Setting Sales Goals and Targets: Step 1 to Creating a Winning Sales Plan

By Dan Hudson


Sales planning for 2012 is well under way, and most sales teams are facing quota increases for the coming year. The fact is, every sales leader will have to do more in 2012, often with limited additional resources. Even best-of-class sales programs (with average win rates of greater than 30 percent) need to continue improving their year-over-year performance. It’s one of those indisputable laws, like paying taxes and getting older.


This reality is what makes formal sales planning so important. It’s main the difference between making it happen and hoping it happens. The fundamental goal of the sales plan is to put on paper specifically how the sales team will make next year’s revenue target. We recommend your sales plan cover (at least) the following areas to make sure the fundamentals are addressed:

  1. setting goals and targets,
  2. building the revenue model,
  3. filling the sales funnel,
  4. building a dynamic sales process,
  5. executing and measuring.

By focusing on these five core areas, you can build a sales plan that is reasonable, measurable and, most important, achievable. Each section is vital, but let’s take a closer look at section one, since it sets the strategic direction for the tactical elements that come later in the plan.

Setting Sales Goals and Targets: Section 1 of the Sales Plan Whereas the B2B sales plan establishes the playbook for a successful sales year, the initial section of the sales plan, “Goals and Targets,” is the foundation of the written plan itself. Following are the three main topics for this section, with examples of where to focus.

  •  Making Goals and Targets Specific and Measurable: Too often, sales goals and targets have a case of the “warm and fuzzies” – a feel-good tone that is vague and undefined. To be clear and actionable, goals and targets must be specific (numbers and dates are best) so that you can measure your progress throughout the year.
  • Example of “fuzzy and feel good” targets: “Establish new relationships for our outsourcing practice.”
  • Example of specific and measurable targets: “Establish two new relationships per quarter in the US Financial and Accounting Outsourcing practice. The targeted annual contract value of each new relationship is $2 million.”When setting your goals and targets, try to strike the sweet spot between “go big or go home” and the reality of your market situation. Every company faces its unique challenges, but if you are prepared, then it’s easier to overcome them.
  • Prioritizing Challenges and Creating Defensive StrategiesConsider your last couple of sales years, and list those challenges that kept you from achieving your sales targets. Think in terms of the key areas of the selling process:
  • lead management
  • account management
  • opportunity management
  • territory/area management
  • pipeline process
  • metrics and reporting
  • team skills development
  • rep and manager recruiting
  • compensation

Prioritize your list of challenges and identify your strategy to minimizing these sales barriers. Use a template, such as the following, to identify, rank, and address your challenges.

Preparing for Sales Plan Risks and Challenges

Challenge  Not enough qualified leads from marketing’s lead generation program.
  • Define Investments Needed to Achieve SuccessYou are likely in the same boat as most sales leaders heading into a new year: you’re getting a quota increase!In the old days, we might have grumbled a little, played around with territories and headcount, and then told the CEO we needed another seven sales reps to meet the new number.  More Effective Approaches to Investing in Sales SuccessYes, headcount is still a critical success factor for a sales team; however, benchmarking of best-in-class sales teams demonstrates several process-level improvements that consistently improve win rates and increase a team’s ability to hit its numbers. These enhancements allow both the current team to perform better and the improvement of new-hire success rates. Here are some areas to consider:
  1. Establishing a formalized sales process, including targeted account planning
  2. Sales manager effectiveness training and industry-specific rep training
  3. Lead management process and marketing automation
  4. Sales leaders dashboard and sales knowledge management
  5. Sales intelligence, prospect profiling, and industry monitoring


Getting Real About Sales Training

by Jacques Werth

A Conversation

This morning I got a phone call from a man named Phil. He said that he is a fiber optics engineer and he is currently earning $84,000 – plus benefits. However, his company is closing their fiber optics division in a few months, at which point he will be out of a job. So he is thinking about going into sales.

I asked, “Why?”


He said that there isn’t much of a market for fiber optics engineers due to over-expansion in the industry. And, he has been in that specialty for so long that he is not really qualified for other types of engineering jobs at a level that will match his current income. Therefore, he figured that he ought to get into sales.


Again, I asked “Why?”


