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how to set sales goals for your business
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Updated 29 January 2024

How to set sales goals for your business

Having a winning idea can prove futile if it is also not financially sustainable at the same time. To understand whether your startup idea can work on both a theoretical and practical level you need to define your sales goals.

Let’s clarify right away what is meant by a sales goal: It is, essentially, the goal you set out to achieve with your startup. Setting your sales goals precisely is very important because being clear about them allows you to understand how you need to plan the resources needed to reach them and in which direction your sales team should move. Taking special care of this specific step, however, is also important for many other reasons, which you are about to discover in the next few lines.


Sales targets: why they are important

As just announced, there are several reasons why sales goals are so important. First, this step allows you to clearly know the margins of viability of your business idea.

Reflecting on your sales objective also allows you time and a way to more accurately analyze the markets in which your startup is operating, the competing companies and the target audience you are addressing.

There is, then, another reason that makes it important to set sales goals: as James Cash Penney said,

“having a long-term goal will prevent you from being bothered by your failures in the short term”.


How to set sales goals with the S.M.A.R.T. method

Sales targets must have very specific characteristics, and these characteristics are defined by the so-called S.M.A.R.T. method, an acronym that stands for “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Achievable”, “Relevant” and “Time-based”. You need to be well aware of what is meant by these five terms, not least because you will be forced to revise or scale back your business plan if your sales target fails to meet even one of the requirements.


SMART goals

SMART goals



A specific sales objective is one that can clarify without the possibility of any misunderstanding what you want to achieve, as well as how to do it and why. Remember that there are always multiple levels: specifying your sales objective more and more precisely makes it even more defined and tangible, as well as more easily understood by those who will be reading your business plan.



The sales objective must also be measurable, that is, it must be possible to express it in numerical terms so that it can be measured concretely. What is the point of measuring a goal is quickly said: it lets you know how far you are from achieving it and, if necessary, make appropriate adjustments to the strategy you have put in place to attain it.



There is another key characteristic that your sales objective must have: it must be achievable, that is, your startup must have the ability to reach it. It may sound trivial, but this aspect is what allows you to focus on your strengths and weaknesses. Remember: push yourself to the limit, but don’t ask you and your fellow adventurers for the impossible.



That the possibility exists to reach a particular sales goal, however, is not enough: there must also be an important reason for doing so. That is, that goal must also be relevant to your startup. This particular characteristic refers precisely to your goals: you should only pursue sales goals that are really important to you and your company.



That your sales goals are also time-based is crucial: you need to define a time sequence within which to move. This means not only deciding on a time frame within which you will achieve the sales goal you have set, but also identifying intermediate checkpoints that are useful for understanding whether you are proceeding in the right way and making any adjustments.


Sales goals: the importance of the business plan

Now that it is clearer to you what a sales objective is (and, more importantly, what it should look like), it is important for you to pause and think about the business plan, that is, that document that summarizes your business project and puts in black and white what your startup needs and the results it intends to achieve in a given period of time.

This is a fundamental document for a startup because it can be said to be what allows it to come to life, along with the business model. In addition to rationalizing the business idea by shedding light on the strengths and gaps to be filled, in fact, the business plan serves the funding plan, that is, to present the business to potential funders.

It will, therefore, now become even more obvious to you why it is necessary to set a sales goal that is specific, defined, tangible, as well as, above all, realistic, both for the sales team and for investors: your and your startup’s credibility and trustworthiness are at stake; therefore, show yourself aware of what you want and let this be an incentive for you and others, never give up your enthusiasm but be in no hurry to reach your sales goal.


How to achieve sales goals

To achieve sales goals, you need to empower the sales team to work at their best. Analyzing and keeping track of the sales process and customer journey, even with the help of specific management software, is very important.

Keep in mind that, even in the first few months of your startup’s operation, you have enough data to have a clearer idea of the direction your business can and should take in the medium and long term. One of the mistakes to avoid, for example, is hiring too early in the sales department: making data-driven decisions based on an analysis of new customers and the money they spend, the length of the sales cycle, unrealized sales, and the potential of the market in which you are operating allows you to avert this risk.

As mentioned earlier, setting a sales goal that is inspiring to the sales team is very important. As intriguing as the goal may be, however, remember that the money will probably always be more so. That is why it may be useful for you to provide an incentive and reward system for top-performing salespeople. Acquiring new customers is good, but what makes the difference is acquiring the right customers, that is, those who are most likely to stay attached to the brand and complete repeat purchases. Take this into account when devising your rewards system.

We have already stressed it: you should not be in a hurry to reach your sales goal, and you should not worry if the results do not come right away. Likewise, however, should things go well, you must not rest on your laurels. Test your results periodically and adapt them to the new contexts in which you will be operating.

The so-called OKR method enables you to adopt a good sales goal planning strategy and proceed to proper and effective measurement of results. The acronym OKR stands for “Objectives and Key Results“.
To adopt this method correctly, you need to analyze the terms just mentioned, because they represent its key elements: every company, startups included, has an overall sales goal that can be achieved in the long run, but from it other “smaller” goals can be derived, which set the course for following the “macro” goal. Measuring the key results of each goal lets you know if you are going in the right direction and, if necessary, correct your strategy as you go.

For the sales objective to be achieved, the key results must be:

  • consistent;
  • realistic;
  • specific;
  • measurable;
  • limited in number and time;
  • structured on different levels (from the individual to the team to the whole company).

To conclude the reflection on the OKR method, one more clarification should be made: the evaluation on the results achieved should not be understood from a punitive perspective with respect to the individual member of the sales team. On the contrary, the purpose of this method aimed at the correct attainment of the sales goal is for each person to come to set his or her own key results independently.

Nicola Zanetti

Founder B-PlanNow® | Startup mentor | Startup consulting & marketing strategist | Leading startup to scaleup | Private angel investor | Ecommerce Manager | Professional trainer | Book writer

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