Ask any sales manager or rep what their goals are and their answers will likely be the same: get more leads, be more productive and sell more.
But, while ambition is great, setting and accomplishing concrete sales goals doesn’t just happen. It requires setting specific objectives for your sales teams and creating detailed plans to turn them into reality.
The secret to setting sales objectives is making the objectives not only realistic, but also attainable. A Bridge Group report found that 67% of sales reps meet their regular sales quota; how can you ensure that you’re one of them?
In this ultimate guide, we’re going to take a deep dive into:
- What are sales objectives?
- The challenge to setting sales objectives
- The four most common sales objectives with examples
- How to set sales objectives based on your goals
After reading this guide, you’ll better understand how to empower your reps with practicable sales objectives that improve productivity, morale and teamwork.
What are sales objectives?
Sales objectives give your sales team a clear road map of what they need to do to help your company achieve its overall goals. Each objective comprises specific, measurable action items that help salespeople make sure individual and team-wide goals are achieved.
Sales objectives are broad strokes of the brush, like increasing customer numbers or cutting churn. They are usually long-term goals, made up of shorter-term steps. According to research by Accent Technologies, sales management objectives that work for best-in-class companies revolve around understanding buyer challenges and personalizing sales engagement and processes.
However, the sales objectives you set need to make sense for your business or department. You might be setting sales objectives that focus on:
- Increasing sales and profit
- Increasing customer numbers
- Increasing upsells and cross-sells
- Increasing sales rep productivity
- Cutting the time sales reps spend on non-sales tasks
- Enhancing your sales processes
Remember, there’s a difference between setting sales objectives and setting sales objectives that work. Just because you plan something doesn’t mean it will get done.
This is why any sales objective that has a chance of succeeding needs to be set in steps. In other words, you should consider setting sales objectives using a SMART mindset.
- Specific: A clear explanation of the objective and its steps
- Measurable: Ensure there are metrics that you can measure the objective’s success
- Achievable: The objective should be realistic, but still challenging
- Relevant: Make sure that the objective is consistent with your business’s and team’s goals and strategy
- Time-based: Set out an accurate and clear timescale for the objective
Let’s say your company has a sales goal of adding more new customers to your pipeline every month. Let’s run through some goals and examples using SMART objectives:
- Specific: You might set a specific goal to get 100 new customers a month. If you divide that by your number of sales reps, it starts to paint a clearer picture of whether that sales objective is realistically achievable.
- Measurable: How many new customers do your reps need to bring in each day/week to achieve the objective?
- Attainable: If you have four sales reps on your team, do they each have the ability to bring in 25 new customers a month? Make sure your team has the skills and ability to make the objective attainable.
- Realistic: Is it realistic to increase your customer base by 100 a month, or is it more of a pipe dream?
- Timely: Instead of saying you want to bring new customers on board, you’ve set an objective to bring 100 new customers on board each month. Already, your sales team knows there’s a time limit to the objective.
The challenge to setting sales objectives
For most businesses, increasing revenue and customer numbers are always at the top of the priority list. It’s fair to assume that those are the end goals of most for-profit organizations.
However, while driving up revenue by selling more might be an obvious choice when setting sales objectives, it’s essential to dig deeper into what short-term changes can boost your long term success.
A study by Forrester Research found that B2B sales reps face many internal roadblocks when trying to achieve sales objectives—like how able they are to take advantage of data and personalize customer experiences.
Setting sales objectives goes beyond setting goals based on revenue and churn percentages. Instead, you can set sales objectives to improve any part of your sales process. From decreasing expenses to changing the way you manage your customer data, sales objectives aren’t restricted to improving the main sales metrics.
But what does all that look like?
Let’s say your reps are reporting that they’re spending 15 hours every week dealing with customer data. They feel it’s too much, and they want to optimize their time. One way you could deal with this is to set a sales objective of ‘decreasing sales rep’s time spent on data input,’ and then, set specific metrics and targets to get that objective achieved.
Think outside the box and look beyond the obvious sales objectives. As Uplead Founder Will Cannon says in our article on sales mentor guidance, although it’s important for your sales team to hit your targets and bring in enough revenue for the company, don’t push them to do this at all costs.