He said, “I did some research, and read that the average mid-level salesperson with a large company is earning $155,000. Since I have an out-going personality, and I’m pretty persuasive. I figured that I can get that kind of job.”  


“Okay,” I said, “why did you call us?”


He said, “Well, I don’t know exactly what a salesperson does. So, I figured I should get a little sales training first. And, I asked a couple of the top salesguys for our company and they told me to contact you.” “What do you mean by ‘a little sales training’?” I asked.


“Well, I was told that prospecting is one of the most important parts of selling, and I want to know if I buy your complete set of MP3s and the workbook, will that make me a good sales prospector?” I said, “No it will not. It can be useful as a refresher for an experienced salesperson. However, that set of prospecting MP3s and the workbook are merely recordings of one of our instructors leading a six-session prospecting course. The recorded part of the course is about 9 hours.”


“As a listener, you have no opportunity to discuss anything with the instructor, or to design prospecting offers and participate in role-plays, or get personal coaching and customizing of the course for your products, services and markets. Those limitations are clearly spelled out on our order form. The MP3s and workbook only costs about $175 dollars. And, that’s about all it is worth. Besides, that is only the prospecting part of our sales training course. The Selling part of our training is just as important.”


“I’m a pretty smart guy,” he said. “If other people can learn it by participating in your teleconference training, I should be able to learn it by listening to them learn it. I figure once I know how to find High Probability Prospects the rest will be easy. I can’t see spending all of that time and money just to learn how to sell.”


I asked, “Do you really think that you can invest 9 hours of your time and $175 of your money and then get a sales job where you can earn $150,000? How much time and money did you invest to become an engineer making $74,000?”


He replied, “Becoming an engineer is different.”


I suggested that he contact Pinnacle Group USA to determine whether he has the right stuff to make it in sales. When I told him that a Pinnacle Survey would cost a few hundred dollars, he wanted me to sell him on that idea. I decided to terminate the discussion because it was a waste of my time and it was obviously of no value to him.


You might think that conversation was exceptional. It is not. For the entire 17 years that we have been in the sales training business we have encountered hundreds of people, including veteran salespeople, who actually think that by spending a little money and a little time, they can be earning what top salespeople earn. If it were that easy, everyone would become a high level performer; and then the bar would be raised.


Now, let us look at the reality of earnings in the sales profession.


According to research published in Sales & Marketing Management magazine last year, the total annual compensation for salespeople at various levels of performance are: 

  1.  Low-level performers average $65,000. Sixty percent of salespeople are considered low-level performers. More than half of them earn less than $65,000 .
  2. Mid-level performers average $93,500. Thirty percent of all salespeople are considered mid-level performers. 
  3.  High-level performers average $155,000. They are in the top 10 percent. 
  4.  Our own research indicates that the Top 1 Percent average about $810,000, with some of them earning upwards of $2 million.


Let’s get back to what, for most salespeople, is reality. How do you get to be a Top Performer, earning upwards of $150,000? Conventional wisdom says that you work harder, or you work smarter. So, if you are in the 30th percentile, earning $65,000, do you think that if you work twice as hard you can earn $130,000? If so, you are not working very hard now.


If you work twice as smart, can that enable you to go from $65,000 to $130,000? Yes! In most cases, it can – if by “working smarter” you mean that you will learn and skillfully apply a totally new and far more productive sales process.


That probably has you thinking, “Okay I can do that, but what is the cost?” The tuition cost of the combined High Probability Prospecting and Selling course is currently under $1,600. It consists of 21 Instructor-led Interactive Teleconference Sessions of 90 minutes each. The sessions are taught twice a week over a three-month period. There is homework required, also. A maximum of 10 participants are admitted to each course. Anytime you feel that you need to repeat any part of the course, you can do so at half of the current tuition price for that part.


 Another Conversation A few days ago, I got a call from a High Probability Selling graduate named Florence. She called to ask my advice about a new market that she planned to target. After we finished that discussion, I asked how she is doing. She said that she first took the High Probability Selling course at the end of her second year in sales, when she was just getting by. In her third year, she doubled her income. 2006 was her fourth year and she has more than doubled her third year’s income.


Now she is hiring two part-time assistants so that she can double her income again next year. Florence may participate in one of our courses again this year. She does not expect to learn anything new, but she does expect to get a deeper understanding of the High Probability Selling process. Florence is an exception, in that most of the salespeople who enroll in our training have been in sales for at least five years and have been making a decent living.  


