Dozens of our sales experts give their advice on the best SMART sales goals to employ with your teams to see more results, and better pipeline performance.
Sales | Mar 31
Belynda Cianci on February 3, 2020 (last modified on June 3, 2020) • 24 minute read
Sales Management can be a tricky spot: You work at the crossroads of team and organization, needing to keep the balance between organizational goals and the individual needs, strengths, and growth plans of your team.
With so many things angling to take priority, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. What’s a sales manager to do?
When in doubt, set a goal.
Setting goals for your sales team and yourself can give everyone a target at which to aim, which can prove far more motivating than trying to hit a seemingly arbitrary number. But what types of goals work best for cultivating your sales force to be the best it can, while keeping in mind that KPIs and business objectives still need to be met?
We asked over 35 experts for their opinion on the best sales goals every Sales Manager should employ within teams and departments. They shared excellent advice covering a range of different challenges and perspectives within the industry.
This valuable information can be broken down into 5 types of goals that every sales manager should have:
While every topic above can provide tips for improvement, if you’re interested in a particular section, click the link to head there. Otherwise, scroll on to get all the best advice our respondents had to offer.
Editor’s Note: Want to understand how marketing efforts feed into the overall prospecting and pipeline goals? Check out the Hubspot Marketing dashboard for at-a-glance information that can inform goals for both departments.
Getting your team to be a well-oiled machine that integrates well with other critical departments like Marketing shot to the top of the priorities list for our experts.
Taking care of your VIPs should be the first priority, according to Sam Schooley of Vendition. “The biggest mistake sales managers make is not spending enough time with their top performers. Every sales manager should make it their goal to spend time each week coaching their top performer.
Why asks Schooley? “If we take a hypothetical sales organization of three: Sales Rep A achieves at 60% annually, Sales Rep B achieves at 90% annually, Sales Rep C achieves at 102% annually. And we know that with our hard work throughout the year, we can raise all reps by 5%, and one specific rep by 20%. If you spend all of your training/coaching and effort on Sales Rep A, they will at most achieve 85% (still a B player). Alternatively, if we spend our coaching and training on Sales Rep B, they will now achieve 115%, which is fantastic! But, if we spend our time with Sales Rep C, and they now achieve at 127% annually, we now have a new standard for the sales organization.
The time invested can be used to tweak the org chart, according to Schooley, “We can now spend time finding replacements for Sales Rep A, who will come in and achieve at a higher rate. You don’t want your bottom performers to behave like middle performers. You want your middle reps to behave like top reps, and your best reps to be even better.”
This also works for James Lloyd-Townshend of Frank Recruitment Group, who takes a more granular approach to optimize team performance. The way to do that: “Break your team’s goals into smaller objectives that are more realistic and achievable. For example, if you want to improve your sales throughout the year, first break that down into month-by-month, then quarter-by-quarter, making sure your team knows what is expected of them to hit these targets.”
“It’s easy to become daunted by the overall strategy,” says Lloyd-Townshend. “But setting smaller benchmarks that have more short-term targets, which can be regularly rewarded, can help your employees to feel more motivated at work. This will ultimately improve productivity and allow you to successfully hit your long-term goals as a sales manager.”
And it’s not just about developing talent, but fostering connection, according to Belina Perando of Skyes, who says, “Let’s assume all the standard goals are in place that feeds the sales pipeline. In today’s remote working world, it’s easy for sales to become disconnected. The relationship between a sales manager and their team has to be solid so that when the pressure is on they have the confidence in each other to dig deep and make it happen. Going that extra mile requires more than the proverbial carrot and stick. It takes loyalty, ownership, and dedication that comes from feeling connected to a leader, being heard and acknowledge daily. What you do matters and time commitment from a sales leader reinforces that bond.”
Alexandra Zamolo of Beekeeper also sees the value in this connection, especially in keeping your team members engaged. “An employee who isn’t engaged will not be nearly as motivated to work toward goals and to function successfully within a team environment. Think about utilizing incentives, and always have an open-door policy.”
This should start with treating your team “with the utmost gratitude and empathy,” according to Jitendra Vaswani of www.BloggersIdeas.com and https://jitendra.co/. “If your team sees that our manager really cares for their job, then they would put their 100% efforts into their sales target; meanwhile the manager should be realistic with their goals so that team can align and be able to achieve the desired results. Being unrealistic always destroys the team bond.”
