desired behaviors.

The behavioral goals that you should set depend on a multitude of factors; the type of sales position, a rep’s tenure, and the intensity of the goal are a few that come into play. Here are some general guidelines to consider when thinking about the behaviors that will support attaining your sales goal.

Behaviors Based on Position

The day-to-day activities of an inside account manager, or “farmer”, are going to differ from those of a more traditional “hunter”. Despite this obvious difference in roles, tracked behaviors are sometimes the same.

We often hear of sales managers tracking how many calls a salesperson makes without making a distinction between the type of calls being made. All calls are not created equal. Reps could be making prospecting calls, sales calls, performing account reviews, calling to upsell/cross-sell, or simply reaching out because the contact appeared on a “Not Contacted” report within the CRM. 

If your CRM doesn’t differentiate between the type of call made, then a sales rep may very well be busy engaging in low-gain activities (more on that in a bit).

Behaviors Based on Tenure

It’s important to note that in a perfect world, every rep would have their own custom set of behaviors to engage in, best suited to their personality, selling style, and experience. They would also have a custom compensation plan that got them out of bed so excited that there would be no need for trips to the coffee shop before reporting to work.

Since we don’t live in a perfect world, managers will commonly use the same metrics for every rep out of necessity. 

There is, however, some wisdom in tracking different behaviors based on a sales rep’s experience and tenure. There may need to be a stronger emphasis on prospecting if a rep is newer or has a smaller book of business. 

We’ll explore ways to personalize a rep’s experience and fine-tune behaviors when discussing one-on-ones later. The point here is that you may need to slightly alter your expectations of two reps, even if they are doing the same job. 

Behaviors Based on Quota

Tenured reps may have larger quotas, meaning they must uncover new opportunities every week to stay on track.

The time of year may also affect behaviors, sometimes in a dramatic way. The behaviors a salesperson needs to focus on in January will vary from those they need to focus on in December as the fiscal year comes to a close.

The same thing can happen at the end of any fiscal period (month, quarter, or year). You may have an issue if reps are always scrambling to achieve quota as the clock approaches zero. That said, your expectation of behaviors should adjust to stay in line with each rep’s remaining quota and the amount of time they have left to reach it.

Measuring High-Gain and Low-Gain Activities

Within any position, there are high-gain and low-gain activities that a rep can engage in. 

High-gain activities are those that progress a sale forward. Prospecting calls, providing samples or demos, and presenting solutions to decision-makers are all examples. Low-gain activities are the tasks a rep has to do, but don’t lead to the direct advancement of a sale. Examples include filling out expense or mileage reports, and any post-sale administrative work.

When you’re creating a system to measure behavior, you have to make room for necessary low-gain activities, while thinking through the most effective high-gain activities that advance the team toward the goal. 

The right number of behaviors to measure depends on the position and the rep. Salespeople will focus on whatever you track. In my experience, it is best to track no more than five behaviors. If you track more than that you risk overwhelming your people, causing them to lose sight of what’s most important. 

Collaborating To Set Individual Quotas

A sales manager typically gets their number from someone above them in the corporate hierarchy. Their focus is on revenue, profitability, and market share. The sales manager is responsible for monitoring their team’s behaviors, and allotting how much of the overall number each person is responsible for. 

When presented with a big number as a team, why not get input from your salespeople? It’s not a democracy, but there’s no reason you can’t get some collaboration from your people about how they see themselves arriving at the goal.

Asking for input from your team will create stronger buy-in. People will be more likely to take ownership of the bigger number, plus you’ll be able to see who on your team is really engaged in this type of leadership thinking.

You could always divide the team quota by yourself as you see fit but doing so will likely cause you to miss out on opportunities with reps who actually want to be held responsible for obtaining a bigger piece of the pie.

Considerations After the Sales Goal Is Set

Setting an actual sales goal is only a small part of a sales manager’s job. In some companies, the manager may have little to no say over how quotas are set. That means the primary focus and responsibility lies after a sales goal is set, regardless of who set it.

Motivations and Driving Forces

People want and need to feel valued. There is a misconception that the only thing salespeople care about is money. Now, to be fair, most salespeople are attracted to the sales profession because it gives them the opportunity for economic advancement. Most salespeople like the fact that they have more control over their income than they would have working an hourly position elsewhere.

However, money is just one of the six motivators that inspire action. A sales manager should do their best to familiarize themselves with the motivators, and figure out how to use them to incentivize their team members.

