The Answer is Obvious
By Randy Shoults
What percent of the time should sales representatives be expected to achieve quota?
A sales manager recently asked me this question and it’s one that I have heard many times from leaders who feel the established quotas are unrealistic, or they are frustrated with a sales representative’s performance and want guidance on how long they should wait before firing them.
I think we all know the obvious answer; the goal is for reps to achieve 100% of their quota every period.
What is not obvious, apparently, is that in both of these instances the real issue is not about the rep’s performance and more about the manager’s. The primary responsibility of managers is to set every team member up for success. If the team does not hit its numbers, then managers aren’t hitting their numbers. Leaders often share with me that they have done everything they can to help the person, but too often that simply means they have encouraged the rep to “sell more, by prospecting more and closing more business.” No doubt the rep is thinking, “Thanks, Captain Obvious, now I know what to do."
What should be obvious is that salespeople are not barriers to a manager’s success, they are the means to his or her success. When was the last time you shared a rep’s quota and the person was surprised and demoralized? Frequently? Every time? Not a great way to start a new sales period, right? If reps receive their quotas as “death sentences” wondering how they are ever going to achieve them, then obviously there has to be a better way.
What must become obvious is that managers will be more effective at leading and inspiring reps toward quota attainment by engaging with them on a regular basis and inspiring them on why we do what we do and how to be better at doing it. By coaching and developing them to improve their sales skills and strategies, managers can demonstrate that they are on the "quest for quota" together by:
Involve the reps in the quota setting process. This will help both reps and managers validate that the quota is realistic. To demonstrate their commitment to the rep’s success, managers must not only identify the goal, but also collaborate on a sales plan that details specific, actionable tasks for achieving the goal. This is also an opportunity for the leader to instill "self-accountability" and empathize a culture where representatives actively take responsibility for their performance.
Provide training and ongoing coaching, and link goal attainment to specific skill development. Any increase in quota without a plan to improve the reps’ selling skills is based on hope and they deserve better than that.
Coach the reps in the field, not from a desk. Have you ever seen a winning sports team being coached by a desk-jockey? Managers cannot observe selling behaviors from their desks, nor can they make real-time adjustments to affect outcomes. Managers often spend too much time solving reps’ problems rather than coaching and developing them to achieve more sales. Research indicates that just three hours of coaching per month can increase sales up to 19%.
Provide ongoing developmental feedback and positive reinforcement. Regularly share guidance to improve performance and recognize the reps’ efforts to advance their skills and follow the sales process instead of waiting until they close a big deal. Managers cannot affect the race at the finish line.
Create a winning culture. Emphasize continual development and a culture where the team practices with each other to master selling skills instead of winging it with prospects or clients. The goal is to encourage reps to feel comfortable openly discussing performance results knowing that the team is vested in their success. In addition to reinforcing personal accountability, this sets the stage for peer accountability where everyone holds each other to a high standard.
Have fun! Morale will flourish by exhibiting a genuine interest in the team, creating a framework for success and establishing a commitment to excellence.
“The measure of a leader is not what you do
but what people do because of you.” (Howard Hendricks)
So, the answer to the question about how often reps should attain their quota is now obvious. And 100% quota obtainment is made possible when managers do the obvious.