Why your sales team is not reaching quota

The harsh reality is that many, dare I say most sales teams are not reaching quota.  While I could go on for pages as to why this is the case, insufficient training, lack of a Sales Development Platform, poor management, negative market forces, not enough marketing leads etc.. In my experience personally, and with the over 400 sales teams we have worked with over the past 13 years, the most common reason salespeople don’t reach quota is that they don’t do the work it takes to succeed.

Being successful in sales takes hard work and a lot of it.  It requires a sales rep to endure rejection on a daily basis, a constant focus on bringing value to their prospects and the market as a whole and an uncommon level of commitment.  Those who are willing to do what most won’t most certainly achieve what most can’t. One of my favorite quotes. Anyway, the fact is very few sales people are willing to make the sacrifices necessary and put the hard work in to ensure success.

That said, I believe that while all sales people can’t be saved, the bottom 20% are a lost cause and should find another occupation with your urging.  The middle 60% can be.  The top 20% are on track and need minimal help.  

Let’s talk about how to help the 60% of sales reps, that can be better.  Much better.  Below are a few areas that are critical to the success of any sales team.

1) Professional Development.

Much like a professional sports team, it takes constant practice to maintain and improve performance.  This goes for the superstar as well as the middle of the road player.  A manager should act as a coach offering real-time advice as well as more formal training. Reading a good book as a team each quarter is a great idea.

2) Process (Sales Playbook).  

The best teams have a well thought out process and have that process documented in a playbook for reference.  There is no room for interpretation, a great salesperson knows the sales process cold and adheres to it every time.

3) Accountability.

What gets measured gets done.  Work with the team to build a fair and attainable plan and hold them accountable to doing the activities necessary to meet that plan.  Meeting quota is driven by sales conversations.  Even an average rep can succeed if they have enough sales conversations. This is by far the most important metric.  It does not matter how a rep gets in front of a prospect, networking, cold calling, following up on marketing leads or a combination of all of these, just make sure your team is speaking to enough prospects every day.  

4) Active management (Coaching).

Some, usually those who prefer to avoid doing the work, call it micromanaging.  I call it managing.  The truth is, sales is tough.  All teams need active management, support, and constant coaching.  Just look at any successful sports team.  They are made up of the best of the best, but it takes great coaching and management to reach championship levels.  

While succeeding in sales is difficult, it's not rocket science start with a well thought out plan, and execute with a relentless focus. Just do the work.  


How happy are your customers?

Where would we be without our customers?  Well, the obvious answer.  Out of business.  Why is it then so many business take their customers for granted?  Is it that their product or service is just so great that their customers can’t live without it?  Is it a lack of other options?  


Not likely.  Today more than ever, customers have choices.  A lot of them.  Many of which are as good or even better than what you offer.  So, how do we ensure we are not only maintaining, but growing our customer base of not only happy, but loyal customers?

In a perfect world we would not lose a single customer.  For many reasons this is far from realistic.  Even the best companies see churn in an “acceptable” range of 5-10%.  Given the high price of customer acquisition it pays big time to focus on keeping the customers you have while you reach out to the marketplace to find new customers.  I am a big believer that you can never sell your way past a churn problem.  It’s best to do absolutely everything you can to ensure each and every customer becomes a raving fan.

Some key areas which have helped us over the years.

  • Focus on the overall customer experience.  Whether you are selling a product or a service, or both.  You have to make sure the customer receives value with each and every interaction.  Don’t expect your solution to do it all.  Provide the support and or technology necessary to ensure your customer has a seamless experience as they achieve their goals.

  • Communication.  Listen, listen, and listen some more.  Provide honest feedback, and detailed next steps.  You might be working to solve a problem, or striving to improve an already solid working relationship.  Either way, more open honest communication with the goal of adding value never fails to impress.

  • Set proper expectations.  Nothing can send a relationship off track faster than misaligned expectations.  With each and every interaction, be sure to set realistic and appropriate expectations.  Revisit and confirm regularly and have a written procedure that ensures all parties on both sides are on the same page.

  • Measure.  Use surveys, Net Promoter Score, Zendesk as well as direct conversation to track adoption and continued usage with an ultimate goal of driving tremendous value.


Finally, remember the customer actually is always right.  Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.