The six types of motivators and driving forces are:

  • Utilitarian: Money, practicality, return on investment
  • Aesthetic: Beauty, balance, harmony
  • Social: Compassion, kindness, helping others
  • Traditional: Order, structure, unity
  • Individualistic: Power, influence, uniqueness.
  • Theoretical – Knowledge, truth, understanding

It can be difficult to figure out what motivates the people on your team without the help of an assessment. If you want to uncover not just what motivates your team but also practical ways to coach them, the personal and selling skills they’ve developed (and the ones that need improvement), and their preferred communication style — then check out the Brooks Talent Index. It will also ensure you hire the right candidates for your team.

Create a Smooth Sales Process

Your team will have a much easier time selling when they have a proven, systematic approach they can follow.

The IMPACT Selling System will check all these boxes, but if you aren’t using it, there are a few things you should do to give your team the greatest chance of selling success.

Establish a common language. You want to make sure everyone on your team uses the same terminology to describe different phases of the selling process. This will make coaching conversations much more efficient and effective.

Set criteria for qualifying leads. We teach five characteristics of a qualified lead, but feel free to set your own. Just make sure your team knows what constitutes a qualified lead and what doesn’t, so they spend their time wisely.

Teach everyone the same steps. Make sure everyone on your team takes the same approach to sales. This will make it easier to identify problem areas with each rep and also prevent reps from attempting to sell using unproven strategies and tactics.

Do more with your CRM. Once you have a clear selling system in place, put those benchmarks as stages in your CRM. Make sure everyone knows when to move from one stage to the next, and let people know you’ll be asking pointed questions using those criteria about any deals they want to discuss during one-on-ones.

Setting Expectations

At the end of the day, you are the boss. Yes, people need some freedom and creativity in how they do their job, and it’s unwise to micromanage your people. It should, however, be crystal clear where reps have room to inject their personality or ideas into their selling style and where they are expected to stay within bounds and follow the rules.

If you set expectations wisely, you can actually create an environment where you have the best of both worlds.

Like we previously discussed, reps should know the company’s process for engaging a prospect. Is a pre-call plan required? How much time should be spent researching prospects, and what information should be sought? What makes a prospect qualified? What behaviors, and how much of those behaviors, should a rep be engaged in on a weekly basis?

You should draw the line at how some of those activities are done. Some reps may ask for guidance on the best way to go about doing something. Others, however, will feel slighted if you give them too much instruction on how to do their job. Give reps who want freedom and autonomy as much space as you can. Likewise, coach the people who ask for your coaching as much as possible. 

Just do all these things within reason. Too much freedom and you lose control. Too much coaching and you might as well be a salesperson instead of the manager.

Factors of SMART Sales Goals

You’ve likely heard the acronym SMART when it comes to setting goals. It’s a great system to follow, and we’ve written extensively about SMART goals here

I do want to provide a brief recap of the importance of SMART goals, as it relates to achieving your sales target once it’s been set. To recap, SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic (or relevant)
  • Time-bound

Again, if you’re going to expect something, you need to know how to inspect it. Key inspection points are necessary to understand if the behaviors you’re after are happening or not.

One of the greatest inspection points is looking at the execution of an account plan. What did the rep plan for an opportunity or account, and what actually happened? Analyze the gap between their goal and the results to see where your help is needed.

Plans will sometimes be fluid, but that’s a good thing. Changes in a rep’s plan for moving a prospect through the pipeline shows how closely they’re paying attention to their customer and how good they are at anticipating needs. 

Creating Dynamic Plans

Do reps have a plan for how they’re going to hit their number? Breaking larger sales goals down into bite-size chunks is important. The sooner this is done the better, as selling opportunities naturally ebb and flow throughout the year. You may find prospects harder to reach in the summer months or unwilling to do business as budgets are being set at the start of the fiscal year.

It should be easy to find different behaviors to focus on when things change throughout the year. For example, it’s natural that a rep’s prospects won’t want to set a meeting during the last week of December. A phone call to send along well wishes and setting a date to meet in the new year will ensure the rep doesn’t waste downtime.

Alternatively, a plan can be made to work on their own positioning during downtime by creating relevant content to share with prospects. Publishing articles on LinkedIn is a great way for a rep to demonstrate their ability to serve customers as a strategic advisor.

Use Data To Set Goals

If your CRM is set up properly, you will be able to run some reports to figure out your team’s track record of advancing an opportunity from one phase to the next. 

For example, what percentage of opportunities moved from the “Qualifying” stage, where the rep is determining if the person they’re speaking to is the right decision-maker, to the “Probing” stage, where the rep is uncovering the prospect’s needs, wants, and expectations of doing business together. What percentage then moves to where the rep is “Applying” what they learned to create an attractive proposal.

The focus here is to figure out what the historical data says about your team, so you can predict the likelihood that future deals will close.

This type of data will also help you identify areas individual team members need improvement, and how you should modify your expectations of the rep.

