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
Belynda Cianci on September 15, 2020 (last modified on April 1, 2021) • 20 minute read
“Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor.”
Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker who often speaks on goals as they relate to business success, once said this.
While true, setting meaningful and realistic sales goals can often be a challenge.
Not sure where to start? We polled more than 30 sales professionals and asked them to share tips and real sales goal examples that use the SMART framework to help.
Let’s dive in.
In this post you will learn:
SMART is a well-established KPI that you can use to plan and achieve your goals. There are a certain number of interpretations of the acronym’s meaning, but the most common one is that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Its appeal is obvious: being able to set goals that can be quantified and create accountability have the greatest chance of success. Due to this, SMART goals have become the defacto standard in many industries and a fixture in sales management.
So, in a nutshell, sales goals are desired results that your sales team aims to achieve within a specific time frame.
Editor’s note: Would you like to view the current performance of your most important goals at-a-glance, anywhere you go? Monitor your current performance with the Databox mobile app and access any dashboard you’ve built from your mobile device too!
You can set more realistic sales goals by using the SMART framework shared above.
Let’s use an example. Whereas most companies might set sales goals for increasing average contract value (ACV), a team using the SMART framework would set a more specific and realistic sales goal like this:
Increase ACV by 25% by the end of Q3.
Then, run this goal by your sales team to solicit any objections, suggestions, etc. In order to set realistic goals, it’s critical to have buy-in across the team. It’s okay if people feel challenged by the goals, but if they feel they’re completely unrealistic, they’re also not likely to hit them.
This is inherently more realistic because you’ve attached specific numbers with a specific timeline to the goal itself, and you’ve gotten buy-in across the team.
Knowing the SMART approach’s effectiveness, many managers want to take advantage of the framework but don’t know what goal is the best for the job.
There’s more than a few to choose from, so we went to our experts to find out their favorite goal for boosting sales numbers, increasing revenue, and slaying the big goals.
The advice broke down into two major camps:
We’ve outlined them below.
Goals that focus on increasing a certain tactic or activity are often seen as the most actionable SMART sales goals because they can control the primary variable. Many of our experts extolled the virtues of activity goals to improve sales results and give teams something to shoot for.
Our experts also consider making contact with leads to be one of the most important activities in the sales cycle.
Melanie Musson of 360quoteLLC says, “Specific action-based (rather than result-based) goals can help your team because members know exactly what they need to reach for. If a team member knows what they have to accomplish, they can dive in and do it, and they can know they can meet that goal no matter what the overall outcome is for the team. When all team members are ‘in’ the results will follow.”
“While you can’t necessarily control the number of conversions,” says Kevin Picton of Sharpen It – Training and Coaching, “you can set targets for and measure some of the lead-up work that most often results in conversions. In particular, whenever we set KPIs for and measured the number of Customer Visits and Frequency of Customer Visits, more leads were generated. More sales were converted in direct correlation with these activities.”
Steve de Mamiel of The Mongrel Method says, “A goal that focuses on activities that drive results is the most effective at increasing the numbers. For example: To meet face-to-face with six prospects per week.” Mamiel points out that while the industry or sales process might change the required number of prospects, the number remains directly tied to desired outcomes and results.
Taylor Randolph of ParkFellows suggests that sales reps set goals to “increase revenue by $10,000 by acquiring three new clients.” to do this, Randolph says, “Acquire new clients by talking to 20 new leads and following up at least five times per client.”
Many of our experts rely on contact goals to drive sales numbers, including Melanie Hartmann of Creo Home Buyers. “Decide upon the number of contacts each member of the sales team will make each week. This is something that can be controlled and modified as deemed necessary. Focusing on the number of leads is not something that can be controlled by any member of the sales team. The number of leads can only be predicted based on past performance and future modifications to see if more leads are generated with different types of pitches.”
This is also important for Liam Barnes of Directive, who says, “One SMART goal that I think is most effective is X number of conversations had based on previous trends of conversations had. By setting a goal for actual conversations, we are setting ourselves up to increase the number of opportunities driven by sales.”
