The Best Sales Managers Don’t Chase Revenue: 6 Steps to Get Goal-Setting Right

Sales Manager Goals
Sales Management

Success begins with setting goals. Without goals, your team lacks the key elements it needs to win — a direction to follow and the encouragement to stay motivated in sales.

In contrast, goals lend clarity and purpose to your organization. They enable your team to track collective and individual performance. Goals also help assess the efficiency of tools and methods and formulate strategies for improvement or growth.

The numbers agree across every human undertaking. A widely cited study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology found that lack of clear goals is a major cause of student attrition.

Setting specific goals and executing detailed strategies for achieving them resulted in an average academic performance improvement of 30%. In the business environment, extensive research shows that goal-setting elevates work performance by at least 10% to 25%.

Imagine similar spikes in your sales metrics and you’ll see the glaring imperative for setting goals. So yes —  there are few things more important to you as sales manager than to set goals. And to do every darned thing possible to achieve them.

Skip right to the 6 steps to influence outcomes as a sales manager >>>

Having Goals is NOT Enough to Break Through

Goals are not created equal. Poorly framed goals rarely translate to actual growth or improvement. In fact, they often result to massive disappointment, and may even pull your team one or two steps backward.

Just think of the huge number of people who set ambitious weight reduction goals and other resolutions every new year. Less than 10% actually achieve them.

Only specific, targeted goals using tested frameworks such SMART can take your team where you want to be. Successful business leaders, including Tony Robbins recommend the SMART criteria for goal-setting.

Others such as venture capitalist John Doerr advocate for the OKR framework. Google co-founder Larry Page credits the latter for the search giant’s phenomenal growth.

Sales Manager Goals — Setting Needle-Moving Targets

While many sales leaders perform customer engagement, administrative, HR, and other tasks, their core function is to develop sales strategies.

To do their jobs, sales managers delve in data, technology, metrics, and forecasts. They use these resources to drive sales growth, improve lead generation, prolong customer retention rates, and hike after-sales business.

Sales managers primarily take ownership of their company’s revenue goals. They play a lead role in determining periodic targets and creating playbooks to achieve their objectives.

Given the range of tasks they perform on a daily basis, sales managers certainly seem to have a lot of resources in their toolkit. However, only a team of skilled sales reps can execute their revenue-driven playbooks.

The best sales managers focus on how to manage, mentor, and motivate

That is why the smartest and most ambitious sales managers use most of their time and energy to manage, mentor, and motivate their people.

Whether through inspiration, coaching, training, technology, or incentives, sales managers need to enable each member of the team to deliver high performance and achieve their individual targets.

To successfully orchestrate the outcomes you want as a sales leader, here are some common steps to consider.

6 Steps to Getting the Outcomes You Want as a Sales Manager

  1. Align sales goals with the overall strategy of the company
  2. Create specific, targeted goals for the team
  3. Be ambitious but reasonable when setting team and individual sales quotas
  4. Integrate sales coaching, personal development, and sales training into your team goals
  5. Don’t forget technology
  6. Monitor progress and give feedback

1) Align sales goals with the overall strategy of the company

Before formalizing periodic game-plays for the sales team, revisit the company’s overall strategy and align your sales goals with that.

Sales forecasting and planning should begin with data on current performance. Audit your:

  • Technology
  • Tools
  • Training currently available
  • Resource allocations (including budget)
  • Tech purchases
  • Incentives (compensation, commission, benefits, perks)

Evaluate your addressable market and how the sales team can optimize their outbound prospecting.

While sales managers certainly need to focus on revenue generation, you should also include plans to improve productivity and develop each member professionally. Think technical/hard skills training and emotional intelligence and soft skills coaching.

2) Create specific, targeted goals for the team

Your plan won’t fly if the goal sounds too general.

Only specific, goal-oriented plans that establish individual accountability can drive and motivate people to succeed.

  • Map overall team goals to individual activity and sales performance goals. Activity goals help individuals focus on performing tasks that really matter in the long run.
  • Integrate small goals (such as activity targets) that help build confidence, blaze a trail of incremental wins, and lead the entire team towards achieving bigger goals.
  • Break annual goals into shorter periods and assign daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly targets to each member of the team.
  • Include skills training goals for individuals, which correlate with and help improve overall performance.
  • Foster collaboration by creating and incentivizing team goals. Reward the team only when every individual achieves their targets.