What's your plan?

You have read the quotes.  

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“If you don't know where you are going,

you'll end up someplace else.”

Yogi Berra  

"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago"

Warren Buffett

Yet so few of us plan adequately.  And of those of us that do, many don’t execute effectively.  Over the years, I have witnessed the power of a well-executed plan many times.  Unfortunately, I have also seen the results of either a poorly executed plan or no plan at all.  Not pretty.  There is always a detailed explanation as to what went wrong.  The marketplace, competition, not enough marketing support.  The list goes on and on.  

The fact is, those who take the time to create a detailed plan and are disciplined in the execution of the plan, revisiting and making adjustments along the way, almost always meet and exceed their goals.  

The planning part is easy really.  You start with your goal and work backward.  For example, as a sales rep, I need to reach 1 million dollars in net new revenue over the next twelve months.  Knowing my average sale price is $100,000, I need to close 10 new deals.  OK, how do I make that happen?  First off, I need to work at it.  If I sit back and wait for the phone to ring or for marketing to provide me with all the quality leads I could possibly handle, there is a zero chance of making my number.  It’s just not the way it works.  If I’m lucky, I may get to 50% or even 75%, but 100% or more?  Not going to happen.  Great sales reps make it happen, they don’t wait for it to happen.  Anyway, I digress.  Let’s put together the metrics for a successful plan.

To get to 10 deals, I need 30-40 pipeline opportunities, (assuming a 30% close rate).  In order to get 30-40 pipeline opportunities, I need to have 60-80 sales conversations, (assuming a 50% conversion rate to next step).  In order to get to 60-80 sales conversations, I will need 1200-1600 “quality conversations”.  To have that number of conversations you need 10x “touches” (calls and emails).  So 16,000 touches will me there.  16,000/250 work days = 64 touches per day.  Sound like hard work?  Well yes it is.  Now there are a few ways to get there.  If you are one of the lucky ones, you have help.  A marketing team to create “MQL’s” which are then passed to business development reps who will further qualify the potential opportunities and pass the interested leads over directly with a scheduled appointment is the best case scenario.  The reality is, even if you have support, it won’t be enough.  In my opinion, the best way to ensure success is to put in the hard work on your own to get you to your number.  Pick up the phone, get out on LinkedIn, attend industry events.  Make sure you are speaking to enough people every day about how you can help them.  Let marketing support, if you have it, be the help you need to exceed your number, not meet it.

So the lesson is the same if you are a rep, a manager or a CEO.  Create a plan, revisit often, be hyper diligent and relentlessly focused on meeting the day to day, week to week, month to month and quarter to quarter requirements to ensure you are on track.  As the Nike ad says “Just do it.”   

Look at any highly successful person and I’ll bet you will find two things to be true.  They have a plan, and they do the hard work necessary to make the plan a reality.

How do you make your plan?


Communication. The best bang for the buck.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to improve communication across the entire company.  From the way we communicate to our customers, to the way we communicate with the management team, the way management communicates with team members, and how team members communicate with each other.  We invested in formal training and had a summer outing with an Olympics theme which turned out to be an excellent team building opportunity.  

The additional emphasis on communication has had a positive impact performance as well as moral.  Great ideas have been shared and implemented, team members have expressed interest in various areas, and as a result, have had the opportunity to do more and in some cases get promoted.  When others see the positive impact they tend to become more engaged which further improves the effectiveness of the team.

Not only have I made an effort to get out on the floor in an informal way, I have also been meeting one on one with individual team members.  I am always impressed with the energy and enthusiasm I see during my discussions.  I have yet to finish a meeting without learning something, getting a great idea or just getting to know someone a little better.  What a great use of time, not to mention a lot of fun.  I really enjoy the people I work with, they are smart, focused, hard working and overall great people.  

In my mind, you can’t over-communicate.  I must admit, I was a bit surprised to see just how much people appreciate lots of open and honest communication.  Recently one of my teammates told me how much he and his peers appreciate my monthly email update.  “They are huge,” he said.  Before I started writing them I did not think they would be important to most, and honestly, wondered if most people would pay attention.  The feedback I received was very encouraging.  