To understand the numbers by their impact, Trenton Erker of Clarity Online suggests working backward to arrive at the goal. “Figure out the number of calls that it will take to get one more sale per time frame – day, week, month. Then divide it up per day to and add that amount of phone calls to your list. Example: If you make a sale every 20 calls, you’ll need to make 4 more calls/day to make 1 more sale each week.”
Ted Rollins of Valeo Groupe applies the activity goal based on the industry, “Depending on the property type since we represent both senior and student housing, we set a number of tours per week. For instance, 40 (actual walk-through) tours of the property per week, where we engage the prospect and have them complete an information/interest form.”
Knowing the numbers helps you understand exactly how the increase will benefit your conversion rate, says Julio Ahumada of DNA Digital Marketing. “Setting a specific number of contact points with a prospect based on previous experience. Example 20 contact points per week = 1 sale. Increase sales by 50% you increase contact points to 30.”
Sometimes, it’s about more than the numbers on the page. Jyotsna Khan of Tyrannosaurus Tech suggests having a good old fashioned coffee connection, setting the goal of “having coffee with two people in the community once a week or attending three events in a week.”
Deepak Shukla of Pearl Lemon examines the contacts they make by their quality. “How many ‘feel-good’ conversations have you had today?” Shukla asks. “Because it’s not the number of conversations – it’s the ones that made them, and you feel good – that’s what drives sales.”
Editor’s Note: Looking to master the conversational sales game? Check out the Drift Campaigns & Conversations dashboard to understand at a glance your conversation flow, heat map, and statistics from your conversations across channels.
Michael Bacon of Moxie Media agrees, saying, “Strengthening current client relationships is one of the most effective yet underrated goals for increasing sales.”
For starters, says Bacon, “Periodically follow up with current clients to make sure their goals have not changed, and your product or service is still meeting their needs, so you don’t lose them to a competitor. In addition to ensuring your clients are happy, asking for their feedback provides you with invaluable information on how to improve your offerings and attract even more clients.”
There is another benefit. “When you show clients that you care about their feedback and satisfaction, you build trust. This can make them more patient and forgiving in the future if anything should fall below their expectations. You may even be able to generate additional sales from these satisfied clients.”
“Checking in with your clients allows you to identify the ones who are most likely to provide you with client testimonials, case studies, and recommendations, all of which should help you gain more clients and increase sales. If possible, go above and beyond in your customer service to build even stronger, more loyal, and more valuable relationships with clients.”
But these have to be SMART goals, reminds Bacon. “Make sure you set SMART goals around current client relationships. Just saying you want to improve relationships is not enough. These goals will vary from company to company, but one example is to implement check-ins every 3 months with all current clients this year.”
“Another could be to address at least half of all client feedback received from these check-ins over the next year. Yet another could be to publish 5 new client case studies or testimonials on your website over the next 6 months.”
Setting duration goals for your prospecting is one way to ensure you’re putting in the effort and reaping the rewards, says Jenny Kelley of Kiwi Creative.
She reminds us that, “The core of any successful sales process is to form an empathetic relationship with a prospect to understand their problem(s) and emphasize the value of your product or service as the best solutions. To get the best pulse on prospects’ problems or pain points, it’s integral to do proper research and outreach.”
Kelly says, “One of our best platforms for outreach is LinkedIn. We spend around 90 minutes each day on LinkedIn connecting with prospects, learning about them & their businesses, and identifying areas that Kiwi can provide value. This goal lays a strong foundation for making deals and helping Kiwi gain other referrals.”
“In this sense, our SMART goal for our sales strategy is to spend 90 minutes each day on LinkedIn connecting with prospects and potential leads to learn about their pain points.”
The most critical component of SMART is the Timeliness, according to Samantha Odo of Precondo. “Although the goals you have defined should be achievable and attainable, a realistic timeline needs to be identified. In a growing competitive market, one needs to be an opportunist. Hitting the target at the right time is a crucial element to raise sales. Who serves first, wins first.”
