Five tried-and-tested tips for setting sales targets and objectives

26 June 2015 Kieron Johnson

Setting sales targets and objectives can seem overwhelming, but not when you follow these five simple steps. Prepare to be underwhelmed (by the task at hand).

In sales, setting goals and objectives is like setting a satnav. It pretty much maps out the route to your final destination. (We say “pretty much” because we’re sure you’ve heard of the odd satnav disaster story or two.)

Goal-setting is one of the most important responsibilities of a sales manager and achieving sales volume goals is equally, if not more, challenging.

Lots of factors outside your control can affect sales results, including the competition, the economy, even the weather. One constant (or at least manageable) factor is the folk on the ground that have direct customer contact. This is your sales team. Your A-Team.

When establishing sales targets and objectives, follow these five tried-and-tested tips to optimise your results.

1. Write down your sales goals

Handwriting on white board

An idea only becomes a goal when you have a plan in mind to make it a reality.

Putting down your sales goals in writing helps to crystallise your plans and keep them in sight (think whiteboards), providing a valuable motivational tool that allows you and your team to monitor progress by ticking off each milestone.

All of your sales goals and objectives should be achievable yet aggressive enough to yield real growth. In short, they should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. As much as we’d like to, we can’t take credit for this neat-sounding acronym. This accolade belongs to Edwin Locke.

Locke researched goal-setting and motivation theory and found a direct relationship between spelling out SMART goals and successfully achieving virtually any task you can think of. Here’s what made Locke’s theory so smart:

  • Specific: How much do you want sales to increase by? Throw down the gauntlet to yourself and your team by including a set number or level.
  • Measureable: How many sales (a pound amount or number) do you want to make?
  • Attainable: Are these sales goals something your team has the skills, abilities and motivation to achieve?
  • Realistic: Is it realistic to increase sales by, for example, 25 percent in a fortnight?
  • Timely: How long will you give the team to achieve the sales goal? Set a date and, better still, make it happen.

It’s one thing to set a sales goal (the what) and quite another to outline the sales formula for achieving it (the how).

Once you’ve sorted your sales targets, list all the steps necessary to achieve them, not forgetting to mention any hurdles your team may have to overcome to prevent their efforts being derailed. This obstacle info can’t be stashed away in the footnotes. It has to make the main text.

2. Train your sales team

Training Boardroom

Practice doesn’t make perfect – it makes permanent. You have to ensure that your sales team is up to the challenge of meeting their targets and that starts with training.

As they say, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so all team members must be equipped with the right tools and be up-to-speed with all the latest techniques to meet (or exceed) their sales goals.

3. Control your spending

Budget

Keeping a watchful eye on your spending will mean greater savings at the tail-end of the sales cycle, which means increased profitability.

You may also want to encourage your team to take part in cost-cutting measures. Some of the savings you make from your collective frugal existence can be used for bonuses and other incentives for the team.

4. Recruit efficiently

Not all sales team members are created equal. Be sure to utilise their skills, experience and personalities sensibly to make the best use of each team member’s talents.

Some will excel at closing new business while others will be a dab hand at upselling existing customers or securing referrals.

5. Follow-through (consistently)

Athletes

Flashback to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Like most homo sapiens, you were probably eagerly awaiting the start of the men’s 100m final (sorry ladies). Now, do you remember who made the fastest start or who finished the race in the fastest time? Chances are, the latter.

It’s exactly the same with sales. Following through is all-important and could mean the difference between taking sales gold, silver or bronze.

At regular intervals, each team member should produce progress reports and attend face-to-face meetings or telephone conferences with you. You can use these feedback sessions to get clued up on lines of product knowledge or sales skills education your team needs in order to continue growing and achieving their sales goals.

Final thoughts

Setting unrealistic pie-in-the sky sales goals and objectives may save your company money in the short-term (in terms of handing out bonuses), but it can spell disaster for team morale, customer relationships and company longevity.

By the same token, sales targets can’t be a piece of cake either because low-level goals don’t present a challenge worth striving for.