The goal of any sales organization is, ultimately, to increase revenue.
Which means the goal of any effective sales leader is to inspire and motivate their sales team to hit, or exceed, their revenue targets.
However, a results-obsessed environment can quickly become unhealthy, particularly if your team feels the pressure to hit a certain number by any means possible.
Creating a healthy, effective goal-driven sales environment is vital for long-term success and employee satisfaction. Here, I spoke with four sales leaders to learn the five components for creating and maintaining a goal-driven sales environment.
But first — what is a goal driven sales environment?
What is a goal driven sales environment?
A goal driven sales environment is an environment in which all aspects of your sales process are optimized and focused on helping your team hit its goals.
Once your organization is clear on what your goals are, it will be much easier to lead an effective sales team.
Goal driven sales is different from simply requiring your sales team to hit certain numbers.
Instead, goal driven sales requires you to bake your goals into every step of your sales playbook — so that each activity your sales reps conduct, from phone calls to meetings to closing deals, aligns with your larger organizational goals.
Keep in mind, goals can be quantitative or qualitative, which is one of the distinguishing factors of an effective goal driven environment. For instance, perhaps your team's goals include increasing brand loyalty, reducing customer churn, and creating a more positive customer experience.
So … why is it important to create a goal driven sales environment?
Among other benefits, a goal driven sales environment can create more inherent motivation and meaning for your sales reps by providing them with tangible, fulfilling goals that drive their daily decisions.
A goal driven sales environment also enables you to provide your reps with more autonomy. Your goals will act as a guiding light for all reps, and regardless of how their individual sales tactics differ, you can trust that your goals will provide your reps with a clear endpoint at which to aim.
What does it mean to have experience working in a goal driven sales environment?
If a hiring manager asks you if you've had experience working in a goal driven sales environment, they want to know that you know how to work efficiently towards a common goal with others in a sales organization, and that you understand the importance and value of goal-setting.
Experience working in a goal driven environment means that you've followed a specific, goal-driven sales strategy in a previous sales role. For instance, rather than working in a sales role in which your only target was to "make six to eight cold calls each day", you instead worked in a sales role in which you were given high-level goals from leadership, and followed a specific, goals-driven sales plan to make it happen.
One example of working in a goal driven sales environment would be if your team has been tasked with increasing month-over-month revenue by 10%. With this goal in mind, your sales manager then increased the number of demos each sales rep needed to arrange in a weekly period, as well as how many scheduled meetings each rep needed to make to achieve this goal.
Making six to eight cold calls each day isn't the primary focus in a goal driven sales environment — it's a recommended strategy to achieve a goal. The goal is to increase revenue.
If a hiring manager asks you if you've worked in a goal driven sales environment, she's hoping to learn whether you have experience working towards a shared team goal, and whether you understand the importance of your role for the larger company mission.
People who feel purposeful in their roles are typically more engaged in the office, which is why it's helpful for hiring managers to get a sense for your past experience working in a sales organization that prioritized company goals as part of their strategy.
How to Gain Goal Driven Sales Environment Experience
There are a few options for gaining goal driven sales environment experience.
The first, of course, is to work within an organization that prioritizes goals throughout every stage of the sales process, and actively works to create an effective goal-driven environment.
If you're unsure whether the company for which you're applying has a goal driven approach, you might ask certain key questions during the interview process, such as: "How is success measured here?", and "Are your sales reps included in the goal-setting process?"
Next, let's explore four sales leaders' tips for creating a healthy goal driven sales environment.
Sales Leaders' Tips for Creating a Healthy Goal Driven Sales Environment
1. Set goals for sales reps regarding how well they follow your sales process, rather than how well they hit certain numbers.
Damon Jones, Sandler's Head of Global Strategy and Growth, says that healthy goal-driven sales environments focus on the leading behaviors of success — not solely on results.
"Often, sales revenue is a severely lagging indicator based on the length of your sales cycle," Jones says.
"If your sales cycle is 30-90 days long, then the sales you will get this quarter are a result of your team's behavior last quarter. That's why it's so critical to motivate, inspire, and coach your team — not focus all of your attention on the sales numbers."
Creating an effective goal-driven sales culture, then, is only possible if you take the time to consider which behaviors you want to instill in your team.
Jones told me he would encourage sales leaders to create both a playbook and a cookbook for their sales teams to follow.
As he puts it, "At Sandler, we use the concept of the cookbook to describe the ingredients, actions, energy, and timing necessary for sales success. Imagine a world where your entire team followed a recipe you created with them. This cookbook would include how much outreach they need to do, including discovery calls, presentations, and opportunities closed won or lost."
Jones continues, "The second part of the plan is the sales playbook. It is a collection of best practices, talk tracks, and strategies that your team can leverage. By setting goals for what the ideal call, pitch, or meeting should look and sound like, you give them a role model. You can then coach them towards that ideal."