Most of them had already tried all kinds of tactics to improve on the sales methods they had been utilizing. They realized that they had reached the point of diminishing returns. Then, they decided that only an entirely new sales process could catapult them up to the earnings level of the high-performers. Ninety-four percent of the people who participate in our training read our book first, and recognized that High Probability Selling is a radical departure from how they already knew how to sell. When they decided to enroll in the sales course, they made a significant commitment to themselves and their families. It’s your life. It’s your income. Are you ready to make that kind of a commitment to yourself and your family?


What NOT to Say in Your Opening Value Statement

Here’s a common example of an opening value statement that often leads to failure:

“Hi, this is (YOUR NAME), with XYZ LOGISTICS. Could I speak to the person in charge of the freight division and could you tell me their name?”

“Hi CHUCK, this is (YOUR NAME) here with XYZ LOGISTICS. As I prepared for this call, I noticed you have shipped with us a couple times before… So tell me, how many shipments off the top of your head do you think you did last month?… (ANSWER) I’d love to talk with you more about that if you have time now,… or if I email you over some information, I can call back by let’s say a few days from now and we can talk then.”

Why This Fails & What to Say Instead

1) “Hi, this is (YOUR NAME) with XYZ LOGISTICS. Could I speak to the person in charge of the freight division and could you tell me their name?”

This screams COLD CALL to the gatekeeper. You aren’t the only person trying to reach their decision maker and it’s quite possible the gatekeeper has been instructed to not let anymore of these types of calls to go through… so running this play will increase the likelihood of you having to tangle with the receptionist… and it’s above his/her pay-grade to determine if what you have to offer is in the best interest of the company he/she works for… let’s not give the gatekeeper power that isn’t theirs.

99% of the time you should already know with whom you are calling to speak with. There are only so many “titles” that will have the authority to make a purchasing decision on what it is that you offer. A simple search on their website, LinkedIn or Google search (“title” + company name) and you can often find the person you need to speak with in less than 60 seconds! (Not minutes or hours, but seconds… too much time is also wasted on “research” when really it’s a blind excuse to not cowboy up and make the call… but I digress)

Sure, there may be multiple people involved in the decision making process, and each company will have their own approval process to follow (these are things we will cover as we get deeper into the 8-week course) however, at this stage of the game when we are making that first call, a little “pre-call” research needs to be done.

2) “Hi Chuck, this is (YOUR NAME), with XYZ LOGISTICS. As I prepared for this call, I noticed you have shipped with us a couple times before… So tell me, how many shipments off the top of your head do you think you did last month?”

The goal of your opening value statement is to pique interest and gain permission to continue the call. It’s not a vehicle to launch right into “probing questions”.

That is how most salespeople do it and it is why most salespeople fail. Most times, it’s not the lead, it’s the process the salesperson is following that causes failure.

3) “I’d love to talk with you more about that if you have time now,… or if I email you over some information, I can call back by let’s say a few days from now and we can talk then.”

I’m willing to bet that “CHUCK” is going to take you up on that “email some information” deal almost every time. And good luck getting him back on the phone next week.

This is prolonging the sales cycle and making your job harder on yourself and it’s also costing you money as you will close very few deals trying to sell this way.

Simple Solution / Suggestion:

Look at the difference a well structured opening value (keyword: value) statement brings:

Hi CHUCK this is (YOUR NAME) with XYZ LOGISTICS. The reason for my call is (slight pause) based on past shipments you’ve done with us, there’s a possibility we may be able to (#1 thing your target audience wants to avoid) while at the same time (#1 thing your target audience wants to gain) and if I caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you just a few quick questions just to see if what we have to offer may be of some help to you, would that be OK?

With blanks filled in:

Hi CHUCK this is (YOUR NAME) with XYZ LOGISTICS. The reason for my call is (slight pause) based on past shipments you’ve done with us, there’s a possibility we may be able to cut down on your shipping costs while at the same time improve your customers level of satisfaction and if I caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you just a few quick questions just to see if what we have to offer may be of some help to you, would that be OK?

And now you’re in position to smoothly transition into the next step of the SalesBuzz process.

Hope this helps.

