Motivate Your Sales Teams by Creating Clear, ‘SMART’ Goals

Few things frustrate sales and marketing people more than having vague goals. That's why the ubiquitous "SMART" goal-setting construct is tailor-made for your company's sales and marketing functions.

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If you're new to the SMART goal blueprint, the word is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. So instead of issuing goals to your sales team like "We need to sell more widgets in the Southern region," use SMART to frame and plan your goals.

As we reported in a previous article, studies have also found there's value in being more specific with goals.

"Setting specific, challenging goals consistently leads to higher performance than just urging people to do their best."

This is especially true for sales professionals, who are among the most competitive, self-disciplined groups of employees in any company. The same study found "High goals generate greater effort than low goals, and the highest or most difficult goals produce the greatest levels of effort and performance."

So, how can you create goals that will inspire your sales teams to perform at high levels?

Your Goals Should Be Specific

Goals like “sell more widgets” are too vague. Quantify everything. A typical quantifiable goal would be “Sell and close 225 ‘Amazing New Devices’ to customers in the Southern Region during the first and second quarters 2018.”

Jordan Scheltgen, co-founder of Cave Social suggests taking it one step further with even more specificity: “I will do this by generating X amount of revenue from new sales activity and X amount from upselling to current customers. I will generate new sales opportunities by attending one networking event per week and create two valuable contacts per month.”

And remember, the more specific you are, the better chance you have of completing the goal. That includes giving every goal a time constraint; Q1, monthly, weekly, etc. (See time-bound, below).

Your Goals Should Be Measurable 

If you can't measure your goal how do you know if you completed it? In our example above, the sales team needs to sell and close 225 units. Examples of other metrics could be the number of sales calls, units shipped, the number of new customers, and many others. If it's quantifiable, you can measure it.

Your Goals Should Be Attainable

Make sure the goals you set are attainable. Unattainable goals and long shots will only frustrate and demoralize your sales team. And remember, higher goals will generate more significant effort from your employees.

Your Goals Should Be Realistic

The experts say your goals should challenge and stretch you, but not be impossible to achieve.

Your Goals Should Be Time-bound

Every goal should tie to a due date or deadline. If you issue open-ended goals how does your sales team know when the goal is completed? 

A Cautionary Note

The SMART goal framework has been around for years, and for most, it brings discipline to what otherwise could be a random, ill-defined process. But keep in mind, like all systems, the SMART method has its detractors. From "3 Popular Goal-Setting Techniques Managers Should Avoid" (Harvard Business Review) the author notes the SMART technique can also encourage employees to set goals that are too low. The framework also doesn't help you determine if some goals are worth pursuing. In other words, it can't help you evaluate the business merits of pursuing a goal.

Nonetheless, the SMART framework is a useful tool for helping you articulate goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and tied to a deadline.

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About the author

Gary Teagarden
Vistage Minnesota

Gary is an accomplished copywriter and B2B content marketing strategist. He’s written numerous articles and member stories for Vistage Minnesota since 2012.


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