SMART Goals - Outsource sales director


SMART goals are a popular method for setting and achieving objectives in both personal and professional settings. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, and it is a framework that helps to ensure that goals are clear, realistic, and attainable. 

When it comes to sales, sales management, targets, KPIs and marrying commissions and bonus payments to target, it’s important that the goals we set are indeed SMART goals – otherwise we may find ourselves with disheartened salespeople, disillusioned sales managers and disappointed owners, directors and shareholders.

Here's a closer look at each of the five components of SMART goals and how they can be  used to set and achieve objectives:

1. Specific:

A specific goal is one that is clearly defined and easy to understand. It should answer the questions of who, what, where, when, why, and how.

For example, “I want to increase sales by 20% in the next six months,” is a specific goal, while “I want to make more money” is not. Taking Achievable into consideration is really important here, because there is no point in setting a goal or target of a 20% increase in sales if the average increase over the past 3 years was between 5% and 8% for example; and the company has never in its history achieved 20% growth on a previous year. That’s not to say it cannot be done, but you’re definitely going to need a sales expert to assist and train you/your team.

2. Measurable:

A measurable goal is one that can be quantified and tracked. This means that it should have specific, numerical targets that can be used to measure progress and determine if the goal has been achieved.

For example, “I want to increase sales by 20% in the next six months” is measurable because it has a specific target of 20% and also a time-frame (i.e. Time-Bound). After 6 months we can review the results and “measure” how close we are to achieving the sales goal(s) we set.

3. Achievable:

An achievable goal is one that is realistic and attainable given the resources and constraints of the situation. It should stretch the individual or team, but still be within reach.

For example, “I want to increase sales by 20% in the next six months” is achievable if the company has the resources, market conditions and a good sales plan to support it. However, if the growth the previous year was single digits and the marketing and advertising budget has been slashed for the year ahead, then the likelihood of hitting a 20% increase is slim at best, and you can expect the team to become demotivated as the year progresses and it becomes apparent that 20% is far too big an ask. This can really shine a light on management in a company and if they are seen to be disconnected from the reality of what’s happening with sales and marketing.

4. Relevant:

A relevant goal is one that is aligned with the overall mission and objectives of the organisation. It should be important and worthwhile to the individual or team, and should contribute to the overall success of the organisation. 

For example, “I want to increase sales by 20% in the next six months” is relevant if the company’s objective is to increase revenue. 

An example where this was NOT the case was where the company was actually looking to be acquired, and the board of directors had actually agreed to start streamlining the business and cutting costs. Nobody told the sales manager who set unrealistic growth targets for his team and couldn’t understand why marketing was spending so little on advertising. The result was actually a minus growth figure for that particular year and contradictory to what the board of directors were hoping to achieve, because they forgot to factor in the need to communicate something to the team on the sales and marketing side of the business. It was obvious to the staff that something was afoot – they watched colleagues exit the company without being replaced and noticed budgets being slashed across the board –  but unfortunately the lack of communication had a very negative effect and the result was negative growth that year.

5. Time-Bound:

A time-bound goal is one that has a specific deadline for completion. This helps to create a sense of urgency, strategic planning and ensures that progress is being made towards achieving the goal.

For example, “I want to increase sales by 20% in the next six months” is time-bound as it has a specific deadline of six months. Always try to “chunk” your goals down into smaller bite-sized timeframes. In other words, if your goal is to increase sales by 20% for the year, then it shouldn’t take until month 9 or 10 for you to realise you’re not going to hit it. Break it down into quarters and then into months. If you’re behind in a single month you can always claw it back in month, in which case you’ll have a far better idea of how much you’re falling short. If you are then behind in the 2nd month, there is an opportunity to reassess and reevaluate the goal/target and thus improve on your strategies to increase sales. See point 3 – is the goal ACHIEVABLE?

In summary, setting SMART goals is important in a variety of ways. 

First, make sure you set SMART goals to help ensure that goals are clear and specific, which makes it easier to plan and take action. 

Second, always set your SMART goals as measurable, which allows for progress to be tracked and evaluated. 

Third, set all SMART goals based on achievable targets, which increases the chances of success. 

Fourth, ensure that your SMART goals are relevant, to maintain alignment with the overall mission and objectives of the organisation. 

And lastly, there is no point in setting goals unless they are time-bound. SMART goals that are time-bound create a sense of urgency and promote progress. This approach also allows for regular re-evaluation and adjustments as needed.

In the same way, SMART goals can also be used to evaluate the performance of teams, as well as individuals. They don’t just apply to sales either. Marketing and advertising should be measured by the results they achieve and should be measured against targets or SMART goals. 

Operations and support teams can set goals for things like response times and resolving problems; while finance teams can set SMART goals for reducing costs, increasing margins and collecting cash more quickly and efficiently.

Measuring progress against specific, quantifiable objectives provides managers with valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of their teams, allowing them to pinpoint areas for improvement. By doing so, teams can improve their performance and the organisation has a higher chance of achieving its goals.

It is crucial to remember that SMART goals are an ongoing process, not a one-time event. The most effective way to reach these goals is by regularly reviewing and adjusting them, taking into account progress and changes within the market and the organization. This approach ensures that the goals remain aligned with the overall mission and objectives of the company and that the resources and plan are still suitable.

Don’t just set goals, set SMART goals!

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