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SalesGrowth MD, Inc. | Denver/ Englewood, CO

It happens every single year. You begin with lofty sales goals and quotas in January – but by December, you wonder what happened and end up trying to figure out where your team went wrong. Lack of motivation may not be the problem – you may just be taking the wrong approach to goal setting.

If your goals are too vague, unrealistic or simply don’t offer any reward for accomplishment, all that January sales meeting enthusiasm could taper off by Valentine’s Day. The SMART approach to goal setting can help – but we love to go two steps further and take the SMARTER approach instead.

SMART is an acronym that helps you set clearly defined goals for your team; each letter of the word is designed to help hone in on the right type of goal and ensure success:






But SMART is just the beginning. For goals to truly resonate, we add two more components – “E” for Enjoyable and “R” for Rewards. By making goals that your team will enjoy and then rewarding them for achievements, you can be sure that by the time December rolls around you’ve met or surpassed the sales quotas you’ve set.

Why does the SMARTER approach work? A look at the process and why each element contributes to the success of your program is detailed below.

S is for Specific

Your sales goals need to be specific to be motivational and achievable; simply stating “sell more product” or “increase sales” isn’t enough. By stating a specific goal instead of a vague one, you have something to focus on and pour concentrated effort into.

A specific goal also makes it easier to lay out a path for success – if you know your goal is to “upsell X customers in 2017,” then you’ll be pretty focused on offering add-ons, incentives and simply asking for the upsell each time you close a customer.

Specific goals also make it easier for your sales team to align with your marketing, advertising and support departments. If everyone knows you are working towards the goal of “one more item per order” then they’ll be able to support this message with every customer interaction, piece of content and ad they place.

Consider the local grocer that was concerned with the number of bags in use per customer. They had already incentivized the purchase and use of reusable bags, but were still spending too much on plastic bags. A goal of “use less bags” was far too vague, particularly since order sizes vary. What did work was specifying “5 items per bag.” The management team noted that bags were often considered complete with only one or two pieces inside. By clearly setting the goal with a specific number instead of the vague “more,” employees knew exactly what to do and bag consumption dropped considerably.

The specific approach works on the sales side as well, regardless of what your goal is. Giving your team something specific to achieve takes the guesswork out of the process and allows them to focus on actually meeting the goal. Some SMART, specific goals to consider include:

  • Contacting 10 more customers per week
  • Contacting 10 current customers with a new offer or touchpoint each week
  • Upselling at every close with a specific product that complements your line
  • Incentivizing add-ons to boost the number of products per sale
  • X in person or personal phone calls to customers per week (for those with sales processes that support this approach)

M is for Measurable

One of the biggest benefits of setting specific goals is that you can easily measure success. “Sell more stuff” could mean anything, while “Sell 20 more units per month” can easily be measured. A measurable goal makes it easier for your team to see where they are in the process and motivates them to succeed.

For those who are almost there, being close to reaching the magic number is a powerful motivator, while those lagging behind could be spurred into action by seeing how far they still have to go. The simple exhilaration and joy that comes with meeting a goal improves morale and in many cases, spurs your team on to greater success.

As a manager, measurable goals allow you to track how everyone is doing and pinpoint the reasons you’re getting results. If four of your five salespeople are seeing increased sales numbers after you’ve set a goal of making 20 more phone calls per month – and the fifth isn’t seeing an increase at all, you know you have an issue. Either that salesperson is not following the process you’ve outlined or they need some additional sales training.

Goals that are measurable make it easy to reward those who work hard and follow through and can also reveal which team members need additional help and support in certain areas.

A is for Attainable

For a goal to work, it has to actually be reasonable and achievable. An overweight person who decides to lose 100 pounds on January 1 could be disappointed in February when they see they’ve only lost 10, even though 10 pounds is a reasonable amount of weight to lose in one month. By setting expectations unreasonably high, they set themselves up for failure and disappointment.

Setting goals for sales works the same way – increasing your sales by 50, 60 or even 100% sounds wonderful, but may not be attainable or reasonable. The moment your team realizes your goals are a stretch, they’ll lose interest entirely. You’ll still see them going through the motions, but an unattainable goal is more harmful than no goal at all.

Choosing a goal that requires your team to focus and work – but that is possible to achieve – ensures that they are motivated and rewarded for their hard work.

R is for Realistic

Some goals are simply not realistic with your current level of support and resources. You’re limited by your ability to produce a product, perform a service or meet the needs of your customer. While scaling up is a good thing, attempting to do so too quickly could backfire.

If you are used to making and selling 1000 items per month and suddenly expect your team to sell 2000 a month, you could run into fulfillment problems. Realistic goals are not only achievable for your sales team, but possible for your business as well. Too many orders, too quickly could hinder your ability to serve existing customers and actually harm your business in the long run.

T is for Timely

How long will you take to achieve the goal you’ve set? Not setting a deadline may seem like it reduces the pressure on your team to deliver, but it also lowers the urgency level as well. A goal with a timeline is easier to break down into weekly and monthly tasks, and easier to track and measure, too.

The timeliness of your goal also has a direct impact on its attainability – something that is impossible to do in a week may be attainable over the course of a year. Our overweight person struggling to drop 100 pounds could achieve this goal, had they given themselves enough time to work on it.

E is for Enjoyable

We naturally gravitate toward the things we enjoy doing, so find a way to make working toward goals fun for your team. Understanding what makes your team tick and what types of goals would resonate best will make it easier for everyone to buy into the process. Salespeople in general are competitive – and a little friendly competition never hurts getting everyone onboard when you are setting goals or testing out a new approach. 

R is for Reward

Success is a reward in itself – but it doesn’t have to be the only reward. Incentivize success by rewarding those who meet your goals. Since you’ve set clearly defined, reasonable and attainable goals with specific time limits, it will be easy to track and reward accomplishments.

You don’t have to invest a lot into rewards for them to matter; the best parking spot, a gift card to the local coffee shop and similar experience based rewards don’t cost much but offer a tangible way to thank your team for achieving their goals. The sheer bragging rights that come from wearing the “reward hoodie” or drinking from the “reward mug” during a meeting should not be underestimated – being able to show off success in a tangible way is a powerful motivator for many salespeople.

Setting SMARTER goals may take some additional planning and work upfront, but it will pay off and be more rewarding in the long run. Use these tips to help your team set SMARTER goals this year.


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