I’ve not only learned a great deal about our team but about myself professionally.  I have become a better leader, and have a clearer vision of what is important to our team and customers.  What started as just one of many initiatives to improve the company has turned out to be one of the most important, yielding more upside in more areas than I had imagined.  Kind of a no-brainer for a guy that loves to talk.



Square peg. Round hole

I’ve been in sales a long time.  More years than I care to count.  It’s been eleven years since my business partner and I founded AG Salesworks and three since we re branded as QuotaFactory.  From day one our sole focus has been helping Sales and Marketing teams succeed through identifying and delivering their ‘ideal’ prospect.  

My management team and I spend a great deal of time thinking about how we can innovate our processes to deliver more value to our customers.  When I think back over the many discussions we have had over the past few years, there is one common theme that appears more often than not.  

Most often when we take on a new customer that falls outside our ideal profile things end poorly.  Now there are several reasons why this may occur.  Maybe we just want the business.  Of course, every business needs more customers.  The lure of reaching and exceeding one's sales goals is powerful.  Especially, when the powers that be are pushing.  Whether it be the VP Sales, CEO, investors, or the Board of Directors the pushing pressure can be intense.  

In my experience, it’s just not worth it.  Expectations are most often not aligned as well as they should be, which leads to process and production problems.  In order to solve these problems and ensure the customer is happy, additional resources are assigned.  Whereas, these resources could be focused working on an account which, because it's a great fit, requires significantly less effort to ensure success.  Which I’m sure you would agree, is a far more productive and less frustrating approach both for client and service provider.  More often than not, neither the customer or the service provider is happy, resulting in the dreaded lose-lose scenario.

Another reason is just not seeing the potential problems during the sales process.  Let’s face it, this is the dating phase.  At this point in the process, optimism abounds.  The prospect has identified a pain and it looks like you can help solve that pain.  How exciting!  At this point, I suggest slowing down a bit.  Sound familiar?  Something else I like to consider, and it's certainly not very scientific, is the good old gut feeling. Of course, there are the hard facts and figures, but I still believe in good old intuition.  If it doesn't feel right, at least take a harder look.  

Another important area of business to avoid the square peg round hole scenario is hiring.  Companies that are fortunate enough to enjoy high growth are under pressure to grow their team.  The same pressure exists here as does on the sales side.  Get those positions filled and fast, we can’t grow revenue without growing the team.  This is especially true for services companies.  I would argue even more damage can be done with a bad hire than taking on a customer who is a bad fit.  One bad hire could touch several customers, and of course, there is the negative impact on company culture to consider.  

Just as it is necessary to have a well thought out process to identify and onboard a new customer, so should there be one to recruit and onboard a new team member.  And of course the gut.  Always trust your gut.


Time. Don't spend it, invest it.

We have all heard the old saying, “Time is Money”.  Well, that could not be truer than in the sales profession.  While most professions require a great level of time management and focus to succeed, in sales it is a bit different.  In sales, it is more about doing the right things with your time.  Given the high level of flexibility that exists in sales, it is important that the rep practices strict time management to ensure they are focused on the right things at the right times.  Reading, writing, prospecting, networking, writing proposals, managing sales calls, prospects and existing customers are just a sampling of what an average sales rep has on their plate.

Successful reps are maniacally focused on time management.  Every minute counts.  One technique I have used successfully over the years is something I call Front Loading.  I like to start my day early.  My most productive days are those when I get an early start. I like to get up an hour earlier than I have to and get stuff done.  Ideally, I’ll get up at 5:30-6:00 and spend the first couple of hours getting work done that would otherwise get pushed off.  I read, write, reflect on my business and knock out an item or two from my todo list.  By 9 am most mornings I already have a good head start on the day.  Around 9, I’ll take my dogs for a run to clear my head and get a little exercise and then catch up on emails, return calls, touch base with my team etc. By noon on a good day, I have accomplished a ton, by three a full day's work.  Anything after that is gravy.

 I also use a tecnique I call front loading.  I apply it weekly, monthly and quarterly as well.  I plan for the week on Sunday and get out of the blocks strong on Monday, getting as many of my weekly tasks accomplished in the first few days of the week.  I always make sure to start out the first week of every month very strong and try to make the first month of the quarter a big one as well.  This approach has worked well for me throughout my career, when I was carrying a bag, I very often took the last week of the quarter off as I was already beyond my goal.  I used that time to rest and get set up for a strong start for the following quarter.  This approach takes a lot of discipline but does wonders for stress reduction and productivity.

