From sharing customer success stories to following up regularly, there’s a lot that our experts share in these 29 tips to improve your sales close rate.
Sales | Apr 20
Elise Dopson on February 20, 2020 (last modified on February 25, 2021) • 15 minute read
Harvard Business Review found that the most successful salespeople have aligned their personal goals with work goals.
But with 5.7 million professional salespeople in the U.S. alone, that’s a whole bunch of personal goals you’ll need to factor into the targets you set for your sales team.
Surely there must be an easier way to set sales goals, right?
The first process to create a goal is to determine your timescale. Almost half of sales experts set sales goals a quarter in advance:
Yet, setting new sales goals on a monthly basis offers benefits that quarterly goals do not.
First, monthly sales goals allow you significant time to judge whether you’ll meet your goals. If not, you can rejig them (without wasting another two months for your “goal setting” period to arrive.)
Second, monthly goals are usually smaller and less intimidating than quarterly sales goals and can inspire more action.
Let’s say you want to reach $60,000 in new revenue in Q2, for example. Viewing the goal in its totality can feel overwhelming while breaking it down into smaller monthly goals (of $20k) seems more manageable and offers a quicker payoff. (Celebrating the smaller wins on the journey to achieving a goal can boost motivation.)
Plus, if you spot that you’re under your monthly target by $5,000, you know (with plenty of notice) that you need to shift your strategy in order to make up for it.
You’ve decided to set new sales goals on a monthly basis. But “setting goals” sounds easier than it actually is.
So, we asked companies how they do it.
Over 30 sales experts shared their best tips in this guide, including:
*Editor’s note: Do you know whether you’re on track to meet your sales target at the end of the month? With our Weekly Sales Activity dashboard, you’ll be able to see your most important metrics–such as how many calls you’ve scheduled, emails you’ve sent, and deals you’ve closed:
“The one tip for setting monthly sales goals is to look in retrospective,” says Better Proposals‘ Adam Hempenstall.
“Some months are slow by nature, such as January, when most companies have trouble selling. At the same time, there are seasonal drops for various reasons.”
ForceManager‘s Dale Hart puts that into practice: “Imagine you want your team to increase the number of visits they make to new, prospective leads to increase the company’s share of wallet. To keep the sales team on track, the goal will need to focus solely on how many leads each sales rep visiting on a monthly basis.”
“If you set them an arbitrary figure, such as hitting “X” amount of revenue for the month, they could stray away from your end goal (visiting new prospects) by just focusing on existing customers.”
For 2nd Kitchen, Levi Olmstead shares what that looks like: “Set a realistic, yet difficult goal based upon MoM and YoY trends. Then to push the team further, set a set of stretch goals that add 25%-50% to that goal and add a bonus for achieving that goal – from a cash bonus, a vacation, a prize, etc.”
Frank Spear of Awesome Motive agrees: “Review your data from previous months and years when you’re setting monthly sales goals. You can predict spikes and pitfalls along the way, and prepare for each cycle accordingly.”
Some experts advise making decisions based on the past.
However, Bad Brain‘s Divya Menon advises to “focus on the future” when setting monthly sales goals: “Short-term goal setting encourages a fevered drive to meet quantitative goals leading to managerial myopia that stunts long-term growth.”
“The quick push to achieve these quantitative goals creates qualitative trade-offs, with teams often sacrificing the cardinal pillars of long-term growth like ethics and goodwill.”
“When setting monthly sales goals, follow in the footsteps of companies like Coca-Cola, Mattel, and AT&T that saw how short-term goal-setting abated their long-term strategy, and report how your sales strategy and resulting numbers tie into long-term objectives.”
Menon summarizes: “Ultimately, keep your monthly goals flexible, fluid, and inclusive of qualitative states to foster your brand’s long-term strategy.”
“When setting monthly sales goals, the important thing is to make them feasible,” says UpFlip‘s Hope Ashley. “Enlisting larger-than-achievable numbers can be a sure way to leave your sales team feeling discouraged and disengaged, which can severely lower company morale.”
This forms part of the SMART goal-setting framework, which stands for:
However, Robyn Flint of TheTruthAboutInsurance.com argues that the M and A are the two most important factors of a SMART goal: “When setting your monthly sales goal, it should be measurable and attainable. Be realistic based on your own needs and abilities, yet your goals should challenge you.”
Michael Green of Nelson Frank agrees: “It might sound like a sales cliché, but keep the sales goals achievable, not based on where you are relative to your overall team targets. Be ambitious and stretch people – that’s your job – but also be prepared to control the brutal truth.”
