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Shifting Thinking

Successful sales managers must focus on more than dollars and cents

Lee Hunter
Published by: Lee Hunter

Why sales revenue is not always the best measure of success

It’s a given that every business wants to succeed… and that the performance of the Sales team is key to making that dream a reality. However, as management, it can be deceptively easy to miss the mark when setting suitable goals for Sales.

Aim at the right target

When looking at setting goals for Sales, we often fall into the trap of focusing too heavily on a single objective… revenue.

An effective Sales team is one of the strongest weapons available to a business that is seeking sustained growth. However, by directing our salespeople to focus solely on revenue targets it is highly likely that we are pointing them at the wrong target.

Salespeople are by nature a highly motivated and passionate lot. When they succeed, they feel an emotional high that validates their efforts and encourages them to push harder and aim higher. When they fall short, they take it very much to heart and the resulting disappointment can be very demoralising and demotivating to both the individuals and the team.

Imagine calling your Sales team into a meeting and declaring, “We need more sales”. Any Salesperson worth their salt will immediately scramble and hit the ground running, full of ambition and drive. While revenue is certainly important, making this the primary, and sometimes only, goal for the Sales team is doing them a disservice and can actually undermine their efforts.

In doing so, we can often send them in the wrong direction. Our Salespeople’s strong drive to succeed and achieve the goals we set for them can push them to indiscriminately bang on every door and promote every product or service. This can become problematic when they dedicate a huge amount of time talking to the wrong customers or pushing the wrong product, often leading them to miss their targets altogether.

…and a Sales team that falls short of reaching their goals can become demotivated, keenly feeling the failure, often without any insight or understanding of what actually went wrong. After all, they set out to do exactly what we asked them to do. This can create confusion which can then result in finger-pointing and laying blame on others, undermining morale even further.

So, while making revenue the driving force behind Sales may seem logical at the outset, the results may fall far short of what we anticipate. Luckily, there is another way.

Create beacons of success

In order to help stimulate and inspire our Sales team, we don’t need to remove our revenue goals from the table. However, by taking a systemic approach that creates achievable goals and eliminates the win/lose mentality we can help Sales succeed and keep the value we are delivering our customers intact. By giving our Sales Teams specific, measurable, achievable milestones, or sales beacons, we can effectively break down these targets into smaller concrete goals that will give direction and let them celebrate their success.

So, when we need to increase sales, instead of pushing the team towards meeting revenue targets, we can set goals, or beacons, that are easy to understand and attain. For example:

  • Beacon One: Call 10 people per week
  • Beacon Two: Meet with 3 new market segments per month

While these goals may seem rather simple, this approach can break down our larger targets into manageable, measurable chunks and promote the success of our Sales team and our business as a whole.

Now, imagine telling your Sales team that all they needed to be successful is call 10 people per week and meet with 3 new market segments each month…

Not only does it seem much more achievable, it is a lot easier to do and is something that most good Salespeople will take on anyway. More importantly, it levels out the highs and lows that are common to most sales cycles, making it easier to measure the success of Sales and improve the team’s overall morale.

Utilising beacons also creates the long-term benefit of maintaining sales prospects as well as the value our business delivers. Setting the right beacons focuses our team solely on the targets we set, removing the pressure to indiscriminately knock on every door, offer the world, and make promises our business cannot deliver. By looking at our business’s strategic objectives we can easily identify these milestones and set the bar for the goals we want our Sales team to achieve.

Setting achievable goals is a great start, but it isn’t the only way to get Sales pointed in the right direction and help them succeed.

Work together as one

Once we have set the beacons for Sales, we can then identify the key benefits and outcomes that offer additional value and give direction to Marketing and the organisation as a whole.

For example, the beacon of meeting with 3 new market segments a month could:

  • Give us the ability to identify our different market segment’s issues and pains which can help us align our business to deliver solutions tailored to our customers’ needs
  • Help us identify and match up with market segments that have needs we can fulfil
  • Allow us to identify any changes in the marketplace that may impact our customers in the future so that we can stay ahead of the game with new innovations that will meet their future needs

All of this information is highly valuable to both the Sales and Marketing teams, letting them clearly identify their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), ensuring that both are working together to target the right customers with the right solutions. This joint alignment around the customer helps feed the continuous cycle between the Sales and Marketing funnels, and also adds value to our business by providing direction for product innovation.

Everything boils down to understanding our customers; the more we understand the closer we can align our Sales and Marketing teams, the more we can connect with the right customers, and the more we can increase sales performance.

Ultimately, in order for our Sales and Marketing efforts to succeed both teams need to work together and tell the same story, aligned around our customers and the value that you business delivers.