Once you've built a strong process for your sales team to follow, you don't need to just create goals around specific numbers — instead, you'll want to set goals regarding how well they follow the sales process or implement pre-identified behaviors.
Jones says, "When you build a behavioral plan and follow it, you can be sure you'll hit your sales goals at the end of the quarter."
2. Include your sales reps in the goal-setting process.
Sandeep Gaur, a Sales Manager at JustCall, believes it's vital to include your sales reps in your goal-setting processes if you want to create an effective sales environment.
As Gaur puts it, "To create a healthy sales environment, you must create these goals with your team, not for your team. When you involve them in the goal-setting process, you are giving them a chance to give their time-honed insights."
"This will make them feel empowered and valued. Your sales team is closest to your customers, so it's essential to get buy-in from them and double check feasibility when establishing these goals."
Gaur told me it's equally important that sales leaders focus on improving things they have control over (i.e. input metrics), rather than obsessing over what they can't (i.e. output metrics, like conversion rates).
He told me the following five metrics are the ones that matter most to ensure you're meeting your quotas:
- Cold leads approached (number of emails sent, cold calls done, demos booked)
- Time spent selling (measured using call times of sales calls)
- Lead response times (speed of reaching out to inbound leads)
- Number of follow-ups (how many cadences have you deployed per lead?)
- Average time spent per call (quality of conversations)
Gaur says, "Setting sales targets is essential to any organization. However, these targets are taken with a pinch of salt if they don't have a strong basis on what's achievable. Smart sales teams can use outbound contact center software and call analytics to measure the input metrics that matter."
3. Inspire your team by focusing on larger, company-level goals.
It can be easy to assume goal-driven sales is synonymous with quota-focused sales — but it shouldn't be.
As Justine Lyon, Vice President of Sales at Ally.io, a Microsoft Company, told me, "It is extremely easy to only focus on the numbers. A healthy sales organization, however, empowers you to focus on projects that impact the larger company-level goals, and treats you as more than a number. Once your team knows how their individual efforts make an impact on company-wide goals, that's when you light a fire under people."
"Being part of a sales organization that is passionate about where the company might be in one, three, or five years into the future is rare. Typically, salespeople are solely focused on hitting their quota and are 'only as good as their last quarter.' At Ally.io, I don't see that because we have OKRs that are bigger than hitting quotas."
"Being in an environment where your ICs are asking “How would a company that is valued at $1B be acting?” is incredible. This is the culture you build when your team is focused on the bigger picture. You are suddenly focused on strategy execution, versus just getting to the next commission tier."
4. Align company projects with key results.
Justine Lyon told me another key to success for sales leaders is to go one layer deeper than OKRs.
She says, "You need to get down to the project level. Projects are the 'how' behind reaching your objectives. When you have teams working on projects in groups (ideally cross-functionally), you suddenly are all tackling the same problem. You are organized, calculated, and meet new realities."
Lyon adds, "By aligning projects to key results, your teams are focused on outcomes, instead of outputs. This is rare for sales organizations and makes all the difference."
For instance, if your company is launching a new product feature, perhaps your sales team will partner with the product marketing team to align on messaging, share resources, and align on goals and challenges as they relate to the new feature.
Over time, your sales team can iterate on their sales strategies depending on performance, and can leverage the product marketing team's insights to figure out key selling points for the new feature.
5. Provide clarity, and foster a human-centric organization.
Good leadership starts with clarity and transparency.
For instance, if you decide to change your sales metrics in 2022, you'll want to be open and clear about what the new goals are, as well as which resources could be useful for your team to leverage as they work towards those new goals.
The more precise and direct you can be, the better. Your team shouldn't have any confusion over where you stand or what you expect from them.
As Typeform's Senior Vice President of Sales & Success Steven Brody told me, "Having spent the first part of my career in Army Special Operations, we had a mantra that I believe translates to sales: 'Mission first. People always.' Implicit in that saying is the fact that you need to provide clarity."
Brody adds, "As a sales leader, ask yourself, does your team actually know the mission? Is it clearly understood? Did people join the organization to rally around that mission? Do the key goals and metrics for success align with that mission? Is the team prioritizing their time in a way that best serves the mission?"
Additionally, it's vital you put your employees' well-being above all else. If your employees don't feel they're treated well, they won't be able to give you their best.
As Brody puts it, "The second part is equally important: People always. At the end of the day, whether or not your team is mission-driven, they're still people. In today's world, if your goals aren't thoughtful or human-centric – meaning if they force people to waste time and toil with low-value, rote, repetitive work – you likely have the wrong KPIs in place."
And there you have it. You're well on your way to creating a healthier, more effective goal driven sales environment. Remember: The more you focus on meaningful goals over quotas, the more fulfilled and inspired your sales team will feel for the long-run.