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How to Deal With Anxiety Around Aggressive Sales Targets

It’s a new year, and that means new sales targets are on the horizon. In all likelihood, they have been scaled up from prior years.

Announcing the annual sales target could cause your sales team frustration and fill their minds with anxiety-ridden questions:

  • “Will I be able to meet my company’s expectations?”
  • “What if I fail to hit my targets?”
  • “Does this company have any idea how difficult it will be for me to meet my goals?”

Regardless of which rung of the corporate ladder you’re on, it’s important to get buy-in from the entire team. Equally crucial is leadership quelling staff anxiety by equipping the team with a clear plan for how exactly the organization plans to reach the goals they set.

Below are four concrete steps for stopping the spread of anxiety and getting the sales team working together to help set and reach your targets for the year:

  1. Look at previous years to zero in on and identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Probably what you’ll find is that in certain areas your team members outperformed, but in others they fell short of the mark. Say, for example, that your team nailed account management but came in below projections for converting inbound leads. Try to get at why they failed to hit the inbound lead target (ideally, this is something you would have looked into already). Then break your sales targets into digestible chunks. When you do that, suddenly that $1M sales target doesn’t seem so out of reach, since $400k is allocated to sales increases for existing accounts; $350k has been allocated to new opportunities that came from marketing leads; and the remaining $350k is allocated to new opportunities from channel partners. The example’s a little simplified, but the point is that when you carve up the sales target numbers and explain the breakdown to your staff, it’s a lot more manageable for sales reps and sales leaders to work together to achieve the goal.
  1. Now that you’ve carved the target into smaller pieces, do some calculations to arrive at the average deal size for every segment to come up with the number of opportunities and deals each sales rep needs in order to meet their goal . Involve your team in that strategic planning. That might mean setting goals around activity, prospecting and other leading indicators. For example, each rep needs to place X amount of calls to existing and prospective accounts. And/or it could manifest as brainstorming strategies and action plans with the marketing team, like creating engaging content for specific customer profiles. In any case, do your best to help your sales rep clearly see the plan needed to hit their targets.
  1. Create momentum throughout the year by celebrating wins and achievements that resulted in successes. Don’t limit “wins” to closed deals, margins, or similar lagging indicators; put importance as well on leading trends that measure the process of a sales cycle. If, for example, you notice an uptick in prospecting activity, share those positive metrics with the team. Or if referrals are on the rise, don’t hesitate to share the successes.
  1. Finally, if you’re sensing difficulties and hearing excuses from members of your sales team, rather than write them off as collateral responses to change, acknowledge the validity of those concerns by providing appropriate coaching to remedy any shortfall in skills. Your objective, as a leader is to remove all potential roadblocks that may be in your team members’ way in order to help them achieve their goals. This may include additional classroom training, “work-withs” sessions, shadowing a higher-performing rep or other developmental activities necessary to perform the required skills and improve their overall confidence.

It’s the reality of sales that we need to set goals in order to reach them. But a sales target doesn’t have to be scary. When you involve the team in the process, you’re more likely to hit a bull’s eye together.