For example, says Odo, “We set a goal to raise sales to 20% by targeting X number of customers. It is all achievable, but at what time? What if other competitors will approach the market more fiercely? Time is money; if it gets lost, we could never recover. Setting a deadline is also a motivation for the team.”
Goals aren’t just for reps, reminds Laura Hall of Laura Hall Consulting “Sales team numbers can be consistently improved when each individual is managed and communicated regularly and effectively. The most important goal any sales leader should have relates to communication. Setting a goal to sit down at least once per week to coach and listen to each person for a minimum of 30 minutes will reap results.”
Says Hall, “This important conversation allows the manager to understand challenges and needs to offer further support, and the team member will become more invested in their success when they can see a way to develop their skills and perform at a higher standard.”
Activity goals aren’t just about how much you’re doing, but how you’re doing it, says Jack Choros of Iron Monk. “I like to set a SMART goal that encourages my sales staff to use assumptive closing techniques on 9 out of 10 sales calls. In other words, instead of asking, ‘Do you think you’d be interested in our service?’ we assume the sale. ‘Based on our conversation today, it seems like the service package ABC would work well for you. Will you be using Visa or Mastercard to pay today?”
Related Article: 5 Types of Sales Goals Every Sales Manager Should Have
Editor’s Note: Need to know how each member of your team is performing? With the Sales Rep Performance dashboard, you’ll have all the data you need to understand their performance and create individual training plans to help each rep operate at top performance.
Results-based SMART sales goals are the other side of the coin, engaging reps by leaving the methods open in favor of increasing one or more metrics. While outcomes can be challenging to nail down to a specific number, the incentive to reach those goals can affect input.
Anissa Short of The Work From Home CEO says: “I have been a part of the sales industry for twenty years, and within that time I have found that the thing which motivates a sales team member differs as much as the team members themselves.”
“What is consistent, however, is that they all appreciate being recognized for their accomplishment. With that in mind, I have found that the most effective way in which to realize increasing sales is to establish benchmarks that focus on percentage increase rather than a specific amount.”
“For example, if every team member is challenged to increase their individual sales productivity by 5% every month, this goal is not only clear and trackable, but it affords each person the flexibility to work within their respective benchmark securely.”
“Implementing a strategy such as this is not only SMART for the individual, but it produces a SMART win for the entire team collectively.”
Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls prefers to increase results not through activity-based outreach, but rather by improving results from customers already in play, suggesting we use “Increase # of repeat customers and referrals each year by 10%.”
Arnof-Fenn calls it “the most cost-efficient way to build a business and scale your brand.”
Hung Nguyen of Smallpdf finds it just as important to keep those customers by reducing churn rate. “Many sales teams tend to focus on short-term goals, i.e., monthly conversion rate.”
“However, if you work on nurturing your existing customer base and appeasing their growing needs with your product, reducing the rate that users/customers ‘cancel’ will contribute to a consistent stream of recurring revenue, without having to get more leads into your sales funnel.”
Adam Hempenstall of Better Proposals coaches an “Increase your total sales by 10% monthly using their assigned sales channel. For our outbound sales reps, that means constantly setting the bar higher and maximizing the number of calls that turn to deals.”
Says Hempenstall, “The goal is attainable for now since we just started with outbound calls, but I am not sure that this kind of aggressive growth will be possible in the future. Cold calls are not the easiest way to convert prospects into customers, so we’ll see how our sales team handles this challenge.”
One of the most telling metrics for Andrei Vasilescu of DontPayFull is Incoming Inquiry, calling it the most effective SMART goal for any sales team. “After hours of hard work and efforts of any sales team, if none of your target customers contact your business, you need to reconstruct your sales team or strategy. A person who asks about your products or services through email, text message, or phone call is supposed to be your possible customer. And that incoming inquiry confirms the initial success of your sales team.”
Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers calls Win rate “The SMART goal to focus on to increase sales.” Aufray says, “You want to decrease the number of sales leads you have to contact to close a deal. By increasing your win rate, you will be more efficient and find what’s working and what’s not working to convert a lead into a sale. You will learn the processes, psychology, and techniques to close more sales so your sales numbers will keep increasing.”
Looking at the hard numbers helps Aristide Basque of SH1FT keep the margins high, and recommends Lead to revenue ratio as a key metric for doing so, “because you know how much a lead cost you and you can then calculate the profit you make which is all that matters.”
Sometimes it’s not about how hard you’re working, says Cayley Vos of Netpaths. “The problem for making more money is usually never solved by getting more leads, but by better working the existing leads and clients that you have. The key to solving most problems in business is making more money, and the best way to do this is by charging more for what you already do.”
Vos, therefore, recommends using Increased average order value as a driving metric.
As an example, says Vos, “We talked with a client who had a fantastic service that he charged 1000 to implement. We suggested that he add a zero to the cost to see what happened. He was skeptical but agreed to follow our advice.”
“The result – clients didn’t bat an eye and happily paid for his service. He just increased his revenue 10x with no extra work. If your average order is 1000 and you can bundle it with 2 other great 1000 products and charge 1997 for it. This gives you nearly double the revenue for the same amount of sales.”
Conversion rates are the driving factor for Toni JV of JVT Media. “If you focus on conversion rates of the people you’re trying to get sales from, you’ll naturally focus on things such as user experience, giving away value, and refining your process. These things will naturally bring more and more sales to your business.”
For Mackenzie Deater of Evenbound it’s about the path to the close, as well. “One great SMART Goal to implement is the percentage of MQLs who convert to sales.”
“For example, let’s say your marketing team delivers 300 marketing qualified leads/month. By setting a SMART goal of converting 5% of those MQLs into a sale each month, you really put the focus on increasing those sales numbers.”
“For many sales teams, the most challenging obstacle to overcome is just a disconnect between what a qualified lead is to them, vs. to the marketing team. By setting this SMART goal of the conversion percentage of MQLs, you can:
It gives you greater insight into how your marketing and sales teams are working together.”
Datis Mohsenipour of Outback Team Building & Training also recommends you get those prospects on the path as fast as possible using lead response time as a cornerstone metric.
Explains Mohsenipour, “Inside Sales and Harvard Business Report put together a phenomenal report/infographic that highlights many important factors when dealing with leads. One that has always stood out to me and is still hyper-relevant today.”
“According to the report, if you call a lead within the first five minutes of them submitting a form, you are 900% more likely to reach them than if you were to contact them within five to 10 minutes.”
“The likelihood of getting that lead on the phone decreases even more significantly with every five minutes that you tack-on to your response time.”
Says Mohsenipour, “The ‘why’ is pretty self-explanatory. When the lead fills out your contact form, their focus is on researching you and your competitors. So, you’re more likely to get a conversation out of them when they have already allocated time to scope you out.”
“On a similar note, the report goes into detail about how many call attempts you should make to get someone on the line. That magic number = six. So think of all the time you’ll be wasting in follow-up calls if you miss the boat on calling someone within five minutes of them submitting their inquiry. You may need to call them as many as six times… Let’s not forget that your competitors may have already beaten you to the punch.”
For Ethan Taub of Loanry, the individual makes up part of a powerful whole, “ A smart goal that I think is personally effective is a Team goal. It means that we look at each member’s contributions per quarter to create unity in the workplace. It has been largely effective for us.”
Related Article: How to Set, Track, & Achieve Your Monthly Sales Goals
Time-bound: At the end of the month
We hope these SMART sales goals will help you and your teams reach new heights for sales and revenue. Employing even a few of the tips and tricks outlined here can give you a new perspective for managing your sales process, help identify leaks in the funnel, or simply get your sales team performing at a new level—and reaping the rewards.
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