Setting Sales Goals in 8 Steps: A Proven Framework

Here you are—another year gone by.

And you almost, aaaaaalmost hit your sales goal this time!

Just like last year. And the year before that. And the year before that… But this year is going to be different. Maybe it’s the world rapidly changing around you. Or maybe it’s you getting another year older.

But this year, it’s time to get serious about setting sales goals and adapting your sales process.

And I’ve got just the framework to help. In just eight steps, you can map out where you want to be next year, strategize the steps you need to take to get there, narrow down which goals are a good fit, and more.

Ready to go? Let’s hit it.

Setting Sales Goals: Why It Works

Why should you be setting your own sales goals? And just as importantly, why should you start setting your goals strategically so that you don’t give up on them four months into the year?

As it turns out, setting sales goals is one of the easiest low-investment, high-return wins sales reps can make.

Here’s why setting your own sales targets is such a game-changer.

A) A Clear Path to Success

First and foremost, setting sales goals gives you a clear, indisputable path towards achieving massive professional success.

We can all agree that if you don’t know where you’re heading, it’s going to be a real pain to get there. And setting well-defined goals lets you plan out your path to success milestone by milestone.

What’s more, when you continually improve upon those goals (e.g., “I’m going to close 5% more deals than last year”), you’re creating the impetus you need to keep moving forward. And that means less career stagnation and consistent forward progression.

Having a clear path to success is also valuable for sales managers and sales teams too. When you can effectively communicate your sales cycle and where the sales revenue is going to come from, management will get off your back and allow you to get on with your job.

B) It Lets You Plan Ahead

Setting sales metrics (that are reasonable, mind you) also gives you a better indication of what lies ahead.

If, say, you need to close on 12 accounts this quarter, that means you need to aim for four accounts per month. If you’ve only closed two in the first month, that means you’ll have to work extra hard to close five in the other two months.

Setting annual sales goals based on numbers rather than more a subjective sales goal like “improving customer lifetime value” enables you to directly track progress too.

Added to that, your goals also help identify your busy seasons, your lulls, and when you should focus on other goals like filling your pipeline, streamlining your processes, or even taking a vacation.

C) Feel More Fulfilled at Work

Last (but certainly not least), setting and achieving your sales objectives boosts your confidence, teaches you self-management, and increases your proficiency on the job.

All these perks allow for faster upward mobility which often leads to greater satisfaction.

Don’t forget—achieving sales goals is often directly connected to bonuses and raises. And as we all know, compensation has a huge effect on overall job satisfaction.

The Setting Sales Goals Framework

Now that we’re agreed on why setting sales goals is so important, let’s jump into the how of it all.

How do you set sales objectives? Is there a sales goals template you can use? What do I need to do to set me up for success this year?

I developed The Setting Sales Goals Framework to answer these questions (and more).

With this framework, you can evaluate your priorities, identify areas of improvement, establish impactful goals, and set yourself up for your best year yet.

Plus, it’s made up of just eight simple steps.

  1. What Did I Achieve Last Year?
  2. What Were My Biggest Disappointments Last Year?
  3. What Did I Learn Last Year?
  4. How Do I Limit Myself & How Can I Stop?
  5. What Roles Do I Play in My Life?
  6. Which One of These Roles Is My Major Focus for Next Year?
  7. What Are My Goals for Each Role?
  8. What Are My Top 3 Goals for Next Year?

1. What Did I Achieve Last Year?

The process starts with an act hated with a passion by some and absolutely adored by others—bragging.

If you achieved something this year, you can do the same this year too.

What were your finest moments over the past 12 months? When did you feel unabashedly proud? Or when did you receive praise from a supervisor, coworker, friend, or partner?

Start with your professional accomplishments like if you hit your revenue targets and sales activities. But don’t stop there. Reach into your family and social life too.

Here are a few questions to get your accomplishment juices flowing.

  • Did you hit your sales target? Did you get closer than you have done in the past?
  • Did you move house? Did you decorate or repair your current home?
  • Did you start a new sales job or get a promotion? How much money did you earn in the last year? Did you pay off a debt?
  • Did you get married? Have a child? Did you get through a rough family patch?
  • Did you finally start to get fit? Are you exercising more than the previous year? Did you start to treat yourself to more enjoyable things? Did you read more books? See more friends?
Celebrate Your Accomplishments

You should force yourself to celebrate the wins no matter how small they seem.