Michael Pedone

CSS: Chief Sales Scientist (A 2011 Sales Training Company Watch List Award Winner!)

Money is sexy…sell the sexiness, not the price

By Tom Searcy

You know you are going to talk about price — you know that it is first and foremost on the buyer’s mind and yet we avoid it like we avoid someone to whom we lost a college football rivalry bet.

You have to move the discussion from your product/service/solution and its price to their financial outcome. The most effective sales people are able to discuss price outside of the context of their own competitive market and in the context of the real numbers of the decision-maker’s business. The best sales people see all dollars spent by their customers as investments made in changing the customer’s business outcome.

Last week I gave an example of this with the tale of the $8.71 bag of screws. The point of the blog was that for a construction supplies buyer, the real price was not in the commodity of the screws, but in the economics of labor expense. For your business, in your largest customers, the price is secondary to the real business problems that you solve.

  •  — Price is often a reflection of confidence. One client wanted my company to help him grow his sales $100 million in 3 years, but he was concerned about the price of the services. I asked him if he would pay $5 million if he was sure that the results would be the $100 million in sales. He said absolutely. So the question was not about price, since $5 million was much more than I would charge. The issue was about confidence.
  •  — Price is a reflection of knowledge. Decision-makers default to price because they have no other comparative context to evaluate providers. You need to teach the buyer how to differentiate providers. Be careful: When you are using this technique to sell yourself, rather than educate your buyer, you will lose trust. If you want to be successful in selling large accounts, never get caught selling.
  • — Price is a reflection of history. Failing memories can kill a client relationship. Often times a buyer does not remember the reason that he or she stopped using a lower-priced provider. They see the presentations and price promises being made by your competitors and forget that these were the same promises that got them into trouble the last time they focused on price as the decision fulcrum. You have to connect their negative past history to their at-risk outcome.

What should you do to be more effective in selling?

  1.  Do you know the outcomes that the customer is buying when they purchase from your company? Can you quantify those outcomes in real dollars, time or risk? If you can, you can change the conversation away from just price and make it more about confidence, increasing the decision maker’s confidence.
  2. Do you know the history of the customer in buying the products/services/solutions that you are selling? If you do, you can frame the positive outcomes you produce in the context of the failures they have experienced.
  3. Do you have a clear picture of who is the right provider to the right customer? You need to be able to say not only when and how you are best, but also when you are not. Money is sexy when it is your own money. Think like your customer, talk about their money and the conversation will be much more compelling.

Commission vs. Salary: Finding the Balance

Finding the right balance between basic pay and commission is crucial to rewarding salespeople, says Tom Washington

If you have ever had dealings with a persuasive, perhaps forceful, salesperson, the chances are they were thinking more about the money they stood to earn from the sale than finding the right deal for you.

But for many employers, having an engaged and motivated sales force is vital. Indeed, such staff are the lifeblood of some industries and the single most important form of creating income. But the question is, how does an organisation keep this group of typically money-driven operators performing for the good of the company, not just the size of their pay check?

The obvious answer is commission, a form of variable pay by which staff earn a cut of the income they create for their employer.

Transparent Structure

As in any profession, there can be good and bad salespeople, and commission is a common way to reward top performers. Commission leads to a transparent reward structure based on success. If staff hit targets, they get the reward; if they miss them, they do not.

Experts say the simplicity of commission suits the type of person working in sales. Peter Reilly, director of HR research and consultancy at the Institute for Employment Studies, says: “The type of worker on commission perhaps does not manage complexity so well. If you start rolling out complicated measures of performance, they do not like it.”

Commission also makes staff feel they are sharing in their employer’s success. Reilly says this form of reward gives individuals impetus to maximise their efforts around the most profitable tasks. “It communicates the message sales are important to the organisation,” he says. “It should drive behaviours of seeking out prospects and getting the most of those prospects, which will ultimately maximise company income.”

However, as with the much-criticised City bonuses, commission, particularly if it is uncapped, can encourage the wrong type of behaviour. An employee can reap the benefits of short-term success, but perhaps not comply with the long-term ideals of the organisation.

