When it comes to goal setting, we’re often given the advice: “Dream big!” We see the phrase on posters and in self-help books and articles. We’re encouraged to set huge, aspirational goals so that even if we fall short, we still make progress we wouldn’t have otherwise made. 

Graph showing sales performance goal progress in Ambition

This advice may sound good and inspirational in theory, but this isn’t always the right approach—especially in sales. Dreaming too big can be a one-way ticket to burnout and impede the success of most account managers.

In this post, we’re going to examine how setting smaller, more achievable sales performance goals will improve team performance and ultimately impact revenue.

Why Big Sales Performance Goals Are Not Always Best

When setting big, lofty, ambitious goals for your account managers, your intention may be to motivate them—but instead, this can set them up for failure. 

When a goal seems unattainable or unrealistic for an individual, it typically creates three types of mental responses. People will feel as though the goal is: 

  1. Impossible: They look at the big goal and can’t see any possible way to accomplish it. As a result, their motivation declines.
  2. Meaningless: After trying and failing to hit those goals once or twice, people will begin to see their goals as meaningless objectives that they’re not motivated to hit. 
  3. Destined to fail: The account manager may try their best to hit the goal, but due to its unrealistic nature, they feel like a failure for not reaching it—even if their performance was still above average.

In all three situations, setting the bar so high doesn’t improve motivation or increase someone’s results. By setting sales performance goals that are out of reach, we often get the opposite result of what we want. Account managers won’t feel motivated by the challenge of hitting a lofty goal. Instead, they’ll feel demotivated and discouraged.

Set Small, Easy to Accomplish Goals

In a podcast episode of the Tim Ferris Show, Tim and Chase Jarvis discussed the concept of setting smaller, easy to accomplish goals.

When you make your goals attainable, you become more motivated because you feel like you’re winning every step of the way. So instead of setting one huge goal, set a bunch of small, easy to accomplish goals, and celebrate your victories each time you hit one.

This is a subtle shift in mindset, but adopting it can create a drastically different relationship with your account managers and positively impact their performance. Instead of giving them aggressive annual or quarterly goals, think about how you can break that big goal down into activities and objectives. 

How Small Account Manager Goals Should Look

Breaking big sales performance goals down into smaller milestones makes them feel more approachable, which in turn increases your account managers’ confidence to tackle them. That confidence will continue to build, and that’s how you’ll create momentum and motivation that drive results. Here’s an example of how to set these up during an account manager’s first year:

Days 1-30 Goal: Complete all company onboarding and sales training.

Days 31-60 Goal: Close first deal with assistance of sales manager.

Days 61-90 Goal: Close first deal solo.

Days 91-180 Goal: Generate enough sales to break even on salary.

Days 181-365 Goal: Generate a 100% ROI on salary for the year.

Instead of setting the bar too high right out of the gate, start by giving new account managers a set of goals that feel achievable. Each goal ties to the ultimate big picture objective, but smaller, individual goals are more manageable and less intimidating to accomplish.

<<< Download our free scorecard templates to help you set, track, and measure sales performance goals >>>

By setting small goals like this, the account manager feels like they are succeeding in their role and meeting expectations. This can help with retention and prevent the account manager from becoming burnt out before they ever officially ramp up.

View sales performance goals in progress in Ambition

Focus first on getting new account managers to break even, and then focus on ramping them up to profitability.

Compensating for Overperformance

While small sales performance goals are great for getting someone ramped quickly, you still want to set bigger milestones with rewards. These stretch goals give the overachievers something to aim for, and you get to reward them for going above and beyond.

Consider adding a cash bonus for the year if you exceed a certain revenue target. This goal should be a bit harder to reach yet still feasible for the new account manager to accomplish if they work smart and hard.

Award accolades in Ambition to celebrate when someone hits a big sales performance goal

By setting this up as a “Bonus” goal, no one will feel like a failure if they don’t hit the goal. They’ll still be on track for good performance, and the bonus goal will give them something to strive for in the months and years to come.


Don’t give your account managers pie-in-the-sky sales performance goals that are extremely hard to accomplish. It demotivates them.

Instead, create a series of small, easy to accomplish goals that will path them toward that larger goal. They will feel like they’re winning each time they accomplish a goal, which will increase retention, motivation, and confidence.

Use “Bonus” goals to encourage overachievers to go above and beyond.

Make Your Sales Team More Effective and Productive 

Ambition’s sales coaching platform allows revenue and enablement leaders to coach, score, and motivate their teams. With the ability to enable consistent and documented coaching conversations across your organization, provide data-driven guidance, and measure manager and enablement effectiveness, you’ll establish a culture of positive accountability and encouragement that empowers people to become more efficient and successful in their roles. To find out how you can achieve your goals with Ambition’s sales coaching platform, book time with us here.

Customer Stories

  1. Jobber: Held 7K data-led coaching conversations
  2. Dallas Mavericks: Increased phone connects by 65% within one month
  3. BlueGrace: Increased gross revenue by 80% and decreased ramp time and attrition
  4. Memphis Grizzlies: Increased season ticket revenue by 35% and premium sales by $300K 
  5. Houston Chronicle: Increased sales output due to democratized data

Ambition is endorsed by Harvard Business Review, AA-ISP (the Global Inside Sales Organization), and USA Today as a proven solution for managing sales teams.

Popular Content