Zhaneta Gechev of One Stop Life Insurance recommends “creating a win-win environment. It is a concept from the ‘7 Habits of highly effective people’ by Steven Covey. It is the managers’ responsibility to create an environment where the employees are treated fairly and all are striving to achieve the same goal. Different teams and departments need to have the same goal and work together in achieving it. This is the first win. Competition between teams is not only ineffective, but it could be detrimental to the company’s success. The second win is watching the company’s results double. It is no secret that happy and motivated employees are a tremendous asset to every company and often times they are the difference between success and failure on a business level. Therefore, creating a culture of a common goal is the main objective managers should have.”
One way to do that? Get personal, according to Ramon Khan of National Air Warehouse. “Get to know what drives each and every individual on your team. Everyone is different and assuming they all have the same goals and motivations is a huge mistake. You can’t assume that everyone wants to make more money or even be the top salesperson. Even at the top, each individual is driven by different motives and getting to know your team for their very specific motivators can pay off in more ways than one.”
Explains Khan, “How you recognize, reward and motivate a top-performing 25-year-old male that has no kids could be very different than how you would motivate, recognize and reward, say, a single mother of three. Getting to know each one as an individual— their struggles, goals outside of work, hobbies, and dreams— will allow you to not only get to know them better but also reward them in more personalized ways that make them want to work harder for the company because of their appreciation for you.”
Michael Snowden of Training Industry agrees that sales managers should set a goal to better connect with their teams. “To increase performance in a sales organization, managers need to understand what truly motivates the people on their teams. While financial compensation is important, many reps desire feedback, learning opportunities, increased autonomy or responsibilities, or perhaps even physical awards. Take time to meet with reps 1:1, understand their motivations, work together to build plans that address the needs of the employee and the company. Everyone performs better when they are happy.”
How do you get to know your team better? Shayne Sherman of TechLoris says “Every sales manager should strive to spend time with each salesperson below them. Perhaps taking calls together or making pitches as a team. The purpose of the sales manager, from the perspective of the business, is to coach and educate the sales staff in an effort to get the best sales number possible from each member of the sales team. From the perspective of the sales team, it is to ensure they have the tools and skills necessary to effectively make sales. By spending time with each sales member, the manager is able to dial in on what each one needs in terms of tools and coaching. This will ensure you (and the business) get the best results possible.” This might also open opportunities to know your team better individually.
To do this, Andrew Dorcas of ARHT Media recommends that managers “touch base with each sales rep consistently, whatever frequency is best for the organization. Creating and maintaining healthy relationships is critical, both internally and externally. Just as a sales rep is expected to maintain strong relationships with external prospects and clients, the sales manager should strive to maintain healthy relationships with his/her sales team.”
Beyond this, Andrew Hatfield of Portworx, encourages managers to “Enable team members’ individual success.” Says Hatfield, “Based on my many years of experience and overachievement in sales, marketing, and leadership, my view on the one goal EVERY sales manager should have is to enable and raise up each of their team members to enable individual success. This is important because a manager’s role is to lead by being a servant to their team, helping equip them with the tools and experience necessary to be successful. Teams that collaborate and respect each other have a proven record of over-achieving their goals.”
Two specific skills that when properly developed can boost stats faster than anything? Learning and Listening, according to Markus Horner, who says “First and foremost, as a sales manager you need to make sure that your people know your product or line as well as possible. How can you sell something if you know very little about it? Even more important is that you can transmit this knowledge to a prospective client. What you are trying to do is to give them enough information so that they can make an intelligent and informed decision as to what is best for them. You don’t have the right to try to decide for them. Your job as a salesman is to help them to understand what pros and cons they are facing. Doing this not only creates a feeling of comfort within the prospective client. It makes you look like the authority on the product that your client is considering.”
As for the power of listening, Horner says, “The best salesman is NOT the one who talks the most. It is the person who LISTENS the most. If you truly listen, people will tell you how to sell them. You might ask questions like ‘What is it that you are trying to accomplish?’ or ‘What is your end goal?’ or even ‘What is your purpose?’ Then you sit back and listen. If you are listening they will tell you exactly what you need to know to sell them.”
