Setting unrealistic or inaccurate sales targets can have a major impact on a business. Not only can it affect cash flow, but also it can ruin management’s credibility and leave sales teams lacking motivation, either because they consistently underachieve or easily over-achieve.

In order to accurately set sales targets, organizations should consider adopting a variation of zero-based forecasting, where each period is treated independently, free from strong historic biases. While it can be initially more difficult to implement, its results outperform other methods and the process becomes much easier in subsequent years.

Consider the following five factors to set realistic sales targets:

    1. Business situation. Every business is different. That’s why it’s important to start by considering which factors affect your revenue quarter-by-quarter. Is your business seasonal? Do you operate in volatile markets? Do you have a strong recurring revenue stream built in? Is your business contract driven?  Does your business have high cogs or high margins? To create a more accurate forecast that’s tailored for your business, consider all of these factors, plus life cycle of your product or service portfolio and customer mix.
    2. Economic factors. What is happening in your industry and the wider economy that could have an impact on revenue? Be as thorough as possible in your evaluation of the variables that may impact  either your revenue or the performance of your sales reps.
    3. Revenue per rep. Take a look at what each rep generated in the previous year and, if available, the year before that. Collect or estimate customer share of wallet for their accounts which could be indicative of future potential. Based on this data, you should be able to create best-case scenarios, worst-case scenarios and an average of the two. Use the average figure to influence your sales targets and the best-case to set bonuses