3) Be ambitious but reasonable when setting team and individual sales quotas

The trick is to find the sweet spot between the company’s aspirations and the sales force’s current capabilities

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Adopt a consistent and transparent method for establishing periodic quotas. Set these quotas as a team to reinforce accountability.
  • Use data in setting and assigning quotas. Strike a balance between realism and ambition.
  • Drive motivation and increase the impact of your incentives program by implementing the right mix of base compensation, commission, and rewards.

4) Integrate sales coaching, personal development, and sales training into your team goals

The level of revenue you generate greatly depends on the competency and skill of your sales team.

Hence, guiding everyone on the team on a continuing journey of learning and self-improvement should be integral to your sales goals.

  • Checking individual performance metrics hold the key to understanding how to set goals for your sales reps.
  • Activities that correlate with productivity include those on lead generation, qualification, and sales velocity. Meanwhile, close rates and average deal size directly impact revenues.
  • In many advanced organizations, dedicated teams for sales enablement or sales operations help coordinate or directly own these issues.
  • In addition to on-the-job practice/coaching and in-house learning management systems (LMS), skills and knowledge training may also be implemented.
  • Finally, sales managers should also consider themselves lifelong learners and include participation in relevant training as part of the team’s sales goals. Leadership, mentoring, stress management, strategic thinking, and data analysis are some learning areas that can propel your performance as a sales manager.

5) Don’t forget technology

Perhaps next to talent, technology is the resource that can take your sales performance to the next level.

If you don’t believe this, just consider how much the sales technology landscape has expanded over the years. For vendors, demand spurs growth. But for sales teams using tech, outcomes dictate demand.

That means measurable and compelling returns on technology investments are building the case for adding more advanced solutions to your technology stack.

Besides sales training, you can bank on new technologies (automation, data analytics, visualizations, ML, conversational AI, etc.) to streamline processes.

Hence, always include specific tech acquisition or training goals in your sales strategy.

6) Monitor progress and give feedback

Schedule regular reviews to verify whether current efforts align with and are in pace with quarterly or annual targets. Take prompt remedial actions when necessary.

Conduct periodic performance assessments and accurate and honest feedback to each member of the team.

Incentivize outstanding performance and schedule coaching or training time for skills, competencies, and other areas that need improving. Common areas that need re-training include rapport building, product knowledge, presentation skills, negotiation, and closing skills.

Top KPIs to monitor:

  • Calls made
  • Emails sent
  • Scheduled meetings
  • Demos
  • Proposals sent
  • Deals in the pipeline
  • Average deal size
  • Sales velocity
  • Win rate, individual
  • Average win rate (team)
  • Opportunities/period
  • Total opportunities closed/period
  • Pipeline value/period
  • Total value of sales/period
  • Market penetration
  • Employee engagement and satisfaction

Bonus Resources to Get You Started

  1. TED Talk: Why the Secret to Success Is Setting the Right Goals by John Doerr
  2. Research: Setting Goals: Who, Why, How? By Selen Turkay
  3. Article:  The Secret of Setting Successful Goals by Mike Brooks for the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP)
  4. Article: Sales Goals: How to Set the Right Targets and Hit Them by LinkedIn Business
  5. Comprehensive List: Best 160+ Sales Tools: The Complete List (2018 Update) by Max Altschuler for Sales Hacker
  6. Infographic:  8 Tips for Beating Your Sales Goals from RAIN Group
  7. Comprehensive List: The 30+ Most Desirable Sales Skills & Traits You MUST Develop To Become An Unstoppable Rep by Max Altschuler for Sales Hacker
  8. Guide: Team Playbook: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) from Atlassian
  9. Guide: OKR: Objectives and Key Results from Weekdone
  10. Guide: SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable from MindTools

The Right Sales Goals Go Beyond Topline Figures

Whether in sales, business, and personal lives, setting the right goals takes us closer to the outcomes we want.

For sales managers, goal setting makes it possible to drive and motivate their team in performing the tasks and activities that affect revenue.

But the right sales goals go beyond topline figures. When set the right way, sales goals also help develop focus, build skills, shape personality, and reward committed effort. Goals not only help leaders engineer great outcomes for the company, they also transform people into better sellers and human beings.

The secret is to set clear, specific, challenging, and achievable goals.  

Do you have a special sauce for goal setting? How does your organization set, monitor, and evaluate individual and team goals?

Colin Campbell

Colin is the Director of Marketing at Sales Hacker. Before that, he led the strategy team at a marketing agency, and worked with hundreds of B2B brands to build winning inbound strategies. Outside of work, Colin is the world's biggest dog lover, and spends as much time as possible outside.