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What Are Sales Goals? S.M.A.R.T. Strategies + Examples

Illustration of a person hitting their sales goals target with a bow and arrow
Making sales doesn't happen by magic. You need to set measurable goals and build accountability into your sales process. [Studio Science]

Help your team succeed with sales goals that build confidence while increasing revenue.

If you’re only thinking about how your reps can hit quota, you’re missing out. As a leader, you have to set broader sales goals, track your team’s progress, and keep your team accountable if you want to see real payoff. But setting goals that are both challenging and achievable is easier said than done. Start small with weekly or monthly goals, and build up your confidence to work towards bigger and more lucrative goals down the road. We’ll show you how to get started.

What you’ll learn:

Attain quota faster and speed up sales ops 

Learn how Sales Performance Management helps you connect customer data to sales planning and execution. 

What are sales goals?

At their core, sales goals are objectives that a company wants to achieve over a set period of time. But sales goals aren’t just dry, impersonal measurements. If you don’t have any benchmarks for success, you’re going to encourage mediocrity and accept the status quo, losing team engagement. When your team sets concrete goals, it helps them hit their sales targets and gives them ownership over their success: They know what it takes to win.

As the CEO of sales training firm The Sales Evangelist, my role does not always allow me to do outbound sales. Most of my leads come directly from the podcast, website, referrals, and my deep network. However, I understand the power of outbound selling so I set a goal for myself to bring in $250,000 each quarter — driven in part by outbound efforts. During Q3 of last year, I beat this goal, clocking in at $300,000. Not only that, I was able to validate to my team that setting goals really works. If I can do it while running my business, they certainly can do it.

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Why sales goals are important

Setting sales goals gives your team a north star — something to aim for. But that’s not the only reason why they’re important. Here are a few other things sales goal-setting does:

  • Helps create forecasts: From a business perspective, sales goals give you a picture of potential sales revenue.
  • Creates learning opportunities: If it turns out a particular sales strategy fails to accomplish a goal, this is valuable data. Failing to meet a sales goal offers a chance for reps to innovate and try different approaches. And if a goal is particularly challenging, it can improve focus and prompt creative problem-solving.
  • Encourages teamwork: Group goals increase the stakes because they affect everyone. They can also spark competition, which can be motivating to reps.
  • Sparks process development: A roadmap helps you get where you need to go, but only works. if you know where you’re going. Once you have your sales goals lined up, you can create a path to get there.

One proven way to set yourself up for success is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Let’s dive into that methodology.

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S.M.A.R.T. goals explained

S.M.A.R.T. is an easy-to-remember acronym for the five steps of effective goal-setting. If you want your goals to fuel success, makes sure they are:

  • Specific: It’s easy to say to your team, “Let’s increase sales!” But after the cheers and high-fives die down, this vague statement doesn’t help anyone. Why? It lacks detail. Get specific. Deliver concrete numbers and explain how you plan to raise revenue with actionable guidance. For example, you might want to increase your monthly revenue by 5% over the next quarter using a consultative sales approach.
  • Measurable: Numeric benchmarks can be helpful because they record progress while removing subjectivity. Remember those fundraising events that used a poster of a giant, old-fashioned thermometer? For each donation received, the thermometer would be filled with red ink to show that the organization was inching closer to its goal. You can do the same with your team by tracking progress to help them reach goals and motivate at the same time.
  • Achievable: Ambitious goals are great, but you want to set your team up for success. You need to make sure that your goals are sensible and not totally out of reach. Review your team’s past performance data and be honest about what you can accomplish during a set period of time. Instead of setting a goal to double sales by the end of the month for example, a more achievable goal would be to make 10 more cold calls per week, which you could break down further into two per day.
  • Relevant: When setting goals for your team, whether individual or team goals, you should keep three things in mind: Do they align with your reps’ existing goals, personal and professional? Do they align with your organization’s goals? How will the results matter? If goals resonate personally with reps, that could drive motivation. As an illustration, if a rep meets their goal of 100% subscription renewals for their existing accounts, they might receive a bonus or promotion, helping them meet a personal goal of earning a higher salary.
  • Time-bound: When goals have a clear starting time and end date, it makes it easier for your team to plan how they’ll get to the finish line. Setting small weekly or monthly sales goals can help your team get focused, build confidence, and enjoy smaller wins. For example, you might set a goal for yourself to provide at least one week of one-to-one coaching per quarter to your sales reps.

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14 common goals with examples

Setting clear goals for your sales team can go a long way in improving the bottom line of your business. To illustrate these examples, we’ll look at the goals of a fictional roller skate company in Florida, SpinzFlip:

1. Grow revenue

Every company needs to grow their revenue to remain profitable. To do this, you’ll need to set a specific target for how much gross or net profit you want to see increase over a set period of time. Revenue targets are typically set monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Example: The sales team at SpinzFlip has ambitious goals for the new year. They want to increase year-over-year revenue by 100%.

