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Determining Inside Sales Targets and How to Track Them

By August 12, 2023September 13th, 2023Inside Sales Optimization, Insights, Sales Services
Published Date: Saturday, Aug 12, 2023
Last Updated on: Wednesday, Sep 13, 2023

Hitting targets. It’s the one thing that matters to everyone in the sales funnel — from top to bottom.

But, determining targets isn’t always an easy process, and companies regularly pay the price for being overly optimistic. Every inside sales leader will want to see their bottom line constantly rolling, but without a data-led plan of action there’s no way your team will hit that all-important number.

Then, we start to see red flags rise. The dangerous combination of overambitious targets and over-promising reps is a sure-fire recipe for disaster — one that harms your revenue, the service/product you represent and the reputation of your team.

If you’re a sales leader, it’s your responsibility to find the sweet spot between achievable goal-setting and ambitious targets that motivate your team. In this article, we talk through the Harte Hanks sales services process to sustainable target-setting that both inspires and drives results.

1. Separate your targets

When we talk about targets generally, we often refer to the lower sales funnel. The cliché: “You’re a salesperson, I’m going to give you a quota of $2 million for this year in closed-won sales” is not necessarily the right starting line.
Any sales leader worth their salt will recognize that there are separate targets in the two parts of the sales funnel: The sales pipeline and the lead generation pipeline.

Sales pipeline targets

We usually associate bottom-line sales targets with monetary goals and set specific targets for revenue, income and net profit.

Lead generation targets

Lead generation targets should come down to the appointments and activity needed to qualify leads into genuine sales opportunities.

By considering both, you’ll be able to reverse-engineer a target number to discover how many leads need to be brought in at the top end to achieve your end revenue goal. You can then build a model that’s entirely driven by the known historical conversion rates at every key stage in the pipeline. This makes it far easier to understand the level of activity, time and resources required to see a genuine return on investment and effort.

2. Determine the difficulty

Next, it’s worth considering the difficulty of the program, which will help to determine a suitable appointment set and held (turn-up rate) for your reps. There’s a range of different factors that can determine program difficulty, but a key one is the source. Is it inbound, outbound or blended?

It’s equally important to treat target setting on a case-by-case basis, whether that’s B2B, B2C or something else. If you want to boost retention rates and prevent attrition, you need to consider the achievability of the task at hand — rather than just assuming a benchmark for a range of similar activities.

Cold outbound

For cold outbound leads that have never engaged with your business before, the outreach process is going to require more heavy lifting. A rep will have to connect with the right decision-maker, begin to network, build name recognition, and fend off varying levels of competition.

Warm inbound

Inbound should have a very different target to cold, hard outbound. Inbound leads are warm by nature and often served on a plate for an SDR to convert as a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) or sales-qualified lead (SQL).

3. Factor in headcount

It’s not reasonable or sustainable for a single rep to have the whole target for each month riding on their back. While individual goals are a great way to measure growth and personal progress, team-oriented targets are generally more appropriate when it comes to overall revenue. You should consider headcount and the number of reps needed to facilitate any increase before you expand your targets.

Delve into your historical data to uncover the sustainable level of activity a single SDR can conduct on a reasonable day. Whatever the cadence is, you need to factor in the level of activity needed to meet your existing appointment target before ramping up. By doing so, you’ll get a clearer view into the manpower needed to serve that higher target, based entirely on the capacity and performance of your existing sales operation.

4. Consider your sales enablement tools

You’ll also want to consider the sales tools at your reps’ fingertips. Forty years ago, reps would take the phonebook and work their way from A to Z. That simply isn’t a viable option anymore.

CRMs, sales enablement packages and automation make it far more efficient for reps to carry out their work, reducing the effort needed to hit that target. Not to mention, your CRM will also feed your analytical insights into key performance indicators, meaning you’ll be able to set new targets based on the actionable, historical data of your team’s previous and real-time performance.

5. Monitor sales performance

Monitoring sales targets isn’t just about playing a “Big Brother” role over your team, it’s essential if you want to forecast with accuracy and drive better returns from your efforts. Tracking inside sales targets provides you the information needed to pinpoint both where targets are being missed, and how best to remedy areas of weakness by reassigning resources and priorities.

Addressing rep failure

A salesperson missing their target isn’t necessarily a sign of failure. If every other rep in the team is meeting quota and one rep is lagging behind, it’s a good sign that they’re in need of a coaching session.

Addressing team failure

If the team as a whole is falling below your benchmark, that’s an obvious sign that there is some disconnect between your targets and historical data. This suggests that goals may need some readjusting based on real-time conversion data.

The key is to measure actual performance against the targets you set. That way, you can increase or decrease your target according to performance data and the response from your team. Remember, your conversion rates aren’t set in stone. As you increase your headcount, scale your team, adopt new outreach strategies and bring new schools of thought to the table, rates are certain to change across the entire funnel. The key is to keep your targets flexible.

6. Incentivize overachieving

Your target is there to set a benchmark, not a limit. Sales teams can often work to a target and see it as a cap on activity level. Twelve appointments isn’t necessarily the highest number they should reach every month. If a greater number above the target can be achieved, this should be incentivized.

Without any clearly defined incentive, your team will be inclined to stall appointments. This is a common behavior tied to commission-based sales work. Reps meet their quota and push any remaining appointments into the next month to get a jumpstart — rather than working above and beyond.

The only way to avoid this is to monitor your targets on both a team-wide and an individual basis. By continually tracking in real time, you’ll be able to achieve a more holistic outlook on your team’s performance and understand where you can be flexible with your goals. Naturally, it’s always easier to lower a target than it is to raise one, so you’ll need the data to back this decision and reduce attrition.

7. Set ramp targets

Any sales leader will understand the hurdles that come with scaling a team and onboarding new SDRs. Often, the biggest challenge is finding the right balance between ambition and optimism. Your data may suggest that 15 appointments a month is achievable, but how can you be sure that a new SDR will comfortably meet this benchmark?

The obvious response would be to set a lower ramp target — but this isn’t always the most economical way to bring a new SDR up to speed. They will be eager to perform and want to impress, especially if you’ve hired well. Set their targets too low and they may massively overachieve. Suddenly you’re paying double what you would have paid in commission, despite that rep hitting the same levels as every other team member.

The Harte Hanks theory is simple: Start with a team target. If the team target is 15, a new rep starts with a target of 15. Then, you’ll have the freedom to make a concession on their compensation to offset the fact that they are ramping. It’s a far more evergreen and sustainable model — one that accounts for the likelihood of newcomers underachieving and maintains business sustainability at the same time.

Final thoughts

Targets shouldn’t alienate, they should inspire. Failing to hit unachievable targets cultivates fear, saps motivation and weakens overall team performance.

By tapping into your historical data, you can form achievable goals that are rooted in actionable metrics and KPIs — rather than just blind guesswork. The end result is better performance, increased revenue and lower attrition rates.

Ready to hit your targets? At Harte Hanks, we combine our experience with rich, actionable data to help our clients continually hit higher targets and increase conversion rates.