How to Set Great Sales Goals That Bring Double Digit Growth

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Every self-help book, motivational seminar and sales management training weekend hammers the idea of setting goals into us.

The reason for this is that setting a solid goal adds tremendous power to your efforts. But we’re not here to persuade you to set sales goals. You’ve come to understand that yourself.

Instead, we are going to focus on how to set the right sales goals – those that will help you manage your sales pipeline in a way that will help you achieve double-digit growth in your sales results.


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Here’s the thing – there are good and bad goals

Setting proper goals is difficult. Did you know that more than 80% of companies set the wrong kinds of goals – goals you can’t possibly meet – for their sales staff?

In a recent study, it was shown that setting results-oriented goals made achieving these goals nearly impossible.

Think about it: If a sales manager could directly manage revenue, every salesperson in the world would be filling their bathtubs with Benjamins and gold. The only thing I saw the last time I looked in my bathtub was a soap ring.

The reality is that we can’t control results – we can only manage our own actions.

The good news? You can achieve astounding sales results by setting activity goals. In fact, the results that come out of carefully planned and managed activities can far exceed any results-oriented goal you may have set in the past.

Pipedrive Guide How To Set Sales Goals

Venn diagram about sales goals

What activity goals are – a personal example

Imagine a bookseller who sets a goal to sell $1,000 in books each day. What if he sold nothing after talking to 17 people? And worse, what if prospect No. 17 happened to be a very harsh rejection? It would surely get you down and make it harder to keep going.

Take it from us, before we founded Pipedrive, we got our start in sales in exactly this way – selling books door to door and dealing with harsh rejections.

Now what if the same bookseller had an activity goal of talking to 20 prospects each day? Taking your focus off the $1,000 result-goal and shifting it on the activity goal meant that even if 17 were to say no, it wouldn’t matter – he would have three prospects left to talk to.

An example from the deep end

When you take your focus off results and put it on activities, you start feeling better, and become more effective in achieving your goals. Take Michael Phelps; at the moment he dives into the pool, his mind is not on the Olympic medal at the other end – albeit he’s won 22, including 18 gold.

Olympic Swimming Pool

Olympic pool with goals

While the medal is the motivation that gets him back into the pool day in, day out, it’s not what’s on his mind when hears the starting pistol go off. Instead, his focus is on getting every move right – exactly like he’s done a thousand times before. If he gets every move right, the gold will be within his reach.

Leading to the ultimate point of …

You get results by focusing on the things you can do, not the things you can’t do anything about.

A simple truth of sales – everyone with whom you start a sales conversation will not end up buying. It’s a matter of putting the right number of conversations into the front end of your pipeline, and managing them along the way to ensure the right number of closed deals come at the end.

It’s not that you never think about your desired results; it’s just that you don’t let them monopolize your focus.

How to get into the habit of setting great sales goals

Before you can start setting great sales goals, you’ll need to work out some numbers. Chances are you already know them pretty well, but if not, here are the two things you’ll need to do:

  1. Calculate your sales conversion rate by dividing the number of won deals with the number of initiated deals. For example, if you make 50 calls to different people or companies, work on those and make two sales, then your close ratio is 4% (2/50=0.04).
  2. Calculate how many calls, emails or meetings you need to make your current conversion rate work. With a 4% close rate, it takes 25 calls to have one sale and 50 calls for two sales.

If these calculations lead you to find a discrepancy with real life, it may be that you aren’t putting enough people into the front of your pipeline. It could also be that your conversion rate is too low.

How to go about applying these numbers

So instead of worrying about a specific result, set an activity goal to initiate 25 new conversations and make four demos every day, for example. You don’t know which of the 25 people in your sales pipeline will end up converting into a sale, but you do know that if you do everything right, one prospects will end up as “won.”

Your goal is to focus on making a powerful and effective presentation to each and every prospect, instead of worrying about what may or may not happen with the conversion.

Setting solid activity goals will build your confidence and reduce the sting of rejection. When you take your focus off of what might happen and put it on the activities that you can do, you’ll find yourself exceeding any expectation of results you could ever have hoped for.

To put activity goals in action, you need to…

  1. Count the average number of your key activities including meetings, emails, follow-up calls, new conversations initiated per week, or per day, etc. Remember, you made 50 calls. With a 4% close rate, it takes 25 calls to have one sale.
  2. Set yourself daily and weekly activity goals based on how you’re doing compared to your current business and revenue results. You can use the Sales Pipeline Calculator for this. So if you want to achieve five sales each week, you’ll need to set yourself an activity goal of 125 (=5×25) calls and then stop worrying about the result figure, because it will come in.

By increasing the number of conversations started even by a little bit, you’ll soon see the numbers adding up – and your desired results will start coming in.

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Timo Rein

CEO and Co-Founder of Pipedrive

  • Alex Dinkelmann

    `100% agreed. This mindset has been helping me tons in coping with the No’s we face at an early stage.

  • Jeanette Düster

    Very interesting point of view. I liked the analogy with the swimmer. This really makes the point clear.

  • Paul Wander

    Hi Timo,

    Good article.
    As a Pipedrive user, how can I set these kind of Activity goals in the tool itself?

  • James Westwood

    I really like these articles. They are really helpful to give my sales meetings a bit more substance! I just wish our organisation had chosen to Pipedrive instead of Netsuite as Pipedrive is MUCH easier to use and does exactly what the people in my sales team need! While Netsuite is powerful, it is not as nimble and intuitive as Pipedrive.
    Good luck to you guys in further developing your already excellent product.

  • Great Article and some wonderful tips on metrics and reporting. If it’s measured, it gets done!

  • Stephanie Castor

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  • Timo, excellent article. That’s what we often see on strategy maps – people have there result-oriented goals, but have no clue about activities that stand behind. A study that you mentioned about the result-oriented goals… do you have a link to the source?

  • Goal setting is super important. However, vague goals just won’t cut it. The more specific you are, the better.