“At the end of the day, it’s important to do right by your customers, instead of aggressively selling them products/services simply to hit your own targets,” he says.
“If you do this, you might experience a temporary increase in your sales revenue, but it’s unlikely that your customers will stick around in the long run because there’s no trust or rapport involved in your relationship.”
A quick guide on how to set sales objectives
Sales objectives can’t be managed in a spreadsheet the way that sales activities and goals can.
Rather, objectives are a broad plan to achieving the goals and activities that live inside them. To set objectives that can be successful, you need to think long term, and then plan out how to achieve them in shorter-term goals and activities.
What does that look like on paper?
You might set a sales objective to improve your percentages of upsells. To do that, you could look into your sales reps’ commission packages and provide a heightened incentive to achieve the objective. Or, you could inspect your sales playbooks and follow-up guidelines to see how you could introduce more upsells into a rep’s pitching script.
Inside of this objective, you’ll also need to set specific, measurable goals for your sales reps. This might be for them to close four upsells a month, or increase their current upsells by 5% by the end of the year.
Once you start planning out the objective, it will come into focus and you can begin to calculate whether or not it’s plausible, or if you need to go back to the drawing board.
The four most common sales objectives
1. Objectives around your sales team’s capacity
Sales objectives can only be successful if your team has the ability (and the motivation) to see them through.
However, increasing your team’s capacity so they can sell more is also a sales objective. This can be as simple as cutting down the amount of time sales reps spend on data entry.
Other examples of sales objectives that focus on your team’s capacity are:
- Cutting the amount of time reps spend on qualifying leads and generating leads (potentially with the help of tools)
- Increasing the amount of time reps spend on sales calls
- Decreasing the amount of time it takes for a deal to be closed
Setting sales goals and objectives that focus on optimizing your team’s productivity free up their time so they can focus more on selling.
Let’s say you want to cut the amount of time it takes reps to close their deals. First, look into their sales process: how long does it usually take them to win a deal?
On average, you might find it takes your reps 15 days to close a deal from when it enters their pipeline. You want to cut down on the manual labor involved in each sale so they can spend more time prospecting.
To do this, we need to review what that 15-day sales cycle looks like for your sales rep:
- Day 1: The lead enters their pipeline
- Day 2: The sales rep follows up with an email
- Day 4: The sales rep follows up again and books a sales call
- Day 6: The sales rep pitches your product via a sales call
- Day 8: The sales rep follows up with another email
- Day 12: The sales rep follows up again with another call
- Day 14: The prospect decides they’re interested in your product
- Day 15: The sales rep closes the deal and hands the new customer over the customer care team
Now, just by looking at the sales process, one thing sticks out: the rep spends a lot of time following up through emails and calls. One change you make could be to cut the heavy lifting for the sales rep and invest in automatic email nurturing. This would take away their manual involvement in a lot of the selling process and help free up more of their time.
For example, using Pipedrive, sales reps can personalize and automate their follow-up emails whenever a lead enters their pipeline.
When a prospect enters your funnel, they’ll be nurtured with a follow-up email automatically, so your sales rep doesn’t have to spend hours sending manual emails.
Then, when the lead clicks on a link or sets off a sales signal, your rep will be notified so they can follow up with a sales call. You’ve just saved your reps a bunch of time on every deal in their pipeline.
2. Objectives around selling products
If you want to increase your average deal size or boost cross-selling, you can set a specific sales objective to make it happen. This might be something like focusing on a new product release with a high order value, or it might be something broader like tightening up your cross-selling processes within the next 12 months.
Sales objectives for selling products could include:
- Increasing the size of average deals
- Increasing annual up-sells
- Increasing quarterly cross-sells
Let’s pick an objective out of that list and see what it looks like in a salesroom: increasing the amount of upsells your sales reps make. Narrowing that down into a goal, your sales manager might decide on 20 more upsells per rep, per year.
20 upsells a year might seem like a lot, but if you break it down, it works out to 1.6 upsells a month. If your sales reps are equipped with a CRM that holds all their customer data, the first step toward meeting the objective might be to have them check it every week to find upsell opportunities.
If you’re using Pipedrive, each time a customer clicks on an email or visits a page on your website, their contact page will be automatically updated.