2. Increase quota attainment

To understand how close your sales reps are to meeting their targets, you need to track their quota attainment, measured as a percentage of total quota achieved out of quota targets.

Example: The SpinzFlip sales team set an annual team quota goal of $3 million for last year. By the end of the year, they hit $2.5 million in sales for a quota attainment of about 83%, which shows them there’s room for improvement.

3. Acquire new customers

Another important sales goal is to increase the number of new customers purchasing your products or services. Gaining new customers over time will lead to a healthy and profitable business, ensuring that profits don’t slide backwards when you lose longstanding customers.

Example: SpinzFlip set a goal of increasing its customer acquisition rate by 8.5% monthly. This is to offset the customer attrition rate of 7% while still ensuring growth.

4. Increase market share

A company’s market share is the total percentage of the sales they control in the market for their products or services. Increasing market share is a clear indicator of a company’s competitiveness. As a matter of fact, when a business improves its market share, it often improves profitability.

Example: The global roller skate industry is worth about $600 million. SpinzFlip has $3 million in annual sales or about 0.5% of the market. If they want to double their market share, they need to set a goal to increase their annual sales to $6 million.

5. Increase unit sales

If you want to get a specific product into market faster, you might set a goal for the number of units sold. Increasing the number of units each rep needs to sell pushes them to pursue more leads.

Example: SpinzFlip currently sells 60,000 pairs of skates annually. They want to double their unit sales, so their goal this year is to sell 120,000 pairs.

6. Minimize customer churn

Reducing customer churn (aka customer attrition), or the number of customers who leave your business during a specific period of time, is a worthwhile sales goal as it ensures you don’t have to constantly replace your customer base with new leads. If your business has a low churn rate, you are more likely to experience growth. For example, a subscription-based company likely needs more new subscriptions than lost subscriptions in a given period to be profitable.

Example: In addition to selling roller skates, SpinzFlip also sells a podcast subscription. Its podcast currently has a churn rate of 20%. This year, SpinzFlip’s goal is to use listener insights to produce a more engaging podcast and lower its churn rate to 10%.

7. Increase customer upsells

Upselling is when a company offers a premium or upgrade for products or services. At the end of the day, setting a sales goal for upselling is a great way to increase the profitability of each sale.

Example: SpinzFlip offers a premium podcast with exclusive celebrity interviews for an additional monthly fee. Last year, SpinzFlip managed to convert 1% of its regular podcast audience to the premium service. The sales team wants to double that number this year by upselling 2% of SpinzFlip’s regular podcast audience.

8. Boost customer cross-sells

Cross-selling is when a company offers complimentary products or services in addition to its primary product or service. If you improve your cross-selling rate, you could see increased revenue and higher customer satisfaction rates.

Example: Roller skates are SpinzFlip primary product, but it also sells rollerblades. Last year, cross-sales of rollerblades were non-existent. According to an internal survey, 99% of SpinzFlip customers weren’t even aware that the company sold rollerblades. This year, SpinzFlip set a modest cross-sales goal of 0.25% to increase brand and product awareness.

9. Improve lead generation

Above all, lead generation attracts customers to your business. You can generate leads by collecting customer information like phone numbers and email addresses. If you want your business to grow, a meaningful goal would be to improve your lead gen process so you can identify more qualified leads who are ready to buy.

Example: Before this year, SpinzFlip was not capturing email addresses when customers purchased its skates at retail stores. Now, SpinzFlip offers a free, three-month subscription to its premium podcast to retail store customers. Consequently, they can capture the email addresses of customers interested in the podcast subscription. With this new offer in place, SpinzFlip hopes to improve its lead generation by 10% this year.

10. Improve sales forecast accuracy goals

Accurate sales forecasts are kind of like a crystal ball. They help you identify where you’re going — and where sales pitfalls might scuttle your target attainment. Businesses that can forecast their sales witt a +/- 5% accuracy enjoy the confidence that comes with being able to plan for the future.

Example: SpinzFlip needs to work on the accuracy of its sales forecast. Last year, it hovered around -15% (that is, they were 15% shy of their targets), but this year, they want to reach -10% accuracy. If SpinzFlip meets or exceeds that goal, they’ll join an elite group of sales organizations — just 21% manage to forecast sales within 10% accuracy, according to SiriusDecisions research.

11. Increase customer lifetime value (CLV)

This metric reveals the total revenue a company can expect to gain from a single customer over the course of their relationship with the brand. This is a keen interest for ROI-focus leaders: It is much easier to increase the value of a current customer than hoping to get the same value from a new customer.

