Each goal you set for each employee you manage is a microcosm of the overall goals of your organization- simply put, every goal matters. Goals should never be arbitrary or aspirational but rather understood as essential to the continued growth of your company. However, communicating the context of the bottom-line is only part of the equation to truly unlock a Rep’s full potential- you’ll also need to master the fine art of setting and messaging symbiotic objectives that don’t just relate to your business model but also benefit your Rep’s personal development.
The most highly functional sales teams are comprised of Reps who are motivated by ownership of their goals. As your team’s manager, you have the responsibility to make every goal you set a source of fuel for their drive and buy-in. But how do you create a sense of momentum and always raise the bar without burning even your top performers out? How do you strike a balance between goals that are inconsequentially easy and those that are frustratingly and unattainably lofty? Competition is key in sales offices- but how do you harness competition in a way that builds camaraderie instead of toxic levels of rivalry?
We put these tough questions to our SDR experts in this week’s Expert Roundup and as usual, they did not disappoint. Read on for their advice on setting goals that are mutually beneficial for your organization and the individual contributors and sales teams.
What’s the secret to setting goals for individuals? What about your approach to team goals?
Individuals need to set the goals themselves. If they’re way off base, then I’ll bring them back in.
“Individuals don’t care about the goal you set out for them. They care about the goals they set out for themselves. It’s leading them to water versus making them drink.”
For me, individual goals start with making employees see the light. Make individuals reverse engineer what their goals should be, but then truly let them set their goals themselves—and only step in if they’re way off base or they’re completely unaligned with what it will take to be successful.
I don’t think there’s any more of an advanced answer than that. Reps need to be focused on the right things for the business and for their business. I’ve asked each person on my team to be an entrepreneur.
“I’m a big believer in aligning your team goals as an aggregate of your individual goals.”
For example, I want my compensation to be an aggregation of my team’s compensation. My goal should be an aggregation of what my team’s goals should be. I think that ultimately they should be directed by the business’ needs. But the team goals should, as long as all goals will meet that sort of outcome, be completely aligned with individual goals.
I like people to set their own goals. I think the most important part is understanding how they came to that conclusion, how they set that goal, and how they are thinking.
That way, I get a temperature check on how ambitious or realistic or maybe not ambitious their personal goals are. If it is metrics-related, we’ll put them up on the whiteboard during standups.
In sales, there are very different strategies for email, for instance. There are a number of factors, like how personalized an email is going to be or how targeted of an approach someone is taking.
“It’s okay if goals are different as long as you’re striving to maximize the end result — meetings booked, opportunities created, and actual revenue being generated. Setting their own goals allows people to have the most amount of accountability and ownership for their own goals.”
Teams are more data-driven in the sense that we back into the goal through historical data. It’s really just explaining why the goal is what it is and showing people step-by-step how we got to the conclusion that this should be the goal so people feel ownership.
“It sucks when there’s a big black box and no one really understands how we got there, especially for millennials. They want to feel like they’re making an impact and to have transparency.”
Even if it’s completely unrelated to their jobs, they want to know, “Why is this decision being made?” I make it very clear to my team why so they can ask questions or question it. So team goals are data driven but we’re just very clear on what the data is that led to that goal.
There’s an idea, if you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you’ll end up in the stars.
“I think it’s critical to set really big, hairy, audacious goals. You can track your progress over time by segmenting those goals into specific measurable tasks.”
The OKR framework is good because it distils what you’re focused on to the highest-impact goals. You need to determine, what is that one single biggest lever you can pull. Focusing your efforts on attaining a level of competency or excellence in a particular area or a high-leverage task makes hitting your long-term goals easier.
When it comes to the team, you set goals as a sales leader, using the data at hand to diagnose where a sales rep has an opportunity to be most impactful. What conversion metric shows the biggest opportunity to drive exponential improvement in their performance?
“We incessantly focus on professional development. In the Army, we called it having not just a 50-meter target but a 500-meter target. Everything should build towards that 500-meter target. Even when you are focused on attaining a level of expertise in your current role, everything you do should build towards that long-term target.”
It’s key to map things out from a near-term to long-term perspective. You plan by considering, “Where do I want to end up in X amount of time, and what do I need to achieve that?” But you need balance; you can’t let long-term plans supersede your attention to interim goals.
“On a higher level, it has to tie-in to where the individual is and where they want to go. In a lot of cases, that means crushing team goals so that I can recommend that person to whoever makes the decision on the next step in their career.”
If someone isn’t hitting their numbers, we create bite-sized goals. So if somebody’s going rogue on templates and writing emails that are a page longer than what their peers are sending out, then let’s focus on making those shorter and see if you hit your meeting goal. If someone’s already crushing their numbers, then it’s about setting a stretch goal and seeing if they can get there.
There’s definitely a lot of trial and error. Try something. If it doesn’t work, adjust it. I’ve created comp structure and target combinations at multiple companies. Some of them have worked well; some haven’t and so we had to improve the structure the next quarter. You live and you learn.
“I think the most important part of setting team goals is to find a structure that benefits both the company and the employees and really incentivizes the right activities.”
If your meeting quality is excellent but there aren’t enough meetings, set up activity spiffs with minimum activity qualifiers. Something like that is fun and competitive. The team’s activity goes up, meeting volume goes up, and the company ends up making more money. So everybody wins.
We work with marketing and sales leadership to figure out what the opportunity goals are for SDRs, and it’s very easy to just take that and say, “Here you go. Good luck, thumbs up.” Prior to doing that we need to figure out what motivates that individual so that we can provide context on the goals—what they are, how they are set up, and why.
“Once reps have this context, then the goals are connected to something that they care about and are motivated by.”
Next, we clearly spell out how we are going to work together to get there so that there’s a clear plan in place to actually achieve the goal. That’s the base: what we can do, from a sales leadership perspective, to support that individual—but the responsibility does ultimately fall on the rep.
The process of setting team goals is similar to that of individual goals, but at a less granular level since each individual is motivated differently. One thing we do is break down how we will support the team goal; we explain how we will get there.
“We also provide context, from a business perspective, on why those are the goals for those teams—so that people understand the bigger picture, so that they’re not just stuck in their own world.”
Learn more from our experts, and see full profiles, here:
Chris Pollot, Director of Sales Development at UpGuard
Dhiraj Singh, Inside Sales and Operations Manager at MemSQL
Steven Broudy, Director, Inside Sales, Americas at MuleSoft
Brooke Lengsfelder, Director of Sales Development at mParticle
Philip Galligan, Global Manager of Sales Development at Eventbrite
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