Why You Should Stop Talking About Sales Quota

Change the conversation with your sales reps and change their results for the better.

When a sales rep isn’t making their sales quota, the issue of quota becomes the topic of conversation. Why aren’t you making your quota? You know you’re supposed to make your quota? What’s the problem? You’re going to need to do better, work harder and work smarter. Now get out there and make it happen!

This is not sales management; it’s badgering… and highly unproductive.

Your sales rep already knows what their quota is and where they are against their quota. There’s no positive outcome by bringing it up again and again. It only breeds frustration and resentment. Talking about sales quota should be a 10-second conversation, whether they are at 110% or 60% of quota.

Instead of endlessly badgering your sales rep, ask yourself this question:

Why is my sales rep not making quota?

Now, really think through your answer.

The most common answer (whether you answer it or your sales rep does) is usually quite vague: “Not enough activity” comes the response. The problem with this answer is: neither you nor your sales rep learns anything new about the source of the problem. So, the real question is: what exactly does the term “activity” mean?

The key to answering this question and moving towards a more productive discussion is being specific about the concept of “activity”.

When I consult with sales leaders, I guide them to finding out why their sales rep is not meeting quota by focusing their coaching conversations on activity, not quota, using these four (4) guidelines:

1. Type of activity – Which sales activity is your sales rep engaging in that might be the problem? Which step of the sales process does this activity fit into? Is it a complex activity or a simple one? Does this activity require other personnel or resources to successfully implement? For example, does your sales rep need a technical expert when doing a needs analysis with a tech from the prospects company?

2. Priority of activity – Are there other activities that are more important than this one? How would you rank the importance of this sales activity compared to others? Should your sales rep refocus their attention to more impactful or profitable activities? For example, they might need to prioritize qualifying buyers over acquiring additional product knowledge.

3. Amount of activity – How much of a particular activity is your sales rep doing? Are they spending too much time on it? Not enough? Just right? An example might be prospecting. Too many salespeople simply don’t invest enough time in this step of the sales process limiting their sales results.

4. Quality of activity – How well is your sales rep executing a specific activity? This is the most subjective, but the most informative. If your sales rep is engaged in the right activity with the right amount of time, yet still failing to make their quota, then they may not be doing this sales activity very well. For example, they may be making 50 cold calls each week (right activity, right quantity), but their words, delivery and confidence is poor resulting in minimal first appointments, adversely affecting sales quota achievement.

Your coaching session should not be about quota. It should be about your sales reps activity based on the criteria listed above. Why? Because activity drives results. Therefore, be sure that your sales reps are engaged in the right activity, for the right amount of time and executing at a high level. When you find a gap, then you’ll know where they need coaching.