Sales cannot become an island, according to Maciej Fita of Brandignity. Fita recommends for every sales manager to ”become very active with your marketing department. Says Fita, “This is something I see all the time: not enough communication with the marketing department. Often times sales teams have great insight and ammo a marketing department can use for advertising, content marketing, and SEO. Marketing and sales departments should act as an ecosystem for both to flourish.”
Editor’s Note: Want better insight into your lead-sourcing? The Hubspot Opportunities by Source dashboard can help you understand where your audience is coming from in a whole new way, so you can plan prospecting efforts for maximum effect.
It’s not just the team that needs to sharpen the ax; managers need to keep their skills fresh as well.
Physician, heal thyself, says Ryan Stewman of PhoneSites.com, who tells our readers to “Be a better leader.” Says Stewman, “The one goal any manager or leader should have is to be a better leader. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Being a better leader keeps things rising more than falling.”
You can achieve this by tending to the soft skills, says Usama Hashmi of Ozel Tailor. “The one and the most important goal every sales manager keep in mind that he/she should be achieved organization goals by effective and efficient manner through planning, organizing, leading and controlling. Every person or every organization has some planning to achieve its target, mission, and vision without a goal it is impossible to achieve anything.”
How to do that? Get in on the goal-setting for yourself as well as your team, and some very specific types of goals at that. Says Sally Foley-Lewis, managers need “a professional development goal for themselves and their team members completely unrelated to sales! For example, interpersonal communication skills, leadership and management skills, feedback skills, delegating skills, or productivity/time management.
This isn’t just a matter of improving your own work, but laying the groundwork for those sales managers to come. “When sales staff, any operational staff, become managers and leaders they are often promoted for their success in what they are paid to do, in this case, it’s sales. They have consistently exceeded their KPIs or targets and senior leadership sees that as a measure they need to reward so they can incentivize the salesperson to stay with their company. Senior leaders often struggle to think beyond the mainstays of reward: pay and promotion.”
However, warns Foley-Lewis, “When a salesperson becomes a sales manager for the first time they are often not equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to make a successful transition from operational to managerial. Very few companies have readiness programs where operational high potentials are equipped with managerial and leadership skills either just before and just as they step into a managerial role.”
Michael Nemeroff of RushOrderTees agrees. “Sales managers should train their representatives to be ready for a manager position. Ensuring your representatives have a good idea of what a manager position demands gives them a goal to strive towards, and is great for employee turnover. Sales representatives don’t plan on staying in that position forever, so giving them the tools they need to succeed at the next level of their careers is important for every party involved. Having qualified people who are ready to step up to the next level makes a company run more efficiently, and makes the hiring process easier.”
When you’ve gotten to know your team and have been successful in identifying and supporting their needs and skills, you can move on to improving their overall performance by individual improvement. Says Cameron Scholey of Camsholey, you should maximize contribution margin. Explains Scholey, “Contribution margin is revenue less all direct costs involved in product or service sales. To maximize this number is to maximize overall profits. The common focus on top-line revenue maximization is often detrimental to overall profits; oftentimes salespeople drop price is such that it damages and could even cut into corporate profits. Contribution margin focus helps alleviate this.”
Hope Ashley of UpFlip also looks to contribution as a metric. “Every sales manager should be ensuring that each salesperson is pulling his/her weight. It’s nice that, overall, your goals are being reached. However, think of the goals you could meet if each team member was on board 100%. Too often, some team members may slack a bit, knowing that others will pick up this slack so that the team as a whole will meet their goals.”
Knowing what you’re after is one of the fastest ways to get it, according to several respondents’ advice.
What does that look like? Sean Si of SEO Hacker shares a story that shows its often the less concrete goals that can have a big impact.
“Since I was the only sales guy in our team for the longest time, I had trouble motivating my sales team members when I created our sales team. They understood that they had KPIs to hit and leads to close, but that knowledge only goes so far since they’re not motivated for the long-run.”
“What I did was to constantly remind them that the purpose of closing clients, aside from revenue for our company, is to foster growth and improvement INSIDE our company. They’re the ones pumping blood in our company and without them, the company will slowly die out. For most salespeople I’ve encountered, it isn’t enough to give them a quota to hit since that only motivates them for a short time and fosters mediocrity. Goals, purpose, meaning, and vision – these are the things that make GREAT salespeople because this becomes their source of motivation to hit above and beyond their quota. So, sales managers should always set these things and constantly remind their team about the importance of what they’re doing.”