“For example, if you’re at the end of the financial year and have to make everything up in the final month and it’s simply unachievable. Not only are you going to miss the mark, but you’re going to go into the next financial year with a demotivated sales team.”
…As does Natalie Lane of Roger West: “Goals often fail because they’re too broad – which gives teams room to misinterpret, alter, and even fail. Every goal that is set should come with its own set of objectives and key results that concretely and explicitly define the goal and inherently guide teams towards success.”
“Don’t get a goal to increase sales in Q1. Instead, set a goal to increase conversions by 50% and lower the cost-per-click by 25% via a new campaign launch. This is a goal that sets quantifiable markers for success while telling marketers what needs to happen along the way.”
Summarizing, WPBeginner‘s Faizan Ali says: “The targets should be realistic, measurable and attainable. If the targets are not realistic then there is a very high chance that they won’t be achieved and this will demotivate the sales team which won’t be good in the long run.”
“Monthly sales goals should be set in accordance with the time of year, and your product,” says Russell Michelson.
“For instance, sales goals should be set higher in the month of November and December for retail products, as these are peak gift-buying months. This becomes even more relevant if your product is a seasonal product, that won’t sell near as much out of season.”
Michelson adds: “At RushOrderTees, our sales goals are set by our sales director, based on realistic expectations provided by the sales managers. We set our sales goals one quarter in advance, so we can review and revise the goals regularly while still allowing time for our marketing efforts to make their impact.”
Think of the first sales goal that comes to your head. Chances are, you’ll think of something along these lines:
However, Spencer Smith of IRC Sales Solutions advises to “make goals based on effort rather than the outcome.”
“Effort-based goals such as number of calls, number of connections or number of meetings bring more motivation to the sales reps because they KNOW they’re achievable and within their grasp, whereas outcome-based goals like number of sales or amount of revenue typically depend on many variables, all of which are not controlled by your sales rep.”
“Since our sales reps are on commission, they’re already trying to make the most sales and bring in the most revenue; setting those types of goals doesn’t really change much for the sales rep,” Smith continues.
“However, if you can set goals that cause the reps to make a few extra calls per day or push just a little harder for a meeting- those are the actions that increase your chances of selling more in any given month.”
You’ve set a bunch of sales goals and targets that you want to achieve this month.
But as the days pass, you lose motivation. Your sales reps aren’t focussed to meet their goals, and when the end of the month arrives, you forgot about the goals you set at the start.
Our experts share how to prevent that from happening:
When setting monthly sales goals, Jared Make of United Capital Source advises to “make the sales goals visible. Don’t simply set them and then forget about them until the month’s end.”
“Put the goals up on a tracking board physically in the office and on your online portals so that the goal is present and the progress to reaching it visible.”
“The majority of people are visual learners and having something to look at is a great way to know what you are aiming for and how far you have already come,” Make adds.
Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls argues that with most sales goals, it’s “out of sight out of mind. Goals can change or morph over time but I respond well to having clear goals I want to achieve with the time I have.”
“Call me old fashioned but I am a big believer in lists and sticky notes. The simple act of writing things down makes them real to me. I love crossing things off my to-do lists, it is a great sense of progress and accomplishment. I find it hard to ignore notes on the bathroom mirror or computer screen every day.”
“The best way to meet your sales goals is by reverse engineering it,” says to Chris Castanes.
“Decide what your goal is. Is it a production goal (ie 100 widgets) or a sales goal, like $5000 in commissions? Break that number down into weekly goals, or how much activity you’ll need to do. Use industry standards if available and crunch the numbers.
“All of that information will give you a daily plan that is doable,” Castanes thinks.
The team at Net Lawman also does this, according to Andrew Taylor: “A tip I have for setting monthly sales goals is ‘smaller is better’. Boosting confidence is so very important so making smaller goals in weekly timeframes can keep people on track and confident with themselves as well.”
Jacob Landis-Eigsti puts that into practice: “Sales managers need to ask, if we’re to hit our target, how many calls does each sales rep need to be making? How many meetings need to be scheduled?”
“If 60 calls per day will be required to hit financial goals, the main focus should be getting each sales rep to track and hit 60 calls per day. Break down the goal into daily actions and work hard to meet those actions each and every day.”
Jacob Dayan shares how they do this for Community Tax using the waterfall method: “If your sales reps are currently sending 100 emails a week, but you want to increase that number to 200, don’t immediately double their weekly email goal.”
“Rather, raise their goal to 110 emails next week, 120 the following week, so on and so forth until they reach your desired goal.”
When setting monthly sales targets, Nunzio Ross of Majesty Coffee advises to “focus on specific performance criteria that you know will bring the numbers and are easily measurable and achievable.”