Example: This year, SpinzFlip aims to increase customer CLV by 15% year-over-year by extending customer tenure and introducing add-ons and cross-sells.

12. Improve Net Promoter Score® (NPS)

NPS is an important metric used to gauge customer loyalty. NPS scores are measured with a single question:

“On a scale from 1-10, how likely is it that you would recommend [company, product, service] to a friend or colleague?”

After surveying some customers with that question, an NPS score is calculated from -100 to +100, with the higher number being a better score.

Example: SpinzFlip sells an awesome pair of roller skates. When customers were surveyed about the buying experience, they averaged a score in the high 70s. But when customers were asked about SpinzFlip’s podcast, it scored closer to 40. SpinzFlip clearly needs to set a goal to improve the NPS score for its podcast.

13. Reduce the length of the sales cycle

A sales cycle is the average length of time that it takes for a rep to convert a lead into a closed sale. Shortening the sales cycle can help sales reps close more and grow revenue.

Example: It takes a SpinzFlip rep three months, on average, to go through an entire sales cycle. This includes a discovery call with a prospect, a roller skate demo, proposal drafting, negotiation, and finally closing the deal. This year, SpinzFlip set a goal of shortening its average sales cycle from three months to two. This will give SpinzFlip’s reps an extra month to get more prospects in the pipeline.

14. Reduce the average number of touches

Touches are contacts with prospects — over the phone, online, or face-to-face. In my experience, it takes the average sales rep nine or 10 touches to close a deal. Ideally, you want to reduce this to five, six, or seven touches, and that takes finessing. You get there by doing more research and coming prepared with solutions and value prospects understand.

Example: SpinzFlips has never kept track of the number of touches required for a rep to close a deal. Once they started tracking, they were surprised the average was 12. They set a goal to get the average under 10 by the end of the year. To help facilitate this, managers told reps to tailor sales pitches to each prospect.

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How to track your goals

If you want your sales team to see success, tracking their progress toward a goal is essential. Technology is an effective way of doing just that: Sales Cloud offers sales management dashboards that provide team performance insights. These tools interpret raw data and transform them into insights that can help sales leaders identify top prospects and leads, evaluate marketing campaigns, and track the success of their team.

Here are the sales dashboards that every team needs:

  • State of sales
    Designed for sales managers and executives, a state-of-sales dashboard provides a snapshot of all key metrics that affect team-wide sales targets.
  • Forecasting
    Also designed for sales managers and executives, a forecasting dashboard provides a “weather report” for your sales team, forecasting whether or not you’re likely to hit your goals.
  • Sales rep performance
    Useful for sales managers, a sales rep performance dashboard typically measures three key metrics: conversion rate, total revenue generated, and quota attainment percentage.
  • Sales leaderboard
    This dashboard lets sales reps and managers see the entire team’s performance, encouraging healthy competition.
  • Win/loss
    Helpful to sales managers and executives, this dashboard tracks win/loss trends over time.
  • Sales lead
    Provides a closer look at sales reps and lead generation teams, whether or not leads are converting, and the effectiveness of prospecting and marketing efforts.
  • Pipeline generation
    Offers managers, reps, and marketing teams insights into a pipeline value-to-sales ratio, which is critical for hitting sales targets.

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The biggest challenge when setting and tracking sales goals

A huge roadblock salespeople have when setting sales goals for themselves is a lack of accountability. You might set goals at the beginning of the year and not look back on them until the end of the year when your team is not performing well. Clearly, you need more checks. However, that doesn’t mean you need to be on top of salespeople, reminding them of their goals every single day.

Think back to the S.M.A.R.T. method. This is where the T, time-bound, becomes extremely important. If you set a goal that wraps at the end of Q2, you have to follow up with your team, individually or as a group, to see if it was completed. In other words, match the check-in to the time period set for the goal. Of course, you need to check in with them a few times before the goal’s deadline to gauge their progress and support them if they need help, but the big review should happen at the end. Did they hit the goal? If not, why? How can you help them next time?

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Use S.M.A.R.T. goals to fuel success

By setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, you give your sales team an outline for success. Make sure that the goals you set not only align with the goals of your business but also with your individual reps’ goals. When the benefits of a goal aren’t clear or the path to achieve it is too complicated or unrealistic, motivation suffers. Set your team up for success with a clear roadmap that puts them in the driver’s seat.

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Donald Kelly
Donald Kelly Founder, The Sales Evangelist

Donald’s mission is to evangelize the effective selling method and motivate sellers of all levels to do big things. As a former top-performing technology sales professional who has successfully sold in public and private sectors, Donald cracked the code of helping teams thrive in B2B sales. He is the author of several books and is a LinkedIn Top Voice in sales.

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