That being said, I still have to work at this every day.  It’s so easy to get off track given the very busy lives we all lead.  Below are a few tools/techniques that I have learned over the years to help me stay productive, happy and stress-free.

  1. Start with the end in mind.  Start with your long-term (yearly) goal then work backward and write down your quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals/tasks necessary to get there.

  2. Determine what is truly important.  Prioritize those activities that will progress you toward your goals and do them first.  The other stuff can wait.

  3. Get an early start. If you get up and hour earlier than your competition every day and do something productive, you will have a 300-hour advantage over the course of a year.  Think about how much can be accomplished with 300 extra hours.

  4. Complete the most important tasks first.

  5. Don’t multi-task.  All studies (and there are a ton) show multitasking drive performance down and actually wastes time.

  6. Just get started.  I did this with this blog.  I was wrapping up my day yesterday waiting for a colleague to join me for dinner.  I did not have enough time to devote to completing it, so I just got started anyway.  Turns out I got my entire first draft done.  In the past, I would have waited until I thought I had enough time to finish. This has worked really well for me.  Just getting started on something for even a few minutes often results in finishing an important task.

Enjoy.  Have fun, rest and relax.  This is the most important one of all.  After all the reason we want to be efficient with our time and be productive and successful, what good is that if we are not enjoying our lives.  Take all that extra time you have saved and go have some fun!


What is your sales strategy missing?

Over the years in working with hundreds of clients, one important area I see neglected time and time again is Training/Learning.  Most all clients we have worked with have had a Sales and Marketing process, and the ability to track important metrics. The two big ones.  Of course, some do a better job than others, but most have something in place.  The biggest gap we have seen here is having that process documented in writing.  Once they have the process dialed in and in writing, we are generally off to the races!

That said, the one area I see most neglected or even nonexistent is ongoing training, coaching and learning.  Even the few who have these elements included tend to be much less disciplined around keeping up in these areas.  Just seems easy to put these “nonessential” elements off to the side while they focus on higher priority tasks.  ie. closing business.  Seems logical right?  Well, while it might make short-term sense, not being disciplined in these areas will have a dramatic effect on your ability to exceed quota long term.  You might not even know why things will just start to slip.  You might hire additional reps, fire low performers, or just start cracking the whip a bit more.  All of these approaches may be necessary regardless, however, I would suggest less so for a team which spends time in these critical areas.  

The fact is if you want to get better at something you need to practice.  People put countless hours into practicing what they love to do.  I happen to be an avid skier.  I have been skiing for more than 30 years, but I still practice, take lessons from superior skiers and read up on the latest techniques and equipment.  I practice because I love to ski and I enjoy the sport more as my skill level improves.  This concept applies to everything.  If you want to get better and enjoy what you are doing more you need to practice.  The best athletes in the world have coaches and practice relentlessly.

Why is it that so many in the business world view just showing up and doing the job as practice enough?  I’m at it 40+ hours per week, is that not enough?  My answer is no.  If you want to be the best you can be and beat your competition, you have to strive to improve and have a plan in place that combines, practice, coaching, and learning.  And, you have to have it built into your weekly routine.  Remember the old adage Practice Makes Perfect?  

Following are a few suggestions based on what has worked for me.  Remember, the key is to be disciplined.  A written plan is great, but if it is not followed with focus and commitment it's not worth the paper on which it is written.

  1. Practice.  Have a meeting once weekly where each team member presents to the entire team your product or service or role plays a critical skill or objection.  Discuss as a group and agree to work on that skill the following week, report back on results.

  2. Coaching.  As a sales leader, a critical part of your job is that of a coach.  Spend time each week one on one with your direct reports working on specific skill and areas identified as opportunities for improvement.  You will enjoy it, your team members will appreciate it, and your numbers will improve as a result.

  3. Learning.  This is an area that might be most neglected.  Many of us, particularly in Sales do not make the time to learn.  I understand in the past when we had to rely on books to absorb knowledge, but with e-books, audio books, Ted Talks, Webinars, online classes, blogs and more, there really is no excuse.  My team is required to read a book per quarter.  This year as a team we read, The Challenger Sale and Spin Selling.  So many great books available. I read every day for at least a half hour and encourage my team to do the same.  Funny the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

Thanks for reading.


