Do Sales Targets Truly Drive Performance?

High-pressure sales initiatives and targets have become a standard indicator of success for managers across every sector and are supposedly in place to help employees perform their best. Indeed, in sales, hitting targets is a prerequisite for job security and job progression and recognition overall.

Do sales targets drive performance? Strong evidence is emerging that sales targets might not be the best way to drive performance after all.

In some ways, this makes sense – targets make it possible to identify weak links and solid players and provide performance motivation. But, in an age where 33% of employees stress about their own performance and 32% stress about the performance of others, some strong evidence is emerging that sales targets might not be the best way to drive performance after all.

While targets and goals will always play a part, these individual pressures largely drive a culture of burnout and high job turnover. Worse, with many employees unable to convert impossible leads, targets are rarely reliable performance indicators.

The question is, how can companies get rid of these individual pressures and still drive the results necessary to compete in their industry?

Implement Business-Wide Goals

The personal nature of individual targets is the main driving force for stress, and it’s this pressure that’s halting rather than helping productivity. For obvious reasons, stepping away from targets and objectives altogether poses problems of its own. Instead, it’s important to implement business-wide goals that no individual employee is responsible for. As well as enhancing team cohesion, scrapping personal targets for inclusive focuses like objectives and key results (OKR) frameworks or KPIs guides without pressure, and promotes a culture where colleagues complement each other’s efforts rather than constantly competing.

Focus On Reward Rather Than Punishment

Too often, business managers use sales targets and objectives as threats rather than incentives. Unfortunately, the threat of stripped responsibility or even job loss can see even the best employees struggle to perform.

Rather than using these focuses as a potential for punishment, managers should focus on rewarding those employees who are performing their best. This is a much more positive approach that, in turn, will motivate even individuals who are at the bottom of the sales pile to perform better, without the stress and pressure that ultimatums can bring.

Improve Together

If individuals fail to meet business goals, it’s often more a reflection of their training than their capabilities overall. After all, you employed them because they were qualified, so this disconnect must come from somewhere.

Instead of embarrassing underperforming employees with individual, enforced training courses that are by no means cost-effective, focus on proactive, business-wide training focuses. As well as avoiding the singled-out stress that we’ve spoken about, regular training refreshers ensure that every single member of your team has the tools they need to perform.


Sales targets may make some sense, but when you delve into the overall impact of individual, high-pressure initiatives, they’re rarely effective. Instead, focusing on positive, informed group objectives could be a far healthier and happier way to manage stress and keep your business moving in the right direction.

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