Why Sales Teams Are Constantly Missing Quotas?

When you get a quota that gives you that sinking feeling of panic, a little bit of fear, a dash of anger, and a lot of excitement..that feeling is called growth.

Quota attainment has been dropping since 2011 when it was 63%, 50% in 2016 and is expected to be at or below 40% in 2020. While being a very real problem for many, Covid is a convenient scapegoat for many underperforming sales leaders. We know first hand that with the right leadership, companies have been thriving in industries that have been deeply affected by COVID.  What separates these thriving companies and the ones that act as victims, is the ability to quickly pivot and put into motion a contingency plan. We helped our client navigate his unprecedented challenge to thrive in a time when they were not in an industry that benefited from Covid (ie Zoom, Lysol or some Mask manufacturer). Despite the fact that their business required onsite visits to fulfil services, they continued to hit targets and set revenue records. This just goes to show, where there is a will there’s a way.


So then why are so many companies having trouble hitting their Quotas?

One reason is that quotas are too low.

While this may seem counter intuitive, if we are constantly regressing our quota setting based on under performance assuming that is ‘what is possible’. That means we’re lowering the bar for everyone and we’ll never see the good reps outperform the mediocre.

By raising quotas, it will give us freedom to deploy new strategies, step out of the shadows of past behavior and discover new ways to achieve. Also, remember, Quota is the bare minimum not to get fired. You shouldn’t celebrate hitting quota. Your stretch goal is what you celebrate and reward, that’s 20-30% past quota.


Aim for a quota and you’ll land short.

That brings us to our second reason why nobody hits quota, it is because that’s what we are aiming at. There is no goal. Everyone is aiming at quota, and they land short. There is little margin for error or buffer when the goal and the quota is the same thing.

What’s the expression? Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars.

Everyone puts up a quota and crosses their fingers hoping they’ve calculated the number of leads, opportunities, and closed deals properly. They create a mini data science project with numbers and data with little understanding as to what needs to be said and done daily to get a particular client to buy. Instead we use best practices and spam just enough people with emails that someone will accidentally say yes. Strategies aren’t formulated anymore. You need to create strategies as to why your client will buy and how your team will hit quota.


Sales requires 100% focus on the goal.

Sales team’s focus has been shifting to distractions. Sales is much a different job accounting, than marketing, and customer service or engineering. Sales requires 100% focus on the goal and nothing else to be truly spectacular at it.  All the flavors of the week lightning rod topics around the office are distractions and focus sales reps on the very things they cannot actually control.

Their own behaviour.

Don’t get me wrong, mental health is important, but there is no reputable study that shows mental health is disproportionality attacked on a sales team more than any other demanding role. In fact, sales has more upside than any other field. Most jobs, the harder you work, the more you accomplish, you typically aren’t proportionally and directly rewarded. And certainly not in a direct and transparent manner. All social psychology reinforcers why sales is properly set up. Diversity and inclusion. I think engineering has a much bigger problem and they have and need more mandates to correct, so why is sales under attack? We are creating problems where there really aren’t problems. Things could always be better, but when we act like something is treacherous, when it isn’t, we seek to solve something that isn’t reality. Thus we end up in a fight with the invisible man, which requires more and more resources, time, energy and effort.

Let’s focus on actually creating a positive and growth minded culture and environment. As a result, people will rise to the occasion or not, but that can be delt with on an individual basis.

We’ve stopped focusing on what’s needed, and we’ve created entitlement which is hurting the growth of our teams and quota achievement. Intensity is needed, it’s not toxic. You can’t ever enter a competition without limbering up, without getting your blood flowing, pumping up your adrenaline. That’s how teams function at a high level. We’ve sterilized sales by having everyone act like they work at a museum and focus on things that don’t help, rather we’ve conflated issues and told them it will hurt them.


Remember, it’s the sales leader’s responsibility to not only hit the revenue targets, but also ensure that they are supporting all salespeople in hitting targets. That means providing support, training and creating strategies that the salespeople can deploy. If your salespeople can’t hit their targets, the sales leader is failing them in some capacity.

Are you ready?

We only work with the most determined and passionate leaders. If you want to close more deals, multiply your revenue, and scale your business, we’re ready to take action.

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