Do you actually know how to use your sales tools?

So many tools, so little time.  It seems like a new Silver Bullet tool or technology is arriving on the market every day.  Buy this tool or that and your sales will increase by one million times! If it were only that easy.  We have tried them all, some good some not so good, but all with one recurring challenge.  User adoption, ongoing best practice usage and accountability.


In our experience, and in working with more than 400 clients over the years, we have found a major challenge around customer support.  Most companies fall far short in supporting their customers.  What I see is that most companies focus on technology first, with services as an afterthought, a necessary evil.  While some do a solid job, most fail to realize just how important it is to be with the customer every step of the way.  Yes it is expensive and requires a highly experienced team, but if you are truly committed to your customers success, you need to be there not just on the technical side, but to provide best practice coaching and expertise as well.

Change management is difficult, especially when you are dealing with salespeople.  If you don’t show them how a tool or platform will help them meet and exceed quota they just won't use it.  SalesForce.com is a perfect example.  We have seen hundreds of use cases over the years and just a small fraction have been able to use it to anywhere near it’s capabilities.  Those companies that invested in a dedicated inhouse expert working closely with a highly capable Sales & Marketing pro were generally the ones who got close.  All the others, not so much.  You can’t even imagine some of the disasters we have encountered.  

Nothing can replace experience.  Real experience. In the trenches, been there done that hundreds of times experience.  

I can’t tell you how many times we have seen technology investments all but wasted because of poor user adoption or improper usage.  Most often this is not because the technology is bad, it's because of a lack of competent support.  Personally I would rather pay a bit a of premium to ensure I get the most out of my technology investment.  Unfortunately, most companies don't even provide this as an option.

You don’t have to look any farther than a fairly successful little company called Apple.  They produce arguably the best designed easiest to use technology on the planet yet they still see the need for AppleCare.  Customers are happy to pay a premium for it and Apple ends up with customer loyalty beyond which most of us could only dream about.

The bottom line.  If you are going to invest your valuable time and money in technology to help your team succeed, be sure you are working with a company that provides superior customer support.

Six reasons you need a PRM



First off, let’s talk about what exactly a PRM is.  We all know what a CRM is, a Customer Relationship Management system.  A technology platform which is designed to manage customers.  Clearly a very valuable tool, you can’t do enough to make sure your customers are happy and receiving a ton of value.  It makes sense and everyone totally gets it.  But what about prospects?   How do we manage our prospects to ensure they become a customer?  For most, myself included, we have tried (for me with limited success), to make our CRM work for the prospecting process.  Countless hours and dollars spent to try and make a system which was designed to manage customers, work for managing the prospecting process.  Sure there are tools, add-ons, and consultants to help.  I have used them all.  Sure, I found a way to make a CRM act like a PRM, but it just was not as good as it could be.  There had to be a better way.  Good news, there is!  Introducing Prospect Relationship Management (PRM), a platform that brings best in class data, process, and technology together with a services team to ensure user adoption, ongoing usage, and most importantly accountability.  

All my dreams have come true!  Well maybe not all, but my dream of eliminating the hassle of managing multiple tools, people and process in order to achieve industry leading results for my sales development team certainly has.  Finally a Software-with-a-Service that enables my team to increase their conversations and conversion rates in a very big way.  We have accomplished this by addressing six areas that have been a challenge for me and my customers for more than 14 years servicing more than 400 unique engagements.

  1. Data:  Having high quality data, and enough of it, is imperative.  Your data should also be easily searchable, enabling reps to create their own lists on the fly.  I have seen countless hours wasted on manual process around data management.Process: Have you heard the quote, “Fail to plan, plan to fail?”  It could not apply more to the prospecting process.  Without a well thought out proven call plan, with the appropriate call/email rhythm and the right messaging by persona, you are dead in the water.  The days of just “pounding the phone” and getting results are long gone.  Having a technology platform that walks a rep through a proven call process is a huge advantage!Technology:  If you are not leveraging technology to help your team, you are just not going to win, period.  The challenge are: What technology?  Where does it fit in the process?  How do I get the most out of it?

