Prospecting and Quota Attainment


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There are multiple reasons for missed quotas, which I am analyzing in more detail in my subscriber newsletter. But lack of sellable prospects ranks high on the list. Problem is, sales and marketing leaders can’t decide whose job it is to generate prospects.

Russ Emrick recently posted on this subject on his blog Breakout Selling. He observes that sales management, under pressure to manage costs and hit revenue objectives, would rather rely on the sales contributors to generate prospects instead of investing in outsourced prospecting. Or: isn’t this marketing’s job? Why should sales have to generate its own prospects?

Providing lead generation and prospecting services to B2B firms gives me a front row seat to the performance, or lack of, the sales team. A dearth of prospects is a key reason sales reps miss their numbers, simply because either they don’t/won’t prospect, don’t have the bandwidth to sell and close, or focus on driving the deals they’ve highlighted in their forecasts. This results in starting off the new quarter with nothing in the funnel.

Sales managers historically take two approaches to business development. Either the reps themselves must generate new prospects, or the inside sales team must handle this strategic task. Asking reps to generate their own meetings and prospects diminishes selling time. Inside sales can handle the job, but these over-burdened folks are also asked to chase trade show, webinar, email and website leads, leaving a sliver of time to actually dial into companies in search of the ideal prospect profile.

Outsourcing the outbound prospecting part of business development does cost money. But wouldn’t it be better if the percentage of reps hitting quota was higher than 50%? It’s sales management’s job to invest in the sales team’s success. These leaders can start by helping fill up the funnel.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Brian Berlin
Brian Berlin is founder and President of Straightline Strategies, Inc., a management consulting firm focused on helping its clients cover gaps in their go-to-market plans.


  1. Brian: the problem you have identified might have less to do with quota attainment than with how companies perform lead generation. As you point out, prospecting and lead generation are low productivity activities, and it is valuable for companies to continually improve the process. Outsourcing is one of many potential solutions.

    But problems achieving quota often have their roots upstream of the individual sales rep. Sometimes failure to achieve quota has less to do with individual competency, training, motivation or effort. Many times, it has more to do with how quotas themselves are assigned, and often that is done using faulty judgements and bad assumptions. In addition, quota assignments can be heavily influenced by internal politics. The result is that sales teams and individual contributors are given “numbers to carry” that have little basis in what their territories can actually yield in terms of revenue. A salesperson with a low quota can crush his or her goal, when in fact the individual is losing market share in the territory. Conversely, a talented salesperson can appear an underachiever, even though he or she is highly effective at winning new business. In many instances, management doesn’t recognize those conditions because the “revenue to goal” figures are given primacy.

    A related blog I wrote on this topic might be of interest to your readers: Higher Sales Quotas Won’t Overcome Bad Risks and Faulty Assumptions


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