Goals are naturally baked into sales. Your sales reps may be working toward customer retention goals, sales revenue goals, decreasing customer churn or specific sales KPIs that align with your organization’s overall goals. Setting challenging but achievable goals can help your team members in many ways, according to Joel Carnevale, a Syracuse University management professor.

For one, goal-setting can improve employees’ belief in their abilities and potential for success. When they achieve early milestones, they get a confidence boost which can enhance their overall commitment to the goal. Carnevale notes that goal-setting can also help alleviate stress. When your sales reps have a plan of action and know what they are working toward, they likely won’t feel overwhelmed.

If you could use a refresher on how to set better goals for yourself or your sales team, read on. We share guidance from Carnevale on how to set effective goals in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Envision the future. The first step to effective goal-setting is to reflect broadly on the future. Help your sales reps discern what areas of their work they would like to improve or what skills they would like to learn. Maybe they have specific habits they would like to break or form. The idea, says Carnevale, is to think about what the ideal future looks like.

Highlight specific and achievable goals. Carnevale says that this step requires you to pull out and describe seven or eight goals from the previous step that can contribute to your sales reps’ realization of their ideal self.

Prioritize. In this step of the goal-setting process, you are ranking and justifying each goal in order of importance. You should also include a timeframe of when you would ideally complete the goal.

Consider significance and impact. Research suggests that simply considering the remote consequences of our goals can improve motivation and persistence towards goal attainment, says Carnevale. When thinking about goals, encourage your sales reps to imagine how achieving the goal could impact themselves and others.

Define sub-goals. Goals can sometimes be complex, which is why it’s important to break them down into more manageable pieces. Carnevale recommends defining sub-goals and then developing specific strategies to accomplishing them.

Prepare for obstacles. You will likely encounter roadblocks on your path to achieving a goal. That’s why it’s helpful to anticipate potential barriers and how you might move past them, says Carnevale. When your sales reps know what challenges they might face, they can have a game plan on how they will respond.

Benchmark success. Remember to celebrate victories along the way. Carnevale points out that this is crucial to maintaining high levels of motivation.

Goals make up the foundation of any successful sales team. They keep your sales reps focused and working toward what’s most important. However, goal-setting takes a certain finesse. You don’t want your goals to be so lofty that your sales reps feel hopeless about ever achieving them. You should also introduce the right amount of goals. Too few, and your sales team won’t be motivated. Too many, and they may feel overwhelmed. Consider the points above to set the most effective goals for your sales team.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Joel Carnevale is a business writer and consultant, focusing on topics related to leadership, employee motivation and toxic work behavior. He is also an assistant professor of management at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management.