If one of your customers is consistently reaching their quota for your service each month, a sales rep can find this information and contact them about a higher-level package.
CRM software makes it easier for sales reps to follow up on opportunities like up-sells so that they can meet sales objectives.
3. Objectives around your sales team’s capabilities
Sales objectives can only be achieved if your team is capable of hitting them and equipped with the right tools and training to do so.
This ties back to a sales rep’s capacity and how much time they’re able to spend on sales activities. For example, if your sales reps spend an average of four hours each day making cold calls, you need to know how successful those calls are. Are they closing deals and nurturing customers effectively?
Bear in mind that a sales rep with access to a suite of tools (like email automation and activity tracking) is going to be better equipped to close deals than a rep who is making notes in Google Sheets.
Set sales objectives around your sales capabilities like:
- Increasing the number of cold calls
- Expanding your sales reps’ product knowledge to encourage up-sells/cross-sells
- Putting aside an hour each month to train on a tool in your tech stack
Once again, let’s take an objective and apply it to a real-life salesroom. Your sales objective might be to increase your cold call output. If you break the objective down into a sales goal, you might want to increase the amount of answered cold calls by 10% a month.
This objective has a lot of layers to it. For example, let’s say a sales rep makes 200 cold calls a month, and 20 of them are answered. To make the overall objective successful, your sales rep needs to make 2 more answered cold calls a month. But to get there? They need to find 20 more leads and make 20 extra calls. That’s a lot of time for a sales rep to find in their month.
Instead, you could achieve this sales objective by taking other steps like:
- Increasing the strength of leads coming into the funnel and tightening up your qualifying processes. The more qualified the lead, the more willing they are to buy. And the fewer calls that reps need to make to close deals.
More efficient lead generation techniques. Instead of manually hunting for leads, sales reps could use a tool like Leadfeeder to capture website visitor information and fill your pipeline with higher quality leads.
By improving the quality of your leads, you are likely to increase their call/answered ratio. Then, you’ll be able to set a new sales objective to increase the number of cold calls that get answered each month.
4. Objectives around gaining (and retaining) customers
We all know the old adage: Finding new customers costs anywhere from five to 25 times more than keeping the ones you already have.
The customers you’ve already got are actually more valuable than you think. On average, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers—so nurturing and retaining current customers can make a massive difference to your annual revenue numbers.
Sales objectives around gaining and retaining customers could mean targeting customers with a more significant revenue spend, developing a process to tackle common sales objections or focusing more on nurturing the ones who’ve already signed up to your product.
Objectives around gaining and retaining customers could include:
- Developing a database of loyal customers to increase engagement and retention
- Increasing time spent nurturing existing customers
- Building a nurture program to increase customer spend
Let’s focus on that last objective: building a nurture program to increase customer spend. To break down that objective, your sales managers might need to look at:
- Increasing training around how to nurture current customers
- Increasing the amount of time reps spend contacting current customers and checking in on their product satisfaction, and decreasing the time they spend prospecting
- Putting into place a system where reps spend 30 minutes each day reaching out to current customers to gauge their satisfaction
- Within these interactions, a sales goal might be to follow up with two of those customers about cross-sells or product upgrades
These objectives are broad enough to encourage your sales managers to get creative on how they will achieve them, without being restricted by numbers and metrics. That way, your sales managers can adjust them to ensure they’re achievable without worrying about metrics.
How to set sales objectives based on your goals
As you can see, there are a ton of sales objectives you can set for your sales team.
The only problem? If you throw 10 new objectives at your sales team, they’re going to get overwhelmed. Which is why prioritizing your sales objectives is such an important, and often overlooked, step.
Go through each sales objective on your list and decide:
How urgent is the objective?
Does this objective have a long-term goal like building up the nurturing culture of your sales reps? Or is it time-restricted like boosting sales for the next quarter?
How important is it to your company’s overall goals?
If you don’t put the objective into place immediately, will your company still be able to achieve its goals? What will the objective mean to your sales team and is it vital to their overall success?
Ranking your sales objectives by overall importance will also help you implement them without overtaxing your sales reps.