There are two reasons for this.

First, you’re essentially rewiring your brain to associate completing goals with good feelings. When we skip the celebration phase of the productivity cycle, our brains get wired to associate completing a task with simply starting the next one.

There’s no reward here. And that’s going to make it harder to stay motivated and care about actually achieving your goal.

Added to that, this stage of the framework helps you balance your perception of yourself. You’re pulling up the celebrations that have been forgotten and weighing them against the losses in the next step.

The cool thing is that often when people go through this part of the worksheet, they find that they are doing far better than they thought they were.

Setting Sales Goals Pro Tip: Start a wins journal. Any time you get a compliment, a slap on the back, a “Great work!” or any other indication that you accomplished something important, write it down. Doing so helps you identify wins more easily and makes this first step much easier.

“One of my favorite things that I recommend to my clients is to create a journal. Call it your wins journal. So every time you have a win, small, medium, or large, write it down. Like, “Woohoo, celebrate! Today I talked with John DOE at Google, and he’s always super excited about bringing our stuff into his company.” Write that down. So when you do get caught in these anxious moments, go back to your wins journal, like, “Oh yeah, that happened. That was real.” Remind yourself that you are good at what you do. You are enough, you’ve got this. – Interview with Michele Molitor, Coach, Hypnotist, & Imposter Syndrome Expert

2. What Were My Biggest Disappointments Last Year? 

Next up is the opposite of the last step.

When did you feel like your abilities fell short of your expectations? When did you not stack up? And when did you miss the mark?

Writing out your disappointments shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. There is actually a lot of value in documenting your disappointments. For instance, it can be quite cathartic. I personally have always felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders every time I write down what went wrong rather than trying to pretend it didn’t happen.

Did you fail to hit your stretch goal? Did you make less sales calls than you planned? Did your last monthly sales goal right down the crapper?

Most people are more comfortable with their failures than their successes, and so they tend to keep them around, like cozy old friends. But when we hold onto our disappointments and don’t celebrate our wins, our self-perception becomes unbalanced.

Instead, you need to accept that your failures are a reflection of who you were a year ago. They are not reflective of what you’re capable of right now or what you’re going to be capable of six months from now.

Think of it as a garden. Pointing out our disappointments is like weeding the soil we’ve planted our seeds of achievement in, giving them the environment they need to grow.

Document Your Disappointments Too

Just as you started a wins journal in the last step, it’s important you document your disappointments as well.

Here are some questions ask yourself to get you thinking about any downsides of the past 12 months.

  • You didn’t hit your sales target, or you didn’t get the bonus you wanted
  • Your debt got bigger rather than smaller
  • You didn’t find that man or woman you wanted to bring into your life
  • Your dreams didn’t come through
  • Expectations were not fulfilled
  • You lost someone close to you
  • Your clothes are fitting a little tighter, but you’ve not gained any muscle
  • You were hoping to go on an awesome holiday away, but things didn’t work out
  • You wanted more time to yourself, but it didn’t happen

Write them down throughout the year and come back to them once it’s time to set new goals.

Setting Sales Goals Pro Tip: Be honest with yourself. Nothing good comes from sugarcoating the past. If you lie to yourself about your disappointments, you’re preventing yourself from avoiding those disappointments in the future and becoming a better, more successful sales rep.

“What I teach people is, just change one word around, from the prospect to I. How could I have made them believe that they were ready to buy? How could I have made them understand the price was right? How could I have made sure that they had everybody there? If you can change that one word and put the onus on yourself, you’re going to learn from your failures, and those failures are going to start to diminish.” – Interview with Harvey J. Eisenstadt, Trainer, Speaker, Mentor, & Author

3. What Did I Learn Last Year? 

Now is the time when you put the two previous steps together.

You achieved some spectacular wins. You ran into some unexpected disappointments. So, what did you learn from each?

What was the secret to your successes? What worked and what didn’t? And why were you able to achieve what you did and what caused you to fail when you did?

Take the time to move through both your wins and disappointments journals and find the lessons in each. And then, ask yourself these questions about those lessons:

  • What would’ve worked better?
  • What was the lesson I should have learned?
  • Have I actually learned this lesson yet?
  • Is there any evidence to prove that I learned it? What is the evidence?

