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You can’t expect new hires to do a great job if they aren’t sure what constitutes a great job. In fact, you’re not even likely to land the best candidates, if you can’t clearly communicate what their new position will entail. And how you’ll measure success. The process of setting goals and defining expectations is most effective when it starts before you make final hiring decisions.

The most popular – and time-honored – technique for goal-setting follows the SMART acronym. Goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

The details required to meet each of these standards will vary somewhat, depending on your new employee’s position as well as other factors. So let’s think in terms of sales.

SPECIFIC goals give direction

They’re like a roadmap. Start with the “destination” – annual financial goals – then work backward to define shorter-term goals and necessary actions by month or week, down to daily to-dos, if needed. Short-term mini-goals help people stay on track and facilitate “quick-fix” coaching and counseling before potential problems become entrenched.

Don’t forget to include goals for non-sales objectives or expectations such as professional development.

MEASURABLE goals enable assessment

Businesses use key performance indicators to analyze all types of corporate progress. KPIs linked to SMART goals allow sales people, their managers and HR managers to assess the new hire’s performance. You can measure contact-making activity, pipeline progress of deals, closed sales, etc. Hint: adopting CRM and/or sales management software makes tracking and analysis much more efficient, not to mention more informative.

ACHIEVABLE goals are realistic

Pie-in-the-sky goals are self-defeating. They are demotivating, and they lead to poor forecasting that endangers company-wide productivity. Effective goals should be attainable – but not to easily that they don’t require your new hire to stretch. After all, success will benefit them, too.

Some planning experts would say that the “A” in SMART also stands for Agreed-Upon. This is a crucial point. Setting effective goals and expectations for new sales hires (and veteran team members, too) must be a collaborative effort. Goals should be aligned with overall company needs as well as sales department benchmarks. But individual sales goals are meaningful only when that person fully embraces them. A participatory process ensures every SMART element is theirs as well as yours.

RELEVANT goals are job-specific

And person-specific, too. Each member of your sales team is unique. So what is SMART for one won’t be the same as the details you define for someone else.

TIMELY goals keep things moving forward

Did you want your sales goals to be achieved “someday”? Specificity matters when it comes to timing, just as it does with finishing certain tasks. Again, corporate forecasting and planning rely on the sales team to reach certain financial goals at certain times.

SMART is a smart choice for everyone

New hires benefit because they know what to expect from their new company and what will be expected of them in return. They have a timeframe in which to accomplish short- and long-term goals. And a way to measure their progress. Even the most self-motivated and sales-driven employee needs to know they are succeeding in your environment.

HR professionals benefit because they can clearly communicate with candidates. The hiring process is stronger and more effective. And it’s much easier to avoid hiring mistakes based on misunderstandings or incorrect assumptions.

Companies themselves benefit. It’s expensive when new hires leave quickly, or simply linger to languish in their positions instead of producing. With the SMART approach, clear goals and expectations put everyone on the same page, right from the start.

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