Apart from prioritizing your objectives, the best way to make them a success is to actively involve your sales reps in the process. After all, they’re going to be the ones who make sure these objectives are achieved. Make them aware of the objectives and, in return, they’ll tell you if they think they’re realistic.
It’s important to ask your team about each objective and if:
- They believe it’s achievable and realistic
- They’re confident the team is capable
- They might face some challenges
- They need more training and support to achieve it
Here are four tips on how you can make each sales objective on your list a success.
Tip 1: Evaluate your sales team
Listening to your sales team about what objectives they think are achievable is incredibly important.
However, bear in mind that your sales objectives might not be achievable with the team you’ve got in place right now. You can either try and expand your team, which costs money, or spend time nurturing your current reps to make them as productive and effective as possible.
Your senior sales managers need to help your reps make sure every email and sales call counts.
GoSquared Sales Engineer Russell Vaughan says the importance of adding value to customer conversations was hammered into him at his time at Panasonic.
“Usually, someone’s decision about buying your product is a very small part of their day and responsibility. To be interrupted with a follow-up call that was self-serving and offered no real value was rarely more than a nuisance,” he says.
“It doesn’t mean following up wasn’t important, it was critical in keeping momentum in a deal and keeping our product front of mind, but it could be done in a much more effective way.
A follow up could start with letting a prospect know about a new award our product we had won, a new feature we’d launched or even a new offer we were taking out. Anything that added a bit more value to the process.”
If your sales managers are on the ground training your reps (and they’re performing well) and you’re still not meeting your objectives, change your objectives. The only objectives worth having are achievable ones.
Tip 2: Track each objective’s progress and change it accordingly
Most sales objectives are set at the start of the year to create a 12-month road map.
But, just because sales objectives are set doesn’t mean they can’t, and shouldn’t, be changed. Your objectives should be revisited each quarter or month to make sure they remain achievable.
Apart from providing verbal feedback, you should always be monitoring your team’s sales objectives. If the objective is to increase your sales rep’s productivity, your sales managers should be actively tracking:
- Their sales activity output
- Their won/lost deal rations
- The amount of time they spend prospecting
Tracking objectives can also help you uncover which products are selling the best. With a CRM, you can track deals by:
- Product: to see which products are associated most often with deals won in your account.
- Time: to see the performance of specific products in your account over time, based on their association with won deals.
Tip 3: Reward your staff who are hitting their targets
Every sales team has reps who perform better than others.
It’s those high-performing reps who make sure that your company achieves its sales objectives. So reward them. Within each sales objective, you might want to incentivize each target or goal to motivate your star salespeople. For example, using a tool like Pipedrive, you can automatically track how well a rep is performing over a specific timeframe.
If a rep isn’t meeting their email or prospecting numbers, then you can start to ask ‘why?’ Or, if they’ve closed more deals than expected, celebrate it. Either way, approach your reps with positivity and encouragement—negativity won't do anything for their confidence or overall sales performance.
Tip 4: Plan for your objectives to fail
Because some of them will.
Achieving successful sales objectives isn’t about setting them and forgetting them. It means constantly evaluating your objectives and, if they fail, figuring out why they did so.
Developing a plan to deal with failed objectives enables you to get an updated version of the objective into your plan quicker. When an objective fails, ask yourself:
- What barriers did we hit to stop this objective from being successful?
- Did we have the right sales team in place? Did their capabilities and availability match up with what we asked of them for the objective?
- Did our sales team have the right tools to achieve the objective in the first place?
Once you’ve figured out why the objective failed, address the roadblocks and give it another shot.
Don’t confuse sales objectives with metrics
Remember, sales objectives and sales metrics aren’t the same.
Sales objectives are long-term, broad goals that you want your entire sales team to achieve to push your company forward. However, you need to keep an eye on sales metrics to make sure your objectives stay on track.
Metrics allow you to build steps and strategies for your sales team to achieve your sales objectives. Although some objectives might seem broad, like increasing your customer nurturing to boost up-sells, applying metrics to them can make them achievable.
Most importantly, make sure that whatever sales objectives you set, your team is involved in setting them. They’re the ones on the floor making sales calls and closing deals, and they know what they’re capable of achieving. Push them to do their best, but make sure any objectives you set are attainable.