For instance, let’s look at a hypothetical sales rep. Imagine that this rep winds up pitching 80% of their qualified leads, and 25% of those prospects wind up buying. That means 20% of their qualified leads will become customers. If you look at the rep’s average deal size, breaking down a prospecting goal becomes a simple math equation.

Another rep may only pitch 30% of their qualified prospects, but 90% of those prospects wind up buying. 

Which one is better? The answer is—look at the data! If your team averages closing 60% of their qualified leads, then your rep that is only closing 25% could use some help closing. Maybe they aren’t asking the right types of questions, or maybe they’re moving too fast and asking for the sale before the prospect is ready to buy.

Again, looking at the team’s numbers, if overall your team pitches 70% of their prospects, then your second rep may need some help prospecting. Perhaps they are working with unqualified prospects or have some other issue securing the meeting to present their solution. 

The point is, data tells you what to do. It frees you from having to operate on hunches and will give you confidence that you’re coaching reps on the skills they need to improve.

Make Your Expectations Realistic

Just like goals need to be realistic, your expectations need to be realistic as well. Expecting a rep to make 100 outbound calls a day, while also getting all of their other responsibilities done might be a recipe for burnout.

Let’s say you want to get an idea about the quality of sales calls. One inspection point could be to look at the pre-call plan. Now, you could have an expectation that a rep completes a pre-call plan for every call. There is a great saying that you don’t have to create a pre-call plan for every prospect, just the ones you want to close.

Pre-call plans are useful when done properly, but they do take time. You will likely have compliance issues on your team if you expect people to complete a pre-call plan for every single opportunity.

Knowing that you will get the team that you tolerate, set a limit for when pre-call plans are required and when they are optional. Maybe every opportunity above $10k requires a pre-call plan. Set the standard and enforce it. That way, reps know when you say something is serious, it’s serious.

Make Goals Challenging but Attainable

Everyone looks at the fiscal aspect of goal setting when it comes to how difficult a goal is to achieve. Yes, this is important, but you’re likely already doing that. Let’s apply the same thinking to the systems that are in place which determine how challenging the job is for reps. 

Set standards for how long reps should work with a prospect before reaching out for help. You don’t want people spinning their wheels, or pursuing opportunities that will ultimately go nowhere because they’ve missed a critical piece of information. Working with prospects that aren’t worth your reps’ time is what makes sales hard.

Salespeople won’t grow without encountering some of that struggle, but at the same time you don’t want them to lose hope that they can hit their quotas. 

Use your CRM to see what the team averages for progressing deals from one phase to the next and how long it takes for an opportunity to close. When you hear reps talk about opportunities that are extending past the team norms, you’ll know there is a potential issue worth discussing.

Ways to Support Your Team With Goals

You are the buffer that stands between your team and the higher-ups who set the strategic vision for the company. The C-suite may care tremendously about your people, but they don’t have the time to get involved in their day-to-day activities to ensure they’re successful.

One of the ways you can support your team as the manager is by how you handle the setting and achievement of goals.

Have Routine (Monthly) Check-Ins

Managers need to have one-on-ones with their sales reps regularly. I would suggest you have a monthly check-in with every rep on your team for 12 consecutive months. That will tell you what the proper cadence should be for each rep. 

Some positions may merit bi-monthly check-ins. Others might get away with quarterly. You should never go longer than three months without having a dedicated time to sit down with each rep on your team. Even if the rep is highly successful, the meeting is important. You’re doing more than just pipeline management; you’re building a relationship.

You can let your reps choose their favorite restaurant for one-on-one meetings. It’s nice to show reps that they have options besides meeting you on your turf. Perhaps you can grab a cup of coffee after a joint sales meeting. The point is to find a way to let the rep have some control over the relationship by choosing the setting. The only rule is:  never conduct meetings at a bar. 

If you’ve moved away from holding regular one-on-ones, your salespeople will be in for a treat when you bring them back. As the manager, you will see the value in these meetings, and by having them your team will hold you accountable. You’ll walk away from some meetings with some action steps of things you need to do, and your team will grow to respect you more when you demonstrate your accountability to them by getting those action items done. 

Use the meeting time to hold people accountable for the behaviors you mutually identify as important, and your salespeople will begin to appreciate the time with you. Let reps talk about anything that is on their mind, but don’t use the meetings for specific account reviews. You can schedule a follow-up time for any necessary account strategy. 

Some meetings will be shorter than others, but never cancel them. Sure, you might have to move a meeting once. But if a rep asks to reschedule the same monthly check-in, you may have an issue.  

Empower Your Team

There are a million ways for you to empower your sales team. Improving sales enablement is a major part of what we do at The Brooks Group, but providing general advice on how to do this is a bit tricky.

The best tip I can give you is to listen to your people. 