This rings true for Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers, who says “As a sales manager, you don’t just want to focus on sales. You want to see the bigger picture and understand your company’s values, brand, vision, and strategy. What you want is to align your sales with your company’s overall goals.”
Aufray explains, “It’s important to understand what your company wants to achieve and the image you want to give. Don’t play the short-term race, play the long-term one.”
One soft-skills goal to set? Karlee Tate of Superior Honda says it’s, “Continuously improving how we communicate value… If our clients do not understand what we are offering, then they are not going to recognize a need for our products. Achieving this goal requires collaboration with the marketing department because they will facilitate the sales team in portraying an accurate message to clients.”
Damien Martin of Shufti Pro advises us to keep the data in the process. “Setting data-driven sales goals is extremely vital to any sales manager’s strategy. Not only does this help make data-driven decisions, but the sales manager can also keep tabs on brand growth using data analytics.”
Explains Martin, “Leveraging data helps in effective planning and managing future performance. Since a sales manager is mostly concerned with delivering results, staying in the ‘data loop’ helps them provide the right direction and training for sales plans and teams.
And don’t let those goals stagnate, says Andrea Loubier of Mailbird. “Every sales manager should have goals that include a steady increase in sales. In today’s business environment, it simply isn’t enough to stay consistent. You must constantly think of new, innovative ways to raise your sales. If you keep the same sales goals, then your sales team may not work avidly toward increasing their sales, especially if they have repeat customers that will keep your averages intact.”
Besides fine-tuning your human capital, perfecting the mechanics to run smoother is a sure-fire way to improve the overall performance of things, according to several experts.
Adeel Shabir of Centriq suggests starting with the programs that drive the process. “In 2020, the number one goal for sales managers to keep in mind when working on sales figures and sales itself is to consider using technology in their daily business transactions and business dealings. Technology has been updating humans’ capacity to work on multiple aspects of life, sales are one of them. This is crucial because it’s necessary to make your tasks easy for yourself. This means that introducing technology to your business makes your sales much easier to handle and you can be productive with other operational activities.”
That tech can have a downside, however, according to Terril Fields of Blerd. Fields recommends increasing conversion ratio, but for this interesting, tech-focused reason: Automation has made prospecting both easier and harder than ever. Prospects are tuning out to boring messaging and it is harder than ever to capture their attention. This is why it is critical to convert as many leads as possible to increase revenue.” When focusing on tech, be sure that the low barrier to entry (into a prospect’s mailbox or general awareness) isn’t also lowering your ROI.
Once the tech is in place, Kristie Jones of Sales Acceleration Group believes the next step is to create a “Formal, repeatable, successful, and scalable sales process.” Explains Jones, “The last thing you want is every sales rep on the team doing whatever they want when it comes to the sales process. This means that each rep. will have a different strategy for prospecting, definition of what each stage in the sales cycle means, and the team’s overall pipeline will be inaccurate at best; pure fantasy at worst.” According to Jones, the sales manager should have a formal and repeatable process for
The benefits of having a structured and formal sales process are many, according to Jones. It makes it “Easy to onboard new sales reps, easy to layout expectations and hold sales reps accountable,” and allows the manager to “more accurately predict how much revenue will come in monthly/quarterly.” As an added bonus, “It’s one less thing for the sales reps to have to figure out themselves. They work the process and have confidence it will work.”
Part of that process? Improving your prospecting at its root, says Andrew Stanten of Altitude Marketing. “Traditional sales management metrics are mostly just about dollars. And for good reason. But it is equally important to look at the quality of the prospects they are working to ensure your sales team is being as efficient as possible. I’m not talking about traditional BANT (budget, authority, need, and timing). This goes a step further. While no two companies, products, services or sales teams are the same, the quality of prospects matter.”
Asks Stanten, “How well does this prospect they fit our ideal customer profile? How aligned is this prospect with our company values? Do they have the potential to be a long-term client – not just transactional? I like to come up with 5 qualitative factors like the above and have each prospect rated on a scale of 1-5 for a total possible quality score of 25. Sales managers should have an aggregate quality score of 18 or higher – or they are spending their time chasing the wrong leads.”