Answering these questions gives you an opportunity to take on bigger challenges. If something failed last year, your answers to these questions give you an opportunity to learn what you can do differently next time to increase your chance of success.

Asking the REAL Questions

Struggling to find the lessons? Ask yourself these questions to tickle your brain a bit.

  • What do I need to change in the way I operate to have success faster?
  • Do I need more discipline?
  • Have I been honest with myself and others?
  • Am I taking care of myself as well as I need to be?
  • Do I face problems head-on, or do I put my head in the sand?
  • Do I let other people support me, or do I avoid getting feedback and help?
  • Do I support other people as much as I should?
  • Do I need to be more proactive in chasing my goals?
  • Do I need to say no more often and focus on what really matters?

As you learn from previous mistakes, you reduce the chances that failure happens again. And you also increase the chances of good events happening.

When you do that, you are changing the climate that you’re growing your seeds of success in. You’re increasing the amount of sunshine and rain. And you’re reducing the frost and pests killing your plants.

You’re cultivating success in your life.

Setting Sales Goals Pro Tip: It’s vital that you learn to find a lesson in EVERY failure. That’s why it’s so important to jot down your disappointments over the past year. And that’s why this step is so important for setting sales goals that lead you to professional success. 

“I don’t care if you’re buying something or selling something. The easiest thing to do is give up and walk away. But if you can keep learning a lesson, asking why, wondering why, go back to your team, regroup with them and decide how to be bigger and better and stronger together; it’s a formality that the byproduct is success.” – Interview with Derek Daly, Author & Motor Racing Legend

4. How Do I Limit Myself & How Can I Stop?

We are often our own worst enemy. And in many cases, the things that are holding us back the most are things we do to ourselves.

This crucial step of The Setting Sales Goals Framework is meant to help you identify where these self-imposed roadblocks are. Because once you do, only then can you overcome them.

Ask yourself these four questions to uncover your own limiting beliefs and behaviors.

How Do I Limit Myself?

You may come up with tons of different reasons here. And I want you to make note of every single one of them.

For instance, you may think:

  • I don’t plan and think ahead
  • I’m lazy
  • I believe what other people say about me
  • I don’t stand up for myself when my customers push me around
  • I don’t follow through on what I say I’m going to do
  • I spend more than I make
  • I don’t ask for what I want

Write them all down here.

What Has It Cost Me to Do So?

Next, analyze what each of those limits is costing you.

This step of the process immediately throws everything into perspective. And as a result, you’ll soon be able to identify that 20% of the issues once removed will give you 80% of all the benefits.

In What Ways Have I Benefited from Limiting Myself?

What are the upsides of limiting yourself?

Don’t be fooled here. There are always perks to limiting ourselves. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

Some of the benefits you come up with may be:

  • Living an easier life
  • Avoiding having too much expected of you
  • Living in ignorance and not having to face up to your issues
  • Increasing the chance that people approve of you
  • Having something to blame everything that goes wrong on
  • Having the excuse that you could “do better if you really tried” when things do go wrong
If I Knew How, Would I Be Willing to Stop Limiting Myself?

The final step is to ask yourself, “Am I willing to stop limiting myself in these ways?”

I don’t want you to worry about whether you think you’re going to be able to stop limiting yourself. Instead, ask yourself – “If I knew how, would I be willing to stop limiting myself in this area?”

If the answer is yes, then this should be a goal of yours moving forward.

Setting Sales Goals Pro Tip: Adopt an abundance mindset. An abundance mindset lets you see the vast potential in the world rather than being held down by scarcity and fear. And that means you can set better, more ambitious sales goals for yourself. 

“We have abundance on this planet. The only limitations that are set, are set ourselves in what we believe we’re able to achieve in a world full of abundance. Literally when you open your mind to that understanding, then why wouldn’t you want to go out there and get every single thing you can. Because you know everything you could ever want and more is right here in one place. And it’s nothing new. It’s just a matter of you getting your hands on as much of it as possible.” – Interview with Ryan Stewman, Sales Coach & Business Consultant

5. What Roles Do I Play In My Life?

Next up, it’s time to define your roles. And not just your roles at work. But all of your roles in life.

