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  • Writer's pictureBrian

Salespeople Are Not Getting Worse, Quotas Are Harder to Hit

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

Despite what you might read, salespeople are not getting worse. The reality is that salespeople are missing quota more now than ever. The narrative that the problem is due to salespeople getting worse is primarily a marketing ploy by people and businesses trying to sell to sales organizations. Admittedly, it's a good one. What executive doesn't want to believe that reason for the underperforming salespeople is that they are simply no good and could benefit from {insert sales tool here}? In actuality, quotas are getting higher and thus are harder to hit. Why?

Here are 5 reasons sales quotas are harder to achieve now:

Technology increases expectations.

We have evolved from knocking on doors to sending thousands of emails per day. Access to technology has drastically changed the sales industry. In about 20 years, we went from 3 channels of communication (phone, mail, in-person) to 10+ channels (mail, email, phone, text, in person, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.). We now have insights into customer buying behaviors like never before and tools developed to increase engagement with our prospects. But, every piece of technology purchased and implemented in your sales organization has an “ROI” attached to it. So, when you add up the “ROI’s” for all of the technologies, you get one substantial “ROI” which ends up tacked onto the sales team's quota.

Also, technology has provided clarity into the measurement of key performance indicators (KPI’s) like never before. A sales manager can see in real-time how many phone calls, emails, etc. a salesperson has done. So naturally, the reaction from management is to expect peak performance 100% of the time, which is completely unrealistic. Access to real-time KPI data is leading to salesperson burnout and false effort.

Buyers are more informed than ever before.

Today, with a quick google search, a buyer can easily gather information about you, your business, your product, and your competition. This information has never been easier to access. By the time a salesperson has a conversation with someone, they likely have some background information on the product they are selling. There are even products and companies out there dedicated to making it easier for buyers of all types to evaluate products and services (G2 Crowd, Angie’s List, etc.).

Not only do buyers have more info about you and your company but they have been pummeled into submission by the same sales techniques over and over again. Originality has become a rare trait in a salesperson. Read more about that here.

"Sales" has a negative connotation.

If you don’t believe me, start taking notice of the title of a salesperson. Most likely, they don’t have the word “sales” in it at all. That’s because people are less likely to take a meeting or trust a salesperson. Unfortunately, most salespeople prospect and sell with “what’s in it for me” in mind. This is where that negative connotation originates. If a salesperson was trying to provide value or help the prospect instead of hitting some activity metric or earn some commission, they would be more warmly received.

Person setting quota has access to too much data.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive but think of the old saying, "a man with two clocks never knows what time it is." Management teams today have access to so much data both within their organization and externally. They need to be careful of what information goes into formulating the sales quota. Sometimes, taking an industry study about KPI’s and quota and applying that to your team can be a recipe for disaster. There are hundreds of factors that make each sales organization unique and different.

Another huge mistake in leveraging data is misidentifying KPI’s. You can’t predict sales performance by extrapolating out your manufacturing performance. That sounds incredibly obvious, but you may have heard someone say, “we have to sell more because we spent too much last quarter.” If that’s how quotas are set, you will fail.

Combining historical data about sales performance with some anecdotal evidence about historical performance will lead to the proper quota level. There is a fine line between too much data and not enough data when it comes to arriving at an achievable but challenging quota number.

Scaling without the proper framework in place.

The sales team does not operate in a silo. Building out a sales team requires congruent growth in other areas of the business. If the sales process is not fully tested, proven, and in place when a company adds a handful of new sales heads, they are doomed to failure.

Aside from the sales process, there are a ton of micro-processes that will also cause a salesperson to miss quota. Lead qualification, contracting, and onboarding are all things that can take up precious time for a salesperson scrambling to hit their quota. The time spent completing inefficient administrative tasks is time spent not meeting quota.

External from the sales team, other departments have to support the growth of the client base and marketing funnel. Marketing, Customer Support, and Operations all have to grow congruently, or the sales team will add customers that can’t be appropriately supported.

In sales, we certainly have a problem with salespeople missing quota at a higher rate than in the past. Salespeople sometimes get a bad reputation, but the narrative that they are getting increasingly worse is not the case. We should be focusing on finding ways to make attaining quota more achievable rather than blaming missed quotas on their perceived incompetence.

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