The best sales teams set goals as a year-round process rather than a yearly exercise.

Average sales teams are, well, average. By contrast, brilliant sales teams are rare. However, the best of best share certain characteristic and behaviors that are the most obvious at the beginning of each sales year.

Here are the differences that make the biggest difference:

1. Timing

Average Sales Teams wait until the new year to set sales goals. I’m sorry, but it must be said, if you’re reading this column to help set goals for this year, you’ve already missed the boat.

Brilliant Sales Teams set sales goals well in advance so that everything is in place when it’s time to make the goals happen. Not to worry, though. Follow the rest of this column and you’ll soon be back on track.

2. Strategy

Average Sales Teams set goals based upon what they need to sell to make their numbers, regardless of how it relates to overall corporate strategy.

Brilliant Sales Teams understand the company’s overall strategy and then set goals will help fulfill that strategy.

3. Commissions

Average Sales Teams have commissions that are complicated and change frequently, so that an action that makes sense today ends up making no sense tomorrow.

Brilliant Sales Teams have commission that can be described in one or two sentences and which remain in place long enough so that appropriate success is appropriately rewarded.

4. Targets

Average Sales Teams have targets for selling the newest products but don’t have the sales tools and samples that they need to close the deals.

Brilliant Sales Teams are fully briefed on upcoming products and have the sales tools and demo units they need to develop and close accounts.

5. Quotas

Average Sales Teams have quotas that are bumped up every year regardless of whether those numbers can be realistically achieved.

Brilliant Sales Teams have quotas that reflect a reasonable forecast of what sales can be made, based upon actual data, economics and likely prospect behavior.

6. Training

Average Sales Teams are seldom goaled on training and or being coached. These activities take place haphazardly, whenever there’s a few moments of time.

Brilliant Sales Teams have scheduled times for regular training and coaching because they realize that without constant growth even a great sales teams grows stale.

7. Hiring

Average Sales Teams struggle to find qualified candidates when they need to expand or replace a team member who’s left. Often they’re forced to settle for whomever they can find quickly.

Brilliant Sales Teams identify, cultivate and interview candidates constantly so they have a stable of top candidates to draw upon when needed.

8. Results

Average Sales Teams get average results even if their goals are ambitious. They end the year wondering where the time has gone and dreading the January hustle to set new goals.

Brilliant Sales Teams get brilliant results not just because their goals are ambitious but because they lay the groundwork to turn ambition into reality.