Jonathan Chapman, a teaching fellow at Cranfield Business School and former head of reward at the Financial Services Authority, says: “In financial services, there have been examples in the advisory market of firms moving away from commission on pension sales, for example. In the past, some commission payments encouraged inappropriate sales, such as mortgage endowments to people who could not afford them. Employers are now trying to change the type of workforce from salesmen to much more professional advisers by rewarding them through a high proportion of base pay.”

A high proportion of commission may also result in staff spending all their time on activities that carry incentives, rather than other, equally important, facets of their role.

Higher base pay shifts the emphasis from such short-term thinking. In fact, many target-driven staff would prefer the security of a higher proportion of guaranteed income. The John Lewis Partnership, for example, rewards employees with a collective bonus pot at the end of the year shared between all staff, rather than rewarding individual performance.

But base pay also has its pitfalls. Employers are unlikely to distinguish significantly between the best performers and the mediocre by setting pay differentials aggressively. When earnings cease to be based purely on results, employers must take other factors into account, such as customer service and best practice. The salesforce may not see this as a fair means of assessment. Does the manager know enough about what goes on in the sales context? This is more complex and harder to judge, and requires better management.

Employers may also not be prepared to reduce base pay if the organisation’s performance dips. The great advantage of commission is that it is for a fixed period, and targets and rates can be adjusted as needed. But base pay traditionally rises each year and staff expect it to at least stay the same. Pay rates are also complicated by external factors, such as what the market is paying and the cost of living.

For many organisations, commission can act as a safety valve because pay costs are adjusted according to revenue. Mark Thompson, associate director at Hay Group, says: “What happens most of the time is that even if an employer has a bad year, it still pays out significant commission because of high-performing sales people. Commission is not foolproof, but it does enable employers to get rid of the fixed cost of base pay, which has knock-on effects on pension contributions.”

The key, it seems, is to strike a balance between base pay and commission. Thompson says having more than 25% of total income as commission is likely to skew staff behaviour in a certain, perhaps self-centred, way.

Steve Watson, director at Rewardworks, says communication around any changes to pay structure is key. “It gives the employer the opportunity to talk to its staff. Switching from commission to salary is probably good news for the majority because they are likely to get the same sort of money but be less stressed. High earners may lose out, be fed up and may leave, but that is not the kind of person employers are now looking for.”

In some sectors, sending the right message to staff through reward is a tricky task. But, with pay freezes becoming more prevalent, commission remains a key driver.

Key Lessons

Commission makes staff feel they are sharing in their employer’s success and is a transparent means of reward

It can also act as a safety valve, as pay costs are adjusted according to income

A high proportion of commission-based pay may lead employees to behave in a way that is not aligned to business strategy

This includes focusing their efforts on making money rather than other areas important to customer satisfaction

Employers should seek to reward via a mix of commission and base pay

Copyright: Centaur Communications Ltd. and licensors

5 behaviors that can get you fired

By Dave Johnson


Whether you love or hate your job, you probably don’t want to put it in jeopardy because of some behavior you weren’t consciously aware was a career hazard. And there are a slew of risky behaviors out there — you don’t have to send your boss an angry email to get on his or her radar in a bad way. Here are some behaviors to watch out for:

1. Abuse your sick days. Yes, you have an allotment of sick days at your disposal, but if you read HR’s fine print, you’ll see that they’re not just some sort of wildcard vacation days. If you always use every vacation day to which you’re entitled every year, or have a habit of calling in sick on Mondays, you are flagging yourself as someone who lacks personal integrity and abuses the system.

2. Throw bombs. You’ve probably heard that it’s fine to ask questions, challenge conventional wisdom and say “no.” But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be confrontational or rude. You can quickly flag yourself as anti-collaborative or difficult to work with if you throw bombs in emails or in face-to-face meetings. Find constructive ways to ask questions and disagree, or you’ll be “the guy” no one wants to work with.

3. Undercut your own team. Know the right time to discuss sensitive issues. If you are concerned with your own team’s ability to meet a deadline or worried about a decision your boss made, make sure your partners aren’t a part of the email thread where you express your reservations. Otherwise, you become the guy that undercuts and undermines your boss and your team in front of partners, and there’s no faster way to the bench than that.

4. Evade transparency. Be honest and up front. It’s the rare boss who has patience for people who misrepresent reality. In the modern age of email, messaging and metrics, it’s difficult to disguise an off-track project for long.