Gary Cubeta of InsuranceforFinalExpense.com looks to improve prospect engagement and activity within teams first. “Whether it be on the phones or appointments, the folks under you must be kept busy, or self-doubt sets in. My very first experience managing came when I was only 19 years old as I was named Sales Manager of Harte Chevrolet in Wallingford, Ct. The first thing I did was institute a rule where our goal was to take every single person that walked in the doors on a demo ride in a car they might like. The idea was simple … activity … activity … activity. Get the potential client to see you are willing to do more than the next person they might run into.”
As for other metrics-based goals and targets that our experts see as top-priority for improvement, there were several:
Roman Takáč of Teron Solutions keeps it simple: Revenue. “The sales department needs to generate volume.”
David Silverman of Solution Loans agrees, advising us to “increase the overall profit of the company. There is no point increasing sales if the cost of getting those extra sales is more than the total value (unless there is a long term goal of more sales in the future – in which case a loss leader may be appropriate).”
Jamie-Lee Kay of The Other Straw says “Cross-sell to current customers and up-sell to new customers by weekly tracking in a relevant CRM. As Kay explains, “Cross-selling and up-selling can generate more sales, increase revenue whilst maximizing profitability.”
Jenny Kelley of Kiwi Creative recommends a “modest, realistic conversion rate: around 25%.” Kelly explains, “Your sales process conversion rate can show a lot about your company’s pricing. A super high conversion rate, for example, could be an indicator that your prices are too low, or vice-versa. To aid in calculating & tracking your conversion rate, look at the relationship between your proposals and booked revenue.”
Chris Mason of HealthMarkets chooses to focus on improving the average sales rep’s income. “Not only does this contribute to a culture of success, but it can help cut through other issues. If your sales reps/agents are finding more success, more frequently, it leads to greater engagement and fine-tuning of process, which can be transferred to others.”
Eloah Manzoli of Shophysio instructs us to increase the number of appointments made by each sales team member by X% YoY. “Whilst it’s not always possible to control the total number of appointments made it’s a good idea to give a SMART goal to each member of the sales team, tailored to them, based on previous performance. It ensures that the goal isn’t too vague and general, gives a clear performance to aim for, with a specified period. We may also look at making other supplementary goals based on this one, such as aiming for making a certain number of appointments each month.”
Editor’s Note: The Conversion and Loyalty Analytics dashboard by Revenue River can help you quickly analyze and plan your sales goals based on current data and conversion rates, leading to overall stronger performance and improved metrics.
It’s not really about you or your team, if it’s not first about the customer, according to the advice of several experts, like Daisy Jing of Banish. “We can always meet new sales using different metrics, but to maintain a loyal customer or add a new one makes a big difference.”
As Shagun Chauhan of iFour Technolab Private Limited puts it best, “Salespeople are the point of contact for every client. They represent the complete organization to the client which is said that they are the face of the company. The objective of customer service is typically to interact with the customers in order to answer questions, resolve support issues, improve credibility, and nurture relationships. Companies understand the need for providing customer service and most only have the specific goal of increasing the company’s sales by boosting its reputation and maintaining customer loyalty.”
“If the customer is happy or satisfied with the end-product or services, then that client will stay engaged through your business career. He shall be coming up with more work and opportunities where we can work together and grow mutually.”
Aristide Basque of SH1FT agrees, saying “Close the sale by making sure we can deliver for the client. That goal is the reason why we hire sales reps.”
The way to do this is to keep the pulse of what they need. Curiosity may kill the cat, but lacking it kills the pipeline, says Kate Galecki of Clique Studios, who says managers would do well to foster curiosity in their teams in order to help the customer (even when it’s not revenue-generating).
Says Wenzl, “Salespeople are brought in to solve very specific problems for clients. If there wasn’t a problem, they wouldn’t be talking to you. At that point, you become an investigative reporter. A therapist. A human. Take the time to ask deep, thoughtful questions and be genuinely interested in understanding the problem that needs to be solved. Forget what you’re selling and just get really curious about what’s making your client’s job difficult. And be curious about where they’ve found success in the past. Once you truly understand the problem, it’s simple to create a custom solution that will make their job – and lives – easier.”
If you choose to employ one or all of these tips and goals into your team development practices, we’re sure they’ll help you cultivate strengths for you and your team, focus and understand key metrics, and serve your customer and audience with their highest and best interest at heart. All of these areas can create a positive impact in the long term.
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