Skip to main content
GTM, Sales

Setting Smart Sales Goals

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design


Sales is incredibly hard…

You deal with rejection on a daily basis, and you need to look beyond the potential outcome of any single phone call, email or client meeting for inspiration and motivation

You need something to pick you back up from that rejection and continue onto the next one.

Normally this takes a sense of optimism. Optimism and enthusiasm. But you also need to be working towards something. This is why goals are so important.

The biggest mistake I see with salespeople when they’re setting goals is that they focus purely on their numbers, rather than taking a holistic view of their job, career and life. They don’t think beyond the next sale, or the next signature, and look at what the things they are doing today could do for their career, and their future.

Think about broader goals first

There’s plenty of information available that will help you set goals, so I’m not going to bore you with the whole “S-M-A-R-T” goal setting process.

What I really want to do is talk about how you can set some broader goals for your life, and then connect the dots with your professional aspirations.

Great salespeople are well-balanced. They’re not just narrowly focused on their job, but they’ve also got a life outside of the office. This comes from setting broader, life-related goals.

These broader goals can be thought about in five pillars:

  • Family
  • Health
  • Wealth
  • Friends
  • Professional

Smart Sales Goals

I’m not here to help you find a husband or wife… But more to help you improve yourself from a professional standpoint. So let’s take a closer look at that.

Honing in on your professional goals

If you focus only on the year’s number and that’s it, your only measure of success is whether or not you’ve been able to hit what is a relatively short-term goal in the bigger picture of your career. You need to take a much broader approach.

So where is it you want to be working in 5 or 10 years time? What are the skills you need to get you there? Who are the people you need to meet? And what is the level of performance you need to sustain in order to meet those goals?

The reality is that the skills you need to develop in order to achieve these longer term goals may not be attainable in a sales role. It could be a management position, it could be in marketing, or even something totally different.

But there are things you can be doing today that will enable you to work towards your goals. Maybe it’s about speaking to people in another department about job openings, or taking a training course. The great thing about sales is that if you are hitting your numbers and performing, doors within the organisation will open up for you. People will be happy to have those conversations with you.

Don’t limit yourself to sales metrics or sales-specific goals… Your career can take any path you want it to.

Once you’ve got the big picture around the performance and skills you need to achieve your career goals, you can start to align it to your role and find a strong motivation to put up with the rejection and hardship on a daily basis.

This is something that a good manager is going to be able to help you understand, and help you leverage when you come into those darker times.

Let’s dive into the performance side of things a bit more, because this is where you can really get granular and look at the annual, monthly, weekly and even daily activities and routines that will help achieve these longer term goals.

Aligning activity to your broader goals

What a lot of salespeople do is simply take the default company sales quota as a goal. This quota is being set based on what the company wants to achieve, but how does that align to what you are pursuing? In most cases it doesn’t.

You need to be ambitious and set goals that will help you achieve the things YOU want to in life. This may take you beyond the company quota set for your team, so don’t look at it as a ceiling.

When you look back at those five pillars I mentioned earlier, does the company’s quota align to your wealth goals? How about your professional goals and the career path you want to take?

Enjoyment at work is not all about money, but the reality is in a revenue generating role like sales, money is a key indicator of your performance. And your performance is what is going to give you the career opportunities you are seeking.

So let’s say you push the company quota aside and set your own goals. Then you need to think about reverse engineering your sales equation to align these goals with your regular work activity. Start with that end goal in mind and work back through the key events and the leading metrics you need to reach in order to achieve that end goal.

Each of these metrics should align to your customer’s buying journey. There will be key milestones at each stage of the sales process that you can track metrics for and set smaller goals.

For example, the step before a purchase may be issuing a proposal. And the step before the proposal is a meeting that you’ve had with key stakeholders. And prior to that is a meeting with the internal champion… Do you see where this is going? Now you have multiple different points within the sales process that you can look to optimise in order to reach your end goal.

Here is a typical sales process from “Prospecting” to “Winning”, it is a good starting framework for aligning your activity, goals and metrics to a greater purpose:

typical sales process

This gives you a great understanding of how much “activity” you need to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis in order to achieve your longer term goals. This type of thinking helps you come into the office every morning and know exactly what it is you need to do to be successful in the long-term.

Not losing sight of reality

At this stage of the goal-setting process you need to take a step back and see if this can actually work. Is it going to be achievable?

Remember there are only about 260 working days in the year, that’s before you account for your holidays, public days off, seasonality and your prospects calendar! So it’s really important to look at your goals, look at the activity you need to do in order to achieve those goals, and see if it’s realistic.

Review those long-term goals and see if you need to realign your expectations based on a more realistic workload. Or another option is, just work harder.

Creating an environment of accountability

The last step for setting smart sales goals is to create your own environment of accountability. Because a goal set alone is just like the sound of a tree falling in the woods. If no one else hears it, it doesn’t really happen.

You need to share your goals with other people to make sure you hold yourself accountable to them. Share your goals with your peers and your manager. Look outside the organisation to coaches and external mentors. Even tell your friends and family about them. This will help you take ownership of your goals and make sure you actively pursue them.


By setting smart sales goals, you will have a much clearer sense of purpose. By aligning them to a broader picture of your life, you’re going to be more inspired to get up and push through the hardships.

What are your goals for 2017, and how do they contribute to your broader aspirations in life?