Sailing Towards Success: Mastering Sales Goals

Joe Paranteau
May 17, 2023

Introduction: Charting a Course with Sales Goals

Selling is the lifeblood of any business, keeping operations and commerce moving and progressing. But let’s be honest; sales can be as challenging as navigating through a sea. Having lived near the ocean for most of my life, I admit I’m not a sailor. But indulge me for a moment with this comparison. Sailing and selling have a lot in common.

My first cold call resembled my first sailing adventure. I felt lost and alone in the cold call and wanted it to end. In my sailing, I forgot to drop the centerboard and spun around in circles in the wind.

So, what’s the secret to conquering this ocean? You got it – having effective sales goals and objectives! It’s like the centerboard in sailing. It can ground you and keep you on track. It’s an essential part of selling; typically, when performance suffers, you can look to weak goals and objectives as the culprit.

A sales goal or objective is more than a number; it serves as a guiding light amidst the business landscape. It keeps your selling ship on course, helping you avoid obstacles and find your port.

So, let’s raise our sails and set off on this journey together.

Sales Goals: Your Business Compass

How often do you hear companies talk about their ‘North Star?’

It’s one of those overused catchphrases in pitch decks and goal-focused presentations. The problem with this phrase is that people rarely consider what this means and how to use it in their business.

Everyone likes to say “For next year, our sales goals are to grow by 30%”

Why not 33%, or 27%?

What needs to happen in a prospective customer’s business to fuel their attention, interest, desire, and action toward your offerings?

Before GPS existed, celestial navigation often used sextants, a tool to help measure angles between reference points.

Sales goals are the coordinates you punch into your business GPS. They provide direction and a sense of purpose. They help you gauge your progress, identify potential setbacks, and realign your strategies when necessary.

It’s like trying to sail without a sextant or a compass; you might still move, but are you heading in the right direction? How do you know if you are on track?

sales goals

The ABCs of Sales Goals

Sales goals can be as diverse as the fish in the sea.

They might relate to revenue, unit sales, customer acquisition, market share, or specific product lines.

Regardless of their type, effective sales goals should always be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I also think excellent sales goals have qualitative (how you’re going to get there) and quantitative measures (how fast you are going to travel).

Here are some simple questions to consider as you create your sales goals.

A = ACTION: What is the desired action or set of actions needed to achieve your goal? I’ve seen so many salespeople turn to stone when thinking about this. However, it’s essential to break down the goal. If you are going to overachieve quota, how many calls will you make, how many deals do you need in the pipeline, what types of customers will you target, and how many meetings and proposals will you be able to fulfill?

All of these are actions.

B = BUDGET: Budgeting involves the allocation of resources. In sales, the most valuable resource is time. But as any young company knows, there are also people and money. If you are going to put half the company on a plane for an important customer meeting, there is nothing worse than a poorly vetted meeting that could have been handled virtually and wasted time and money in the sales process.

Today, sales professionals and business leaders need to have good stewardship to properly allocate their most precious resources.

C = COMMUNICATION: A sales goal not shared is called a wish. You need to be open about the goals you are striving for with all of your essential stakeholders.

How do you know if everyone is aligned toward the most important sales goals? Try this: Ask everyone in the company your #1 sales goal for the next 3 months, then 6 months, and a year. Everyone should know.

If they don’t, start a marketing, PR, and communication campaign so that your goal is so embedded into your company’s culture, that there is no mystery where you are going. Everyone knows.

Further, develop a communication plan to celebrate success and showcase and share progress toward goals. If you notice you are failing in your pursuit of your goals, open up the company feedback loop to get ideas on where you need to pivot or recalibrate.

Setting Sail: Creating Effective Sales Goals

Setting sales goals isn’t just about pulling numbers out of a hat. It’s a thoughtful process that involves analyzing past performance, understanding market trends, and being realistic about your capabilities.

One of the biggest barriers to an effective sales culture is the mystery of how sales goals are set. If sellers don’t trust the process, they will always look for the exit sign when you take advantage of their intellect and hard work.

Too often, the “number” is presented to the sales team as something they simply have to accept it and move on. This is a major mistake. Bringing your team to the goals should be collaborative as well. Leverage their professional insights to share with your team what is happening in your business’s ground game. Customer-facing roles have the best vantage point for information that may not be surfaced elsewhere.

Analyzing Past Performance

Take a look at your sales history. What has worked? What hasn’t? Understanding your past performance is like studying the sea currents; it gives you valuable insights into what might lie ahead.

AI has taken a lot of steps toward removing bias of past performance to spot underlying insights about territories, products, and personal performance. Leverage AI to help you analyze and gain some objectivity about your business.

A trend in one territory might uncover a customer insight that deserves more attention. Maybe your product is more attractive to customers based on proximity to fast shipping or other customers.

Understanding Market Trends

The market is like the weather; it can change in the blink of an eye. Monitoring market trends helps you anticipate changes and adjust your sales goals accordingly.

But how do you do this? Some market trends are difficult to predict. Don’t simply look to the past and try to guess the future. Bring your customers a sense of how they view their market trends. If you are trying to sell to them, and they all feel bearish about growth for the next 12 months, then maybe a strategy should be to get them all optimized, fully trained, and satisfied using your solutions.

crushing your sales goals

Being Realistic

The sky’s the limit. Well, not exactly. While ambition is wonderful, setting unrealistic sales goals can lead to frustration and burnout. It’s about finding the right balance between aspiration and feasibility.

Do you want to see your crew stage a mutiny or just go work for another Captain? Then, have hasty sales goals.

I’ve seen it happen too many times. Sellers who feel you are abusing your position to set unrealistic goals means they cannot feed their families, take vacations, pay obligations, and plan for their futures. This level of uncertainty will have them leave your company and potentially go work for your competitors.