“Most sales staff do not like dollar amount sales targets, it’s just a meaningless number that doesn’t tell you what specifically to do. For most people, it’s de-motivating and stressful.”
“Using performance criteria, personalized to the experience level of each salesperson is what catapulted our sales performance. Such as:
Ross explains: “Simple performance criteria feel achievable, takes the pressure off sales staff, keeps them motivated. Instead of chasing a number that in some months is way too low and other months is way too high.”
Jack Choros of Iron Monk also adds: “Try breaking them down week by week or day by day. If none of those numbers make sense, the monthly goals won’t inspire staff to make the sales happen.”
Jenny Kelley shares what that might look like: “The one tip we embrace when setting monthly sales goals is to keep metrics simple. Sometimes, it can seem beneficial to track very specific and in-depth metrics at the cost of your sales becoming very complicated.”
“Choose metrics that are simple to track and interpret when you are sharing sales progress with your team and upper-level management.”
“For example, at Kiwi Creative we put a large emphasis on our sales conversion rate. This rate is propelled by the number of deals and the booked revenue, giving our team a look at the beginning and end of the sales cycle,” Kelly adds.
“In my opinion, regular sales reviews are critical to goal setting,” says CardAccounts‘ Ollie Smith.
“After setting your monthly targets, you need to efficiently track them. By doing this you will be able to modify these targets should circumstances change and more importantly, you will know if it is realistic.”
Smith adds: “This insight will greatly assist your sales planning for the future, and increases your chances of success.”
In these meetings, Cozette M. White of Isle.net advises to track:
We found that in the majority of companies, a sales manager is responsible for creating sales goals. It’s rare for sales reps to get involved in the process:
But according to Emily Mahr, “everyone should be capable of creating sales goals based on the performance of the team they’re responsible for, knowing how their employees work and what they’re capable of.”
“If they’re all trained to perform sales at the same caliber, using one of the same techniques the company trains on, creating sales goals should be easy for everyone.”
Damien Martin also adds that at Shufti Pro, this is an important step for creating sales goals: “Assessing marketing potential and defining sales team roles from the very beginning is always helpful. Both these take time to understand and set in place in order for long term sales goals to be realistic.”
Andrea Loubier of Mailbird agrees: “Monthly sales goals should be set with the entire team in mind. In fact, it can often be a good strategy to give individual sales goals to each team member, as well as a collective goal. In this way, each person is responsible for their own portion of the goal, and will react accordingly.”
When planning sales goals, Craig Streaman thinks you should “know your lead and sales cycles so that you can plan months in advance.”
“If on average it takes 2 weeks from a user’s first site visit to a lead conversion, and then it takes another 3 months to nurture and convert the average lead to a sale, planning for February on January 31st isn’t going to work.”
“Typically, the higher the client value, the longer the lead/sale cycle is. I work with some companies that have very long cycles, so the work we do in 2020 won’t necessarily be fully felt in sales until 2021,” Streaman explains.
*Editor’s note: The first step to understanding your sales cycle is to know where your leads come from. Our HubSpot (Opportunities by Source) dashboard shares exactly this, so you can follow their journey from lead to paying customer:
Jeremy Cross explains how this process goes against the norm at Team Building Austin: “Instead of setting revenue goals for our sales team, we set profit goals.”
“Each of our products has variable pricing that can vary with upgrades, upsells, cross-sells and more. We don’t want our sales reps to have incentives to drive revenue that is low margin, so the profit goals ensure that we can pay out staff and have profit too.”
“I would recommend this format for most consulting firms and other businesses that can have variable pricing,” Cross adds.
Struggling to motivate your sales reps to stay on-track? Beekeeper‘s Alexandra Zamolo thinks you should “create goals that will help keep your employees engaged.”
“Think about setting up incentives that will reward your employees for reaching individual goals, which will also be very instrumental in reaching collective monthly or quarterly goals.”
“Get creative, and consider free lunch for a week or an Amazon gift card,” Zamolo advises.
Alex Williams of Data Hosting UK agrees and adds that “the incentive plan should include retention bonuses. Retention bonuses are great for the longevity of your business as it helps the sales team focus on long term relationships, as opposed to quick wins.”
“This can be anything from paying a bonus upon an anniversary, or incentivizing sales reps to upsell or cross-sell other services to an existing customer.”
“By implementing a clear incentive plan, there is no ambiguity or confusion for sales reps working hard to secure and land new leads and allows them to focus on the job in hand,” Williams summarizes.
As you can see, setting sales goals is just the start.
You need to make a solid plan-of-action to meet those goals, and learn how to adapt your sales approach to stay on-track (or surpass) your targets.
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