Sales Objectives: The Definitive Guide for Sales Leaders
If you’re a sales leader, you know how important it is to keep your team moving forward, even in challenging times. If a sales team isn’t actively improving, it will stagnate and performance will inevitably suffer. To keep that consistent level of momentum, it’s vital that sales teams have clearly defined sales objectives.
The right objectives help each person on the team to focus their efforts and make a real difference to their organizations. Still, many sales leaders aren’t sure how to go about setting sales objectives. This guide will explain exactly what sales objectives are, why they’re so important, and how to set objectives that get results (along with some smart goals examples for sales reps to implement).
Let's start with the definition of what are sales goals.
What are sales objectives?
Simply put, sales objectives are the specific results you want to achieve within the sales organization.
Isn’t this just another term for sales quota? Not quite. While a quota could technically be defined as a sales objective, your objectives aren’t limited purely to how much a team or individual rep sells. As we’ll soon see, your sales objectives can cover a wide range of outcomes across every aspect of the sales process, not just the selling part.
Are objectives the same as goals? It depends on who you ask. Dictionaries define them as having the same meaning, and many sales organizations use the terms interchangeably. However, some teams prefer to differentiate the two terms, using goals to refer to the general direction that they’re aiming for, while the sales objectives are more specific. So, a sales goal could be to increase revenue, while the objective might be to increase revenue by 30% over the next quarter.
While we’re talking about specific results, sales objectives are not the same as metrics. Tracking the right metrics is an important part of setting sales objectives and seeing if you’re on track, but objectives involve more than just monitoring every possible metric. If you want your sales objectives to be effective, they must go beyond just desired results and include each individual step that will get you there.
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Why you need sales objectives
Far more than simply a tick box exercise, setting sales objectives is a valuable activity that can be used to help both individuals and the whole team in sales improve performance.
First, the right sales objectives give your team direction. As Charles Tart said, “If you don’t have a goal, any road will do.” But any destination won’t. So, if you just hand your reps a laptop or a phone and tell them to sell—without supplying a target to aim for—don’t be surprised if the results are poor. However, setting concrete objectives with a planned series of steps will dramatically increase the chances of success.
Having objectives also help you to accurately assess your performance and hold your team accountable for their sales activities. It’s easy to think you've had a good/bad quarter, but unless you have clearly defined objectives it’s impossible to know for sure. When you ensure that every individual knows what they’re trying to achieve, they’ll be more likely to take the necessary steps to reach their goals—without requiring constant handholding.
The right kind of sales objectives will also give your team a sense of accomplishment. Every sports event has a clear objective, whether that’s getting a touchdown or scoring a goal; without that, how would people know who’s winning, or when to celebrate? Sales objectives work in the same way, letting your team know what winning looks like and giving them a chance to take pride in a job well done.
Examples of sales objectives
Another benefit of sales objectives is their versatility. You can set objectives for practically any aspect of sales, using them to either help individual salespeople work on their weaknesses or the whole team to work toward company-wide goals. Here are some sales objective examples to get you started.
The most obvious use of sales objectives is to promote positive sales actions. Virtually every salesperson will be familiar with having a quota to meet, usually based on the number of units sold or the amount of revenue generated. Other options include objectives related to average order size, number of meetings booked, or more specific sales call objectives like getting the prospect to book a demo or commit to the purcahse.
Along with results-based objectives, you can also set activity-based objectives. For example, in addition to your traditional quota, set an objective of sending a certain number of follow-up emails each day. By setting objectives based on activity that’s within the salesperson’s control (rather than on results potentially outside of their control), they’re less likely to become discouraged if things don’t go as planned.
Some sales targets examples include:
- Increase revenue by 11% in Q3.
- Make 70 sales calls every day.
- Increase average order size 5% by Q1.
You can also set objectives that relate directly to your customers. For example, have the goal of increasing the customer lifetime value (CLTV). More specifically, this could be by increasing the number of qualified leads, increasing the number of upsells/cross-sells, or reducing the churn rate.
Sales objectives and goals examples here include:
- Identify 21 potential upsell opportunities each week.
- Increase customer retention by 21% by the end of the year.
- Add 20 marketing-qualified leads to the sales funnel each day.
The other category of objectives relates to how productive your team is. Maybe you’d like to cut down the amount of time your salespeople spend on non-sales tasks, increase the average call duration (as one of the examples of sales call objectives), or decrease the sales cycle. While these kinds of objectives aren’t directly tied to revenue generation, a more efficient and effective sales team will be to your advantage.
Sales goals and objectives examples in this case include:
- Automate all follow-up emails by Q2.
- Reduce time spent on administrative tasks by one hour each day.
