New Year New Sales – How To Start 2021 Out Right

The year 2020 was far from typical. COVID-19 struck humankind and, scientists responded with unprecedented speed to discover and manufacture vaccines. People were isolated from loved ones, but instead of letting that distance consume them, they embraced Zoom and FaceTime video chats. Protests rose up across many major cities, and instead of repressing the cause, many states took notice and started the beginnings of reform.

While many things happened in 2020, people adapted and kept moving forward. Keeping that optimism going, let’s look at how you can jumpstart 2021 in the right direction.

Set the Right Goal

Setting the right goal for the year is the most important sale you will make in all of 2021. Not hitting that goal can cause your team to feel stressed out, possibly give up if they don’t think it is realistic, and impact their earning potential. It can also mean difficult conversations, smaller commissions, performance improvement programs, no bonuses, and fear of job security. So, when you are setting your 2021 goal, you need to make it practical and achievable.

Setting the right goal for 2021 depends on trends and your competition. Look at trends from a macro level, to your industry and what you saw within your own company. Then analyze what your competitors are doing and what you can learn from them. Review your leading indicators and see how they impacted your results last year. Then use that information as a data point for setting your sales goals.

After you have determined your goal for 2021, you need to explain HOW you plan to hit it. Do you plan to go after a new market? Do you have a new product? Are you adding new people to the team?

Making sure you have the data points to back up your goal is imperative. It allows you to have the means to an end and to sell your reasoning.

Having the Right Team Makes All the Difference

Suppose you increase your goal to hit $1M more in 2021 with the exact same team. Chances are you won’t be able to hit that goal. Your team can only work so hard before they are tapped.  You will want to examine your sales capacity. Which is the amount of revenue your salespeople can bring in at any given point. You may need to add more people to your team if you plan to increase your goal.

You will also want to replace underperformers, now. Often sales leaders will say something along the lines of “I can fix them; I can make them better. I know I can.” Then, six months down the line, they still have not made any progress. It would be best if you considered replacing them - and quickly.

According to HubSpot, “It takes an average of 90 days for a new salesperson to be ready to interact with buyers, nine months to a year for them to be competent to perform.” So, the sooner you get to hiring a new salesperson, the better.

Look at your attrition rate. According to Pipedrive, “a 2018 Sales Talent Study from CSO Insights found the average attrition rate for sales reps is historically low at just 16%.”The study also found that it takes salespeople an entire year to reach full productivity.  So, make sure you have the right team to make 2021 a successful year.

Keep Everyone Focused

Now that you have goals and the right team, it’s time to keep them focused. Do not just expect to put a bigger number out there. Motivate people, and they will instantly hit it. Explain how they will hit the goal and give them direction. One of your most significant responsibilities as a sales leader is to provide your team with direction and reinforce those actions.

First, find out what they are doing. For example, are they checking in with your customers? If so, make sure they have a plan for the call with specific resources and information they can share. Now is a great time to do ride-a-longs, observe what your salespeople are doing and saying.

Then give your salespeople direction based on what you see. Positively reinforce when they execute well and make adjustments when they don’t. Clear guidance in a timely fashion is critical to the success of your team and customers.

Get the Specifics into Their Plans

After you have given clear direction and set the goal, make sure your salespeople put the “how” into their own plans. When they are building their plans, have research how they plan to hit their individual number:

  • Are they going to grow accounts? What accounts?
  • Are they planning to increase their opportunities? How?
  • Are they planning to infiltrate a different market? Which market?
  • Are they planning to increase the close rate? How?

Have them pick one or two things to focus on and put into their plans. This is one of the bigger “misses” of sales organizations.

Have an Accountability System

Having a Sales Operating System or accountability system separates great sales leaders from just okay sales leaders. An accountability system allows you to track what and how your salespeople are doing. Even if your salespeople have excellent selling skills, real success comes when everyone is aligned with your goals and expectations, while also being motivated and held accountable.

Following-up with your team reinforces excellent performance and provides necessary feedback. If you fail to “inspect what you expect,” people will pick up on that quickly and be less compelled to do what is asked of them. Following up keeps everyone on track and allows for strong accountability.

As you determine your expectations, team’s capability, tools and resources, also think about coming up with an adequate reward system to motivate them.


To start 2021 out well, you need to set a realistic goal, have the right team, ensure your team has a plan and is focused, and make sure you have a good accountability system put into place. If you have these five things ready, your 2021 will be more successful.

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