Digital Presence & Marketing Strategy

Setting Sales Goals for an Online Business

One thing I’ve realized lately is how important it is to not sit back and “wait” for sales to happen on a new eCommerce website. No, you don’t have to be a jerk like the picture below explains 🙂 but you do have to go out there and make things happen.

I run one website that sells clogging shoes and dance bags. One of the initial ways I made sales was to start contacting people I already knew that may be interested in what I was selling. Yes, I had to take a few big steps out of my comfort zone at first; however, as I talked to friends and family, they were willing to give me good feedback and even criticism which helped my site make progress.

How to set goalsSome of that feedback was positive. I used this feedback as the start of a “testimonials” section. Am I positive that it had a direct effect on sales? No. I do know that many large companies use feedback and reviews to give their products and services more credibility.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about goals and how this ties in to sales online. I heard that Monday, January 21st is known as “Blue Monday” because people realize they probably aren’t going to keep their infamous “New Years Resolutions”. Three weeks have come and gone, they realize they’ve fallen in to the same patterns as always – they decide to give up and quit.

Why does this happen? Were they not serious when they set these goals in the first place? Were they not committed? Did they not want to succeed or overcome a bad habit? Of course they were serious; of course they were committed (at least at first); obviously they wanted to succeed or cut the bad habits. But, in my opinion, their goals were probably based on “outcomes” and not individual “performance”.

I would say that my greatest “discovery” to date as an entrepreneur has been a better understanding of how to set and accomplish goals. When it comes to sales, some things are obviously out of our control. I really wish I could just turn on a magic button and all of a sudden the money would flow in to my merchant account on a consistent basis. However, this doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Why, Why, Why? I’ve actually heard a few clients ask this very question: “Why the hell am I not making sales?” My simple response, “What have you done TODAY to make a sale?”

So my advice is this: as you think about your goals, what you want to accomplish with your online business, or with anything, ask yourself the question – “How much control do I have of that outcome?” If you can honestly say you have COMPLETE control, this is the type of goal you go after. Here’s a ficticious example:

Goal: Make $60,000 this year with my online business.

Let’s break it down:

  • To make $60,000 this year, assuming we are starting today, Tuesday, February 19th, means we have 10 and 1/2 months.
  • $60K / 10.5 = $5715 per month.
  • $5715 / 4 weeks = $1430 per week.
  • $1430 / 7 days = $205/day.

By doing this break down I can actually see what it’s going to take on a day to day basis if I want to achieve this financial goal of $60,000 by Dec. 31, 2008.Now I have to ask myself that important question: How much control do I have of that outcome – to make $205 per day?” Some might say this is debateable but think about it, can I actually MAKE a visitor to my website buy the products I am offering on a specific day? From my experience, the answer to that is NO. However, there are things I can do every day that will improve the likelihood of this happening. What are they? Phone calls, emails, weekly or daily promotions, testing different wording strategies, client feedback and referral systems, offline marketing, joint ventures – the list can go on and on. But look at this list – “How much control do I have of [these] outcomes?” All the control!

I can set a goal to make X amount of phone calls today, send Y amount of emails to my database. Then, after doing these things, I can monitor my progress. Maybe today I called 20 people and 5 of them purchased for an average of $50. That means 25% of my contacts purchased something and I made about $250 today. If I contact 50 people tomorrow I have a chance to sell to 12.5 people for about $625 in sales. The numbers won’t always be perfect every day, but keep track of your progress (what was working, what didn’t seem to work), and then duplicate your successes more and more and more!

I’ve rambled long enough today. These strategies will pay off with your businesses. As the cliche states: “Practice makes perfect!” Now start practicing!

15 replies on “Setting Sales Goals for an Online Business”

Hi Nate,
Thanks for this common sense reminder of one of the most important aspects of any business, namely setting performance goals based on the things we CAN control. It’s really encouraging.


I was afraid to do this at first and didn’t make many sales. But after you begin stepping out of your comfort zone and seeing the results, it’s easier the next time!
Now, I have a new comfort zone and many more sales!

Thanks for all your advise!

Thanks for the encouragement. Having a fulltime job while I’m trying to start an ECommerce business is both good and bad: it’s good that I have income while I’m trying to start a new business, it bad that I’m not able to devote more time to the new business. I’m not depending on the new business to eat and pay rent, right now; but if I was dependent upon it I would probably feel the need to be much more proactive.

I have to keep plugging away!

Your right Cassie, the “comfort zone” can really hold us back at first. As soon as we take that first leap of faith though, often times there’s no turning back.

Gary, I agree that having a 9-5 job, or in your case, a whenever and wherever to whenever and wherever flight, can be tough while you’re trying to start a new business. It’s hard to find a balance. What I found is that as long as I was doing at least one small thing per day on my online business, I felt I was making progress. Some days I did a ton, other days, just a little. But, as I’ve said a hundred times, “Small Success leads to Big Success!”

Keep on plugging (and flying) away! Just ask Cassie, eventually things start picking up even faster than you’re expecting.

Hi Nate

I absolutely agree that goals are vital to success, but I think the driving force is what I call the ‘Hunger Factor’. How hungry are you to succeed? Why do want to succeed? Where are you on the Hunger Scale? As Gary mentioned he doesn’t rely on his new business to pay the bills and have food on the table, if he was reliant on it his hunger factor would be higher. I should mention that I’m in the same position, however our income barely covers the bills and we have a number of loans. I’m determined to create an income that will give us the freedom to make different lifestyle choices. If our current income was larger would I be as driven? Probably not!

Goals are great. I need to be more specific in setting my sales goals. Right now I am still learning of the time commitment and how much I can reasonably devote to my site. I will do better at setting more specific goals.

Remember, “A Goal un-written is only a wish!” I remember how hard it was at first, and even now sometimes, to manage my time. Specific performance goals really help me plan out my day: I have a strong reason to get things done and see progress. It’s like Lou Holtz said:

If you don’t wake up every morning with a burning desire to do things, you don’t have enough goals.

Keep the questions coming and don’t over-think things 🙂 Talk to you soon!

yeah, right now my problem is time. I know if I schedule my blogging, homework, phone calls, etc., daily, it will get done. Coming up with a plan and sticking with it is key. Starting new habits can be challenging. Thanks Nate

Time management is challenging even before one tries to start something new. I think the key is to set priorities, get real about what can be done, then let go of the rest. Many things we think we have to do can wait until life gets a little saner. As I watch my life change as a result of the choices I’ve made, I realize my values are shifting too.


I am encouraged by the empowering nature of this article. Again, thanks for the reminder of how necessary and important action on my part is. Focus, focus, focus is such a key. I am realizing that I need to make a conscious effort to continually work on this…on a daily basis…on a minute by minute basis!!

Yes this is so true! Marketing sells! Being in the face of your customers makes them more likely to use your site.

Great advice on goal setting.

You may want to check out, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

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