Set the expectation that you will be fair, listen and consider all inputs, and chart a course that doesn’t seem like you are going into the belly of a hurricane.

Navigating Choppy Waters: Overcoming Challenges in Achieving Sales Goals

Achieving sales goals is not always smooth sailing. Sometimes, you’ll face storms that threaten to throw you off course. But don’t fret. For every problem, there’s a solution waiting to be discovered.

I remember going deep-sea fishing when I was a teenager. We went 90 miles offshore and encountered rough seas.

On the surface, some people got sick and had to acclimate to the conditions by being more careful, strapping themselves in tightly, and staying focused.

But the fishing turned out to be amazing – despite the motion of the ocean.

We all caught some amazing fish and were able to navigate the seas by making accommodations.

Think about selling into rough seas. What changes are necessary? Maybe it demands more focus and attention on certain product lines, customers, markets, or staving off competition than normal times.

In sales, I’ve always noticed you work harder at some times more than others. The business tempo and customer demands require this type of adaptation.

Challenge 1: Shifting Market Conditions

How do you deal with a sudden storm? You adjust your sails! Similarly, shifting market conditions require you to be flexible and adapt your sales strategies.

I worked with companies that faced Hurricane Katrina in southeast Louisiana. Some were well prepared for the storms, but many were underprepared. No amount of prep could have changed the reality of a 100-year behemoth storm.

Companies should know how to spot seismic shifts in the market – from benign turbulence to cat 5 hurricanes.

Challenge 2: Low Team Morale

It’s difficult enough to sell when everyone is on board and excited about the work they do. However, when morale suffers, your sales team becomes a toxic mess. It’s a good idea to be in touch with your people and have a pulse on their engagement with their jobs and customers. Give them time to share feedback openly and without repercussions. Help them help themselves by sharing accountability for the team morale. If morale is suffering, maybe time off is needed. Or gratitude with a thoughtful note or gift.

Nothing works as well as sincerity. I have a box saved of all the notes and letters I’ve received over my sales career. It’s a small box, but its a testament that appreciation doesn’t have to be costly. Genuine sincerity is in short supply for sales professionals.

Sellers are so accustomed to hearing, “What have you done for me lately?” that we all joke about this level of tone-deafness. We’d like to hear, “Thanks, you did a great job here,” occasionally.

No one wants to work in a place they don’t like – no matter how good the money is. You run the risk of the word getting out on the street to the other sales superstars you want to attract that your gig isn’t worth the money, so pay attention to morale.

Challenge 3: Lack of Resources

Limited resources can be a significant hindrance. Are your salespeople spending precious time doing other tasks that take them away from selling?

For instance, sellers may not be graphic designers, webmasters, or marketing gurus. They may often be monkeying with graphics to make a sales presentation effective, setting up landing pages or creating sales collateral.

Be on the lookout for sales time wasters that occur in your business.

However, with careful planning and strategic allocation, you can still maximize what you have. Listen to what your team tells you, and help them be as effective as possible.

Anchoring Your Success: The Power of Sales Goals

Congratulations, you’ve navigated through the sea of sales goals! By now, you understand their importance, how to set them effectively, and how to overcome challenges. But remember, setting a goal is just the beginning. The relentless pursuit, the unwavering commitment, and the resilience in the face of adversity set successful businesses apart.

Sales goals are not just targets but milestones in your business journey. They affirm your efforts, a testament to your determination, and a stepping stone toward greater success. So set your sales goals, steer your ship confidently, and sail towards the horizon of success. After all, smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.

FAQs on Sales Goals

u003cstrongu003eWhat is a sales goal?u003c/strongu003e

A sales goal is a target a salesperson or business aims to achieve within a specific time frame.

u003cstrongu003eWhy are sales goals important?u003c/strongu003e

u003cstrongu003e u003c/strongu003eSales goals provide direction, measure progress, motivate the sales team, and drive business growth.

u003cstrongu003eHow do I set effective sales goals?u003c/strongu003e

Effective sales goals are both qualitative and quantitative. The goals are a standard to measure performance, direction, and intent. They are based on analyzing past performance, understanding market trends, and realistic expectations. Ground your sales goals in a dose of reality, not wishful thinking.

u003cstrongu003eHow do I overcome challenges in achieving sales goals?u003c/strongu003e

The first step in overcoming challenges is to admit something is off. Have a way to measure progress on your sales goals, and do it often. Overcoming challenges involves being flexible and realistic, maintaining high team morale, and maximizing available resources.

u003cstrongu003eHow often should I review and adjust my sales goals?u003c/strongu003e

Sales goals should be reviewed regularly. The frequency might depend on your business size, market volatility, and individual preference. It also depends on the goal’s size, complexity, and importance. Set standards in place to review all sales goals on a regular basis. Make them part of your daily, weekly, or monthly analytics. Sales moves too fast to make a goal and ignore it. If it was essential, then track it as such.

u003cstrongu003eCan sales goals vary across industries?u003c/strongu003e

Absolutely! Sales goals are tailored to a business’s unique needs and industry characteristics. What works for a tech startup might not work for a food service business. Industry dynamics change often, so make sure you are in sync with the pulse of your industry and those of the industries you sell into.

Joe Paranteau: B2B Sales Transformation Expert

Joe Paranteau

Joe Paranteau is a B2B sales powerhouse with an award-winning track record. He's spent decades in the tech world, driving major growth for giants like Microsoft and Oracle. But Joe's not just about theory – his strategies are battle-tested and supported by science. He's on a mission to help B2B sales teams crush their goals. Expect engaging content, inspiring keynotes, and the kind of hands-on coaching that fuels results. Ready to level up your sales game? Joe's your guy.


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