Constantly ask for feedback on anything and everything. You don’t have to take action on every single grievance or suggestion that comes up, but it’s better to keep the lines of communication open and have a pulse on your team’s attitude than to find out people have had minor issues that they never told you about.

Most well-meaning managers will make sure the big obstacles get smoothed out. It’s often the little stuff that causes job dissatisfaction and the loss of good talent.

Provide Resources

It goes without saying that a simple way of supporting your team’s goals is by giving them the necessary resources. Establishing a good working relationship with your marketing team will ensure the materials they provide are the most helpful.

Beyond that, give your team the resources they need to be creative in how they do their work. If a rep asks for a small budget to test sending a promotional item as a door opener, see if you can get the approval to make it happen. Who knows, you may stumble into a new successful strategy for hitting your collective sales target!

Show Your Team Your Appreciation

The following is a modified excerpt from an article that I co-authored for HR.com about how managers can show appreciation to their team:

The sales manager sits right in the gap between the recognition provided by the comp system and the needs of an individual sales rep. Unfortunately, many recognition efforts by managers are misguided and wind up being a waste of time and effort. 

Why? Because they are not built upon the core principles needed for appreciation to be communicated effectively.

Recognition is not the same as appreciation.

Recognition expresses the value of the work of the individual; appreciation expresses the value of the person.

Here are five tips for effectively communicating your appreciation. 

  1. Keep praise specific and personal
    General and impersonal praise doesn’t motivate anyone or make people feel appreciated. Use people’s names when praising them publicly, and get specific about what they did to warrant your kind words.
  1. Know when actions will speak louder than words
    Some people think “talk is cheap”. Others may think your praise is nothing more than an attempt to manipulate them into doing more of what you want. Public adulation might not be the best approach for these types of people.
  1. Use language that will be valued by the recipient
    For further reading on this topic, I would suggest “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” by Gary Chapman and Paul White. In it, the authors expand on ways to communicate appreciation in the way that is best received by the recipient.
  1. Don’t provide constructive criticism
    Your appreciation should never double as the bread on a “feedback sandwich”. Never follow your affirmation with a “Now, if you would just…” type statement. People tend to remember the criticism and forget (or not even register) the praise.
  1. Be absolutely genuine
    Don’t give fake or overstated praise. You need to find something you actually appreciate about a person, and then share that with them.

Be Empathetic

In a similar vein, remember to incorporate empathy when working with your team. Chances are strong that you have worked in a sales role at some point in your career, so you should know what the job is like. 

If you mean it, three of the most powerful words you can say to a person are “I get it”. 

Use your best judgment when dealing with issues to decide when corrective action is needed and when it’s best to give someone a pass or even praise for the things they’re doing well.

Obviously, you have to temper this in light of the goals you’re trying to achieve and the person the issue is relating to. But you’ll be surprised at how much people will be willing to step up once you’ve demonstrated that you understand the difficulties and challenges they’re going through.

Hold Yourself Accountable as a Leader

You must be committed to your company’s mission, the business, and its people. Taking your management role seriously will build trust with both subordinate salespeople as well as the senior leadership that you report to.

Be sure to clearly communicate your goals and objectives to your direct reports. Make sure they understand what you expect of them and the data you are tracking. 

Remember, your role exists to help the salespeople stay on track. When it comes to being accountable as a leader, you actually just need to be accountable to your team. Clear communication, honesty, and an unwavering commitment to your personal values will prove to everyone watching that you mean business.

It doesn’t mean you can’t let a fun and outgoing personality shine through in the work that you do, but you want people to know that when it comes to helping your team establish and accomplish their goals—you mean business.

Let The Brooks Group Help With Your Sales Goals

If you need a process and a platform in place to help you lead and coach your team, look into the Sales Leadership Accelerator

The Sales Leadership Accelerator goes beyond theory and inspiration.

This instructor-led training program gives sales managers a proven strategy to improve their team’s sales performance with tactical steps for setting goals, establishing desired behaviors, and coaching reps to success. 

Sales managers will walk away with a better understanding of their role, where to focus their attention, and how to coach to the strengths and weaknesses of each sales professional they lead. It’s a complete program with actionable sales leadership skills and insight you can apply immediately and is optimized for a highly interactive, transformational experience, offered virtually or in person.

Reach out to a member of our team and find out if our Sales Leadership Accelerator is right for you.

Written By

Dan Agne

Daniel Agne is a high-energy leader, facilitator, coach, and consultant with the ability to inspire learners to be authentically trustworthy in both their professional and personal lives.
Written By

Dan Agne

Daniel Agne is a high-energy leader, facilitator, coach, and consultant with the ability to inspire learners to be authentically trustworthy in both their professional and personal lives.

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