Answering the question of “what roles do I play in my life?” allows you to get an overall view of all the aspects and responsibilities in your life. And doing so sets you up to identify which roles you want to focus on in the year ahead.

There are three benefits to identifying your roles.

1: It Provides Direction

Identifying your various roles lets you see how you’re being pulled in different directions.

For instance, I think of my roles as a salesperson, entrepreneur, Brazilian jujitsu competitor, partner to my girlfriend, and a member of the Baron family. Spending a lot of time at the gym, training, and competing in Brazilian jujitsu can be fulfilling. But the reality is that it’s pulling me away from my financial goals as a salesperson.

As you can see here, some goals in certain roles may work in tandem while others will pull away from each other.

2. It Generates Balance

On the flip-side of that, if I spent all of my time in the role of salesperson and entrepreneur, what would be the point?

Sure, I love selling, sure I love building the business. But they are just a vehicle to affording to do everything else I want to do in my life, which includes being a great partner and family member. It is very easy to spend too much time and attention on one area of your life and not enough time where it really matters.

3. It Gives Role Dichotomy

You can hold multiple roles in your life. And you can act differently within those roles. This is called role dichotomy.

For instance, I can’t take the aggressive version of me from a Brazilian jujitsu competition onto a sales call. If I do, I won’t close any deals. But I can dial back that part of me and tap into my emotional intelligence and calmness when I’m in my sales role.

Setting Sales Goals Pro Tip: You can’t just have one role. No one is just a salesperson, a parent, or a partner. We all play different roles in our lives. So be sure you’re really digging deep to find which ones you play. 

“We can’t be workaholics, no extreme is good. So we want to be able to relax, recharge, have fun. Therefore, finding time to be inspired and do things you love has again, positive domino knock-on effects to the rest of your life as does having lots of energy because your health is good, having healthy relationships at home and in your family.” – Interview with Matt Anderson, Author, Coach, & Speaker

6. Which One of These Roles Is My Major Focus For Next Year? 

Now it’s time to pick out which of your roles you’d like to focus on.

Of course, I would like you to prioritize your sales career as your main focus over the next 12 months. But the reality is you may have other things that are more pressing right now.

And that’s fine. As long as your sales role is at least second on your list of priorities, you’re still going to be able to crush your sales target. In fact, if you are for example, massively obese, fixing the role of being healthy and being there for your family will also have a massive effect on your sales performance too as you lose weight and get in shape.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out which role to choose, ask yourself these questions:

  • If you could put one problem behind you, once and for all, what would it be? Which role does that relate to?
  • In which role do I want to not just make progress, but get to the end game of?
  • Which role has the biggest impact on my overall happiness right now?
  • Which aspect of my life is the biggest drain on my energy and willingness to take risks? Which role does this fall under?
Understand the Zigzag Trap

So, why do you need to focus things down at all? Can’t you just work on achieving all your goals at once?
The answer here is no.

Remember the old saying, “If you don’t make sacrifices to achieve your goals, then your goals themselves become the sacrifice.”

Imagine that you have two major roles in your life, and each one of these roles is an island with lots of treasure on it. You start off the year, right in between the two islands treading water.

Now, you can only swim in one direction or the other, towards one island or the other one. What most people do is zigzag between the two islands for decades on end and never make any real progress toward achievement in either role.

But the most focused and successful individuals understand this trap. So they swim over to one island, collect the treasure, and then swim back to the other island and collect the treasure there as well.

When you’re focused on one main role at a time, you become far more efficient in your goal achievement.

Setting Sales Goals Pro Tip: The multitasking myth applies to larger goals, not just daily work. There’s been plenty of research that the most successful people don’t multitask. Instead, they focus on a single objective. Apply that same logic to your goals. 

“It’s basically been proven that multitasking is a myth. So stop it. Do one thing at a time. And I think that it’s very useful to have a practice where you figure out, okay, what do I need to get done today, what are the most important priorities, and then just do them one at a time.” – Interview with Scott Ingram, Founder of Sales Success Media

7. What Are My Goals for Each Role? 

This is where things start to get serious.

Now we’re going to put together goals for each role. What do you want to accomplish as a sales rep that you couldn’t last year? How would you like to improve your family life? What do you need to do to feel more in control of what you’re accomplishing socially?