- Train all reps in objection handling by the end of the month.
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Setting sale objectives, step by step
Hopefully, these sale objectives have given you some ideas. However, it’s not enough to just pick any objective and hope for the best. By setting the right foundation and taking a systematic approach, you’ll be able to pick the right objectives and get the results you’re looking for.
Analyze your existing sales process
You can’t plan a journey without knowing your starting point. Similarly, before picking a sales objective, you must have a solid understanding of your current situation. Assess your sales team’s performance. What areas could be improved? Even if you can’t find any issues, establishing a baseline at this point will make it easier to measure your success. This is also a good time to involve your team and get their input.
Prioritize what you need to work on
After your analysis, you should have a list of strengths and weaknesses that you can work on. However, trying to work on every single one of those would be counterproductive, leading to weaker efforts and confusion.
To help decide what you should work on next, I recommend using an Eisenhower Matrix
This simple framework is not only handy for personal to-do lists, use it to develop your sales team priorities. Then work exclusively on things that are urgent, regardless of whether they’re important or not. This means objectives that could have a significant impact on your outcomes might be ignored in favor of urgent tasks.
From here, pick something you want to work on from the urgent/important box or the not important boxes. Generally, working on one objective at a time makes more sense. You can then use that as a foundation for your future objectives.
Set your sales objective
Now that you know what you want to work on, set an objective that will address that issue. To set an effective objective, use the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting framework.
- Specific - What exactly are you trying to achieve? Going deeper than the surface-level will make it easier to take action.For example, if your CLTV seems low, there are several different ways you could try to increase it. Going deeper, you might see your low CLTV is down to a high churn rate. In turn, your high churn rate could be down due to a bad product/customer fit. To improve that, you might want better-qualified leads. So, rather than simply trying to increase CLTV, you now have a much more specific goal of increasing the number of qualified leads entering the sales funnel. You should also confirm who will be responsible for meeting the objective. Is it an individual, a sub-team, or the whole sales team?
- Measurable - How will you measure success? Hopefully, you’ve already got some metrics from your initial analysis. If not, work out how you’ll determine whether you’ve met your objective or not.
- Attainable - It’s good to set objectives that’ll stretch you and push your team out of their comfort zone. However, if the objective isn’t realistic, your team could end up discouraged and performance will go down. This is also the time to think about whether you’re going for an activity-based or results-based objective. Does your team have full control over whether or not they reach the objective, or could it depend on how prospects respond?
- Relevant - If you’ve followed the earlier steps, your objective should already be relevant to your current situation and be important to your overall goals. Still, it’s a good opportunity to double-check that the objective you choose makes sense to your team and will have positive results if reached.
- Time-based - Without a timeframe, objectives are likely to be pushed back indefinitely (usually so you can work on all those urgent/non-important goals). Still, the timeframe must allow enough time for your team to make progress. Making a hundred calls would be impossible in 10 minutes, too easy in 10 weeks, but could be a reasonable goal for one day.
Once you have your sales objective, plan the individual steps that will get you there. What actions need to be taken to reach your goal? What changes might be needed?
At the same time, make sure you’re not so focused on individual goals that you ignore the big picture. A goal to increase the number of sales sounds great, but if it leads to your reps using hard-sell tactics, making false promises, or selling to unqualified prospects, then it could be more damaging in the long run. As you determine the specific steps you’ll need to take to reach your objective, make sure they don’t have any potential negative side effects.
Assign the sales objectives to your team
Setting objectives isn’t just a paper exercise. Your objectives will only be good if your team is aware of them and working toward them. If you’ve involved the team from the beginning, they should already be invested in seeing the solution work. However, you’ll still need to work with the team to ensure they fully understand the objectives and what they must do to reach them. This might mean breaking down your objectives into bite-size pieces or providing refresher training on best practices.
Track your progress
Your objectives aren’t in the set-it-and-forget-it zone. Once you’ve started working toward your objectives, your job is to regularly check up on your progress, using the metrics you’ve identified in the earlier steps.
Don’t wait until the deadline though. If your objective is for the team to spend an hour less each week on admin by the end of the quarter, see how they’re doing after the first week. You might find the team is nowhere near meeting the objective. At that point, you’ll have to decide whether the goal was attainable in the first place or if your action plan isn’t effective. On the other hand, you might find that your team has already smashed the objective and it’s time for a new one—but not before rewarding your team and the reps who’ve stepped up to the plate!
Sales objectives can keep your team motivated and performing to the best of their abilities. Fortunately, sales objectives don’t have to be complicated. If you set goals that are relevant to your current situation along with a plan of action to achieve them, then your sales objectives will get positive results and keep your sales team moving in the right direction.
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