8 Simple Tips to Improve Sales Quota Attainment

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Courtney Hart
Courtney Hart
In Sales Quota
Courtney Hart is the Marketing Campaigns Manager at Xactly. She earned her Bachelor of Science from California Polytechnic State University: San Luis Obispo.

So you’re witnessing a slow sales month, and quota attainment for a few of your reps is in jeopardy. The hot leads have simmered, and the calls have quieted. It’s a lousy position to be in, and you’re left telling yourself “it’s just this month.” But if one month of low numbers starts turning into an overall slow quarter, you’re going to have bigger problems.

These losses not only affect the paychecks of all involved, but also can lead to increased turnover at the company due to the decrease in performance. Taking proactive steps to better the chances of attaining quota is essential to getting reps out of their sales slumps, and back in the groove of stellar sales performance.

When it comes to improving quota attainment, you first must be sure that you’re setting an appropriate quota. Even the best sales rep will fail to hit an outlandish quota. On the flipside, if reps aren’t motivated to surpass their quotas, they may fail to reach them in the first place.

Surprisingly, this study revealed that a large percentage of quota-carrying SaaS sales representatives are not hitting their goals: 79 percent of sales representatives miss quota and 14 percent never achieve even 10 percent of quota. Across the entire SaaS data set the average quota attainment is 58 percent. The data remained consistent regardless of tenure.

You need to set quotas that motivate and inspire performance and ensure that reps are following best practices to improve their odds of making the sale. Following are 8 top tips to achieve both.

Quota Attainment Tips

  1. Encourage reps to follow-up with prospects, within reason.

Checking in after initial calls is crucial for sales progression and closing deals. While many reps might in fact be doing so, there’s always the possibility that they aren’t following up at the right times, or perhaps, not doing so tactfully. Embrace the available tools to estimate the optimum time for calls based on tried and true industry research, and make sure your sales training doesn’t gloss over this important activity (view additional sales training ideas).

  1. Make sure reps are properly preparing for their calls.

Before calling leads, successful reps thoroughly prepare for calls. No questions asked. Researching the company along with the lead’s name and position is the bare minimum. Proper training can also help reps figure out what information is needed to form a quality relationship with their prospects, which in turn, will help calls run smoothly.

  1. If reps must oversell as a tactic, make sure they deliver.

Over-promising is a common technique that might work in certain situations, but when it doesn’t, it can really leave a nasty mark. Thus, reps should avoid overselling unless the chances of them delivering are greatly in their favor. A few too many oversells gone wrong can tarnish their reputation and negatively affect their current and long-term standing with customers.

  1. Communicate the fact that no lead is too small.

Pushing aside small sales opportunities can be more detrimental than you might expect. If reps are experiencing a downturn, these smaller leads and opportunities can get them one step closer to making quota, and can serve as confidence boosters when they’re in a slump. Plus, you never know who knows who, and what kind of referrals might come up from a simple conversation.

Download our guide, “Inspiring Sales Rep Performance” for top tips from industry experts on how to inspire sales reps and maximize their selling power.

As a quick aside, while our goal here is to help reps improve baseline quota attainment, it’s also important to consider the benefits of providing incentives for reps to reach even higher.

  • Are reps pushed to shoot for more than 100% of quota? If not, they may not see any need to continually improve their sales performance. That’s a detriment to their long-term personal growth, and, it might hamper them from reaching quota should it be increased at any time.
  • Also, if reps aren’t motivated to surpass their quotas, they’ll naturally slow as they approach the 100% mark. They might even slow too much at some point, and before you know it, a deal falls through and they end up short when all is said and done.
  • Alternatively, if reps are motivated to shoot for 120%, you can expect that figure to become the new 100% in their minds. So, while they’ll push to hit that new goal, if they don’t reach it, there’s a good chance that they still met their original quota in the process.

With those benefits in mind, here are some tips for surpassing quota.

  1. Change the mindset that attaining quota is good enough; push for more than 100%.

A goal is simply a number, and not an indicator that there aren’t sales left to be closed. If your organization experiences a drop in performance after quotas are met, you’re leaving sales on the table, just as you would if quotas weren’t met in the first place.

  1. Avoid “sticker shock” by setting quotas at levels that won’t reduce sales performance.

If you set quotas unrealistically high, reps might feel discouraged, and give up before they even get started. Use historical data to determine attainable goals, and then set stretch goals that can still realistically be met with additional effort.

  1. Make the chase worth it—you have to motivate sales reps to “jump higher” and perform beyond quota.

When the rep weighs the cost (effort) against the benefit (compensation), compensation must be structured so the benefit emerges the clear winner. Better incentives, better behavior. Choosing the right incentives and the right rewards is critical for success. So if you’re a sales manager whose team is having trouble hitting their numbers, it may be time to take a look at your incentive plan. Perhaps it’s not even a question of jumping “higher”—maybe reps aren’t motivated to jump at all.

  1. Don’t cap your plan—your compensation plan must drive the behavior you seek.

If sales incentives are reduced after reps meet 120% of quota, you are sending reps a clear signal to stop once that level has been met. Worse, it might send a message to not exert effort selling at all, with reps subconsciously knowing their efforts will eventually be capped.

To end, as mentioned above, tenure doesn’t matter (as discovered in the SaaS Incentive Compensation Benchmark Report),

  • On average 15 percent of sales representatives who were in their roles for at least one year made quota, and 5 percent didn’t achieve even 10 percent of quota.
  • Similarly, on average 16 percent of sales representatives in their role less than one year made quota, and 19 percent didn’t achieve even 10 percent of quota.

With all of this, if reps are failing to hit quota, don’t just look to their sales skills and processes. Look at the quotas being set and ensure the plans and guidelines in place are motiving performance, and not extinguishing it.

Updated with additional tips and stats 2/27/16


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8 Simple Tips to Improve Sales Quota Attainment