Try to come up with five to ten goals for each role. And ask yourself the following questions about each goal along the way to make sure it’s the right goal for you.

  • If I accept this challenge, will I make sure it happens?
  • Am I hoping I will achieve this, or is it actually possible to achieve it?
  • Is the goal specific and measurable?
  • Does this goal match my values?
  • Are you willing to be responsible for achieving this goal no matter what?

That last question is incredibly important. Because if you’re not willing to do whatever you need to achieve the goal, you’re not going to be responsible for achieving it. And as a result, it will never happen.

For all of your goals, no matter what the role, you must feel motivated to give it your best shot. Otherwise, just scribble it out and replace it with a few more potential ones.

SMART Sales Goals Defined

It’s essential that your goals are as specific as possible. And setting SMART sales goals is the best way to ensure your goals meet those requirements.

So be sure your goals are SMART:

  • Specific – What exactly does achieving your goal look like?
  • Measurable – What are the quantifiable metrics you need to meet or fulfill?
  • Achievable – Is this even possible (be honest)?
  • Relevant – Is it even important compared to my role and my other goals?
  • Time-Bound – When exactly does it need to be achieved by?

Setting Sales Goals Pro Tip: When choosing goals, listen to your heart. Cheesy as all hell, I know. But when you choose goals that are connected to your emotions, you’re 10X more likely to have the motivation you need to follow through. 

“This is why goal setting isn’t very effective for most people, it doesn’t get us to change action, it’s our emotion that gets to change action.” – Interview with Matt Anderson, Author, Coach, & Speaker

8. What Are My Top Goals for Next Year? 

Finally, it’s time to narrow down your goals. At this point in the framework, I typically have about 20 or 30 goals total, spread out across my different roles. But then I have to pick out the top five I think are going to be the most impactful.

One reason we narrow things down here is that you just can’t focus on achieving 20 to 30 goals at a time. Remember the zigzag trap? When you split your attention among so many goals, you’re setting yourself up to not achieve any of them.

But another reason we’re narrowing things down is there are often going to be larger goals that cancel out the small ones. For instance, if I want to build up an emergency fund, buy a new car, start investing, and earn a million dollars next year, the million dollars goal will make the other three irrelevant.

See how that works?

The 3-Part Test

So, how do you narrow your goals down? Well, there’s a handy little three-part test I like to use that does wonders.

When evaluating your goals, think:

  1. Do your goals fit your major role focus? Do they all (in one way or another) support that role?
  2. Do they fit with each other? Or are they pulling you in opposite directions? If so, you’re never going to be able to achieve both.
  3. Does each of your roles have a goal? Frontloading one or two roles with all your goals is a surefire path to burnout. But spreading your goals across roles will keep you focused.

After you’ve narrowed down your goals into four or five, you’ve done all the hard work! Now, it’s up to you to stick with them.

Setting Sales Goals Pro Tip: Focus on getting maximum benefit. What you’re looking for are goals that have an unequal upside. That means you can put a 60% effort into it and get out a 95% benefit. They’re the “easier” wins. 

“For people who want to achieve extraordinary results right now, it’s actually not about working longer hours. It’s actually about being clear on what are the 20% priorities or activities that if I focus on those things, that drives 80% of my results. How do I start investing my time throughout the day instead of spending it.” – Interview with Geoff Woods, Co-Founder & President of ProduKtive

Wrapping Up

Setting sales goals is one of the most important sales success skills. In relatively little time and for not much effort, you can implement the eight steps in The Setting Sales Goals Framework to plan out strategic, effective goals for the whole year.

All you need to do is:

  1. What Did I Achieve Last Year?
  2. What Were My Biggest Disappointments Last Year?
  3. What Did I Learn Last Year?
  4. How Do I Limit Myself & How Can I Stop?
  5. What Roles Do I Play in My Life?
  6. Which One of These Roles Is My Major Focus for Next Year?
  7. What Are My Goals for Each Role?
  8. What Are My Top 3 Goals for Next Year?

Running through this process alone will make an incredible difference in your life. You’re going to feel more motivated, focused, and driven to succeed. And best of all, you’ll have a clear, achievable path to success, both personally and professionally.

So now that you know how to set them, your first goal is simple… just get started.

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