5. Be anonymous. In principle, you might think it’s a good idea to keep your head down and do the work you’re assigned. But most organizations actively try to grow their next generation of leaders from today’s individual contributors. In fact, many companies have an implicit “up or out” policy that requires employees to participate, collaborate, grow and advance. You need to see seen and heard. For starters, see this post on low risk ways to speak up in meetings.

Dave Johnson has written three dozen books, including the best-selling How to Do Everything with Your Digital Camera, and covered technology for a long list of magazines that include PC World and Wired.

Sales Training Tip – 10 Reasons Why Hard Sales Tactics Never Work

Hard selling is when you go straight to the point and start to try to sell your product without any finesse. It is simply telling your prospective buyer that he should buy your product. Now this hard-core approach may work in some instances but the majority of your prospective buyers will be put off the sale by this approach. Here are 10 good reasons to change your sales tactics.

1. People hate being sold to: hard sell will bring out the worst in people. When aggressive sales techniques are used this will prompt the prospective buyer to be aggressive as well and act negatively to the sales person. Pretty soon they are ready to argue with you and you know the sale is completely lost.

2. Hard sell will intimidate your prospective buyer: This sales tactic will intimidate some buyers and again cause them to have less interest in the sale. Intimidation will again give your prospective buyer negative feelings towards the sale. They will not have a very good feeling about your company when they see the sort of sales people you hire. This is another factor that will cause you to lose the sales

3. Hard sell makes you sound desperate to sell and this will always put off your buyer. The buyer can sense when the sales person is desperate to sell a product to them. The buyer wonders why the seller is so desperate and is immediately suspicious. This suspicion will turn into mistrust of the truth in what the sales person is saying. The buyer will very likely not buy the product.

4. Hard sell in sales copy will often use hype and prospective buyers can see right through this. Prospective buyers are savvier than they were and will not put up with hype. They want the facts not some pie in the sky promise. If sales copy tries to push the sale with this type of tactic there will be no sale.

5. Prospects need a reason to buy: hard sell does not allow time to explain benefits and what the prospective buyer can expect from the product. Hard sell usually uses features rather than benefits. Benefits are the reason for a customer to buy. You must answer the quest on every prospective buyers mind “What’s in it for me?”

6. You need to build rapport with prospective buyers: building a relationship with your potential buyer is a very important part of selling. You will not only make a sale on the initial product you will build confidence in your buyer. When the buyer has confidence, they will very likely purchase another related product from your company. If you use hard sell you cannot build this all-important relationship. Ultimately you will lose not only the initial sale but also a valuable long-term customer.

7. Soft sell will allow the reader to make his own decision without being pushed into a sale. As mentioned people do not like to be sold to, they do not want to feel that someone is dictating to them and telling them that they have to buy something. Most people want to feel that they are making their own decisions and soft sell will do this for them.

8. Soft sell always outsells hard sell: it is a proven fact that soft sell always outsells soft sell. This is because people can be persuaded but do not like to be forced into a sale. Hard sell is literally pushing your product at your prospective customer and not giving them a chance to say no. Soft sell on the other hand is offering your prospective buyer a product and allowing them to make the decision to buy.

9. It is easier and more enjoyable to use soft sell tactics: soft sell will allow you to use more sales strategies. It is a more enjoyable way to sell because you can talk to the customer, demonstrate benefits and build up a good rapport with your prospective buyer. It is more enjoyable to talk with your buyer and get to know him rather than pushing a sale on him.

10. Soft sell is a powerful way of pre selling products and warming your customer for the sale. When you warm your prospective buyer for the sale, you will be far more successful in selling your product or service. People like to know more about products before they buy and pre selling will allow you to do this for them.

Hard sell rarely works because of the above reasons. Additionally there is a stereotype of the pushy sales person using hard sell tactics. When hard sell is used this image comes into the prospects mind and prevents them from accepting the sale. In this way you will lose many sales.

Author credit: Managing Director of MTD Sales Training, Sean McPheat is regarded as a thought leader on modern day selling, management skills and business improvement. Sean has been featured on CNN, ITV, BBC, SKY, Forbes, Arena Magazine and has over 250 other media credits to his name. Sean’s Sales Blog is visited by 5,000 people every week and his 6 Sales Training Audios are free to download. Click here to follow Sean online.


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