The Idea

For sales team managers, setting objectives is one of the most important aspects of performance management. Unless your team has the right objectives, they cannot deliver exactly what the business needs at the right standard. But setting objectives can be a challenging process and it's one that newer managers, in particular, can struggle with. In this guide, we'll look at sales team objectives and the value of the SMART process.

What is the SMART process?

SMART is a management acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. The model is used widely across all types of business because it's incredibly intuitive, easy to use and practical. What's more, it provides the necessary rigour and focus that any kind of objective setting requires to be useful.

How to set SMART objectives

SMART is easy to apply and it guides managers through everything they need to factor in to make an objective viable for business value. To apply it, write down an objective and then apply the SMART test to see if your objective is ready to be put into action. For example:

  1. Specific - is the objective you propose sufficiently specific? This means asking the five 'w's' - who is involved, what do I want to achieve, where does it need to happen, when does it need to happen and why is it important? These questions round out the objective and specify it on every necessary level.
  2. Measurable - this is essential for it to have value to the business. For individuals to be assessed they also need to be measured against defined parameters. This requires objectivity and data, with parameters of success to show whether something has been achieved, not-achieved or over-achieved. The measurable criteria also tell us when we have achieved the goal - otherwise, there is no clear endpoint.
  3. Achievable - a goal or objective needs to be achievable, but with the necessary degree of stretch to make it challenging. This encourages employees to perform to their highest level, without becoming disheartened that their goals are simply unachievable.
  4. Realistic - goals or objectives must be realistic, in that they can be achieved within the time available, with the budget that has been allocated and with the resources that can be used. Essentially, are they within reach?
  5. Time-bound - can the objective realistically be achieved within the available time, so that the due date is possible?

Get this process right and you can become far more successful at setting goals for your team, and for yourself, that are clear and valuable, providing motivation, focus, a clear priority and a sense of direction.

How to measure objectives

There are plenty of different ways to measure business, team and individual goals. The business will often define the accepted approach as part of a broader management reporting framework. Managers will pick an appropriate measure that assesses progress and achievement. The desired endpoint might be a target or a threshold, for example. Typical measures could be:

  • Financial - such as profitability, costs, revenue, growth or cash flow.
  • Customer-centric - such as satisfaction, brand awareness, sales, churn or market share.
  • Internal - such as employee engagement, employee retention, company growth, change, productivity or inclusion
  • Regulatory - such as quality control, sustainability or compliance.
For sales departments, objectives may focus on sales metrics, but could also encompass other broader goals.

How to deal with objectives that are off-track

When a manager notices that a goal is off-track, his or her objective is to manage it back on track, within parameters of acceptability. These bands must be defined along with the ultimate desired goal. For example, many businesses use RAG (red, amber, green) to assess whether a particular goal is on-track, falling behind or ahead of the goal. These parameters of acceptability must be set as part of the objective definition, in order to be measured.

If an objective falls behind and is off-track, the manager must investigate the underlying reasons for the lack of achievement. This could be because:

  • A key team member has left the business
  • Something external has happened in the marketplace, such as an economic downturn, change in competition or adjustment in the technological landscape, for example (a PESTEL - political, environmental, social, technology, economic and legal analysis is useful here.)
  • A linked and enabling objective has fallen behind, which has had a knock-on effect.
  • The business focus has changed but objectives have not been updated to reflect this.

Once the cause has been located, the manager can put remedial measures in place. These could include activities such as training, more budget, additional resources or a team reallocation of work. It's important for managers to discuss each objective with the assigned team member to find out their views and perspectives on why performance has fallen behind. Often the root cause may not be immediately apparent.

Managers will usually use tools to manage their objectives. Modern businesses use cloud-deployed systems such as Salessound to integrate the entire sales management process including people, ideas, objectives, snapshots, sales reports and insights. Salessound puts everything that managers need into an integrated, holistic and real-time system that is available anywhere and at any time, thanks to its cloud hosting model.

Find out more about setting and tracking objectives in Salessound

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