How to Set SMART Goals that Your Field Sales Team Will Kick Every Time | Learning & Development | Primeast

When you set SMART goals for your sales team, you may underestimate the part that emotions play in the achievement of those goals. At the outset, there is likely to be a buzz of excitement with the new goals in place. Using SMART goal criteria, you’ll have set targets that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timebound.

Then your sales team lurches into deepening negativity. Your SMART goals start to slip further away, until they are no more than a dot on the horizon. Why is this, and what SMART goal action plan can you use to ensure that your sales team meets its targets?

In this article, we’ll explore how emotions evolve in the goal-setting process, and what you can do to overcome these and drive your sales team towards their ultimate target.

Why could a SMART goal create emotional backlash?

The likelihood is that when formulating SMART goals, the target communicated to the sales team is the overarching, ‘big picture’ target. It conforms to the SMART goal criteria. The team agree it’s achievable, realistic, and is easily measured. You’ve conveyed the sales targets with clarity, and the team appear fully energized and ready to face the challenge.

Your sales team is now likely to experience a roller coaster of emotions. You’ll need to manage these with a SMART goal action plan.

In his book, 'Integrity Selling for the 21st Century', Ron Willingham describes this gamut of emotions through the cycle of smart goal achievement:

Initial excitement

With the potential of the new possibilities, a thrill of excitement is almost audible. There’s a real buzz about the new targets and the potential they unlock.


As this initial excitement fades, people start questioning how much extra effort will be required to meet the SMART goals. They’ll start to question their ability to meet the new target. What if they try and fail?


Instead of being positive, people begin to focus on the roadblocks that could stop them achieving the SMART goals set to them. They doubt these roadblocks can be overcome.


The idea of changing routine and sales habits is uncomfortable. People become resistant to new processes, systems and procedures.


There’s a renewed sense of dedication to doing whatever is necessary to achieve the goals. This may include coaching, education, training, or more effort.


Acceptance is the stage at which your people finally believe they can attain the new goals.

Inspired leaders will be able to manage their teams through this emotional upheaval. However, the very real danger is that after the first few stages, the negative energy is so strong that the SMART goal is cast aside and abandoned. Your objectives are never reached.

Creating an achievable SMART goal action plan

When using smart goal criteria to set your overarching goal, you have set a destination but not planned your route. The target should be stretching, but must also be achievable. There is little more demoralizing than setting the bar high and failing to get over it.

Think of your SMART goal as being a point on the other side of a wide river. The current is strong, and there is little chance of swimming across. A far better SMART goal action plan would be to place a series of stepping stones between you and your goal.

These stepping stones become SMART goals themselves, guiding your team from the present to the future vision. Each is achievable, a little more stretching than the one before, and timebound. With individual team members, you’ll be able to plan the coaching and resources they need to achieve each smaller SMART goal.

Perhaps they need to embed new skills, learn a new sales process, or increase their conversion rates. Formulating SMART goals that provide the route to your ultimate target will enable you to dispel negative emotions before they have a chance to cloud the journey ahead.

Our Integrity Selling Course will help your sales team onboard new skills, embed methods of identifying customer needs, and hone them to perfection. The result will be a high-impact sales team on an exponential sales curve. Contact us today to discuss how to propel your sales team to qualified success.

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