  2. People:  Yes, people are still necessary.  As much as some would like to believe that technology will do the hard work for you, it’s just not the case.  Technology can be a huge help, but you still need the managers, coaches, and reps to work together to ensure the right message is getting to the right prospect at the right time.

  3. Accountability:  It’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you got a ton done because you were “busy” all day.  The question I ask my team is, were you busy doing the right things?  A system to tell you exactly where you are compared to your goals at any given point in time is a huge help.  My fitbit does not lie.  Neither does a good PRM.

  4. Adoption:  You can have the best tool in the world, but if your team does not use it, you have wasted your time and money.  Technology is only as good as the customer success team who services it, making sure your team is adopting, and using your platform to its maximum potential.

Everything you need to crush your sales development goals under one roof and one login.  PRM.  

Sales Development. The bridge between Sales and Marketing

In 2002 my business partner and I identified a big problem with many sales/marketing teams.  A gap existed between the two that was dramatically affecting the productivity of both teams and as a result, the growth of the organizations whose teams had this dysfunction.


Over the years the problem has been identified by the sales and marketing community as a whole so many organizations have attempted to address this issue with limited or little success.

The gap to which I refer is the Sales Development function.  The function which qualifies MQL’s  generated from marketing as well as making proactive outbound calls into the company's “sweet spot” of target prospects.  

Amazingly, this function either does not exist within many organizations or if it does, it is not nearly as effective as it should be. SiriusDecisions added this function to their waterfall much to our delight a few years back.  This has helped bring light to the function, but there is still much work to do.

Over the years we have seen the advent of CRM, the marketing automation, and most recently a wide variety of “sales acceleration” tools.  While all of these tools can be helpful, in my experience most fall short in that the user is unable to maximize them, given they just do not have the appropriate level of specific expertise.  To make matters worse very few of the companies that provide these tools have the will or ability to provide the necessary support to ensure customer success.  Most, if not all are technology companies and have very little focus or understanding of Services.  As a result, an entire business category of consultants has been created to address this need.  A quick Google search will yield dozens of, CRM, marketing automation and general marketing and sales consultants.  I know and work with many great people in this category, all of which provide tremendous value to their customers.  Trish, Cindy, Janet, Matt and the entire team at The Bridge Group, Kevin at Daggerfoil, Matt at Heinz Marketing, and John Barrows are some of the best and brightest in the industry, helping their customers gain a significant market advantage over their competitors largely by helping them implement Sales Development Strategies.

No tool is a silver bullet.  Smart, motivated sales professionals are, and will always be necessary to complete the equation for success.  Buyers still want to interact with salespeople.  The idea that an organization can rely solely on inbound leads generated through SEO, email marketing, Google Adwords and such is simply a pipedream.  In a Webinar I recently attended, Craig Elias, presented data from a Demand Gen report revealing that a whopping 80% of purchases are unbudgeted and unplanned. Put another way, if you stick to inbound alone, you might be losing out on up to 80% of your potential revenue.  

I have been in sales my entire career if there was a silver bullet I would have found it.  The only tool that has helped me or my team, has been the one that we developed internally to help sales development reps which pulls together the right combination of data, process, technology, combined with coaching, management and reporting. In my experience there is no substitute for hard work.  Working hard with the right tools, process and support however can and will yield amazing results.  Our mission at QuotaFactory is to ensure every sales rep exceeds quota.

Oh yeah, the three signs your sales team needs sales development:

  1. You don’t have one! If you are sending your MQL’s directly to your sales team, you are wasting your marketing dollars.  A SiriusDecisions study shows that up to 97% of MQL’s will not be adequately followed up upon.

  2. You do not have an targeted outbound strategy.  Remember the 80%?  The fact is the 20% of people that are coming to you have already identified their pain or need, and have reached out to several of your competitors.  These folks who are reaching out to you may likely view you as a vendor versus a value add partner which never starts a relationship off on a good note.

  3. Conversions.  If you are not seeing at least 20% of your MQL’s convert to SQL’s you have a problem.  If you do not know what % of your MQL’s are converting you have a bigger problem.

The good news - you can do this!  If you do, your sales development process will drive incremental revenue to your top line.

3 Signs You Need a Sales Development Process