Three Reasons Your Sales Team Isn’t Hitting Quota


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It’s fourth quarter, and your sales team is racing to meet this year’s target  AND set up Q1 of next year. As the sales leader, it’s important for you to help your sales team run to the right opportunities.

Salespeople struggle because they slip into the working harder, not smarter loop.  They work really hard—at pursuing the wrong prospects.

Get clear on your ideal prospect and your sales team will soon be working smarter not harder. 

When designing a pursuit strategy or target list, sales organizations tend to focus only on the potential client’s demographics, such as company revenues, number of employees and locations. 

I encourage you to dig deeper to uncover other key criteria that will help your sales team win more business. Conduct a win-loss analysis and look for common trends for winning and losing.  For example:

  • Pain point.  Is there a common pain point where you are consistently selected over your competition?    Why are you being hired? 

For example, we win business with prospects that have technical salespeople. These sales team members have high IQs. But they may be missing the EQ (emotional intelligence skills) which is a pain point. Their salespeople need training on both the soft and hard skills.We are selected over the competition because we integrate consultative selling skills with emotional intelligence skill training.

I have one client, after conducting an analysis of her business; realize her best prospects were BUSY prospects experiencing hyper-growth.They weren’t looking at low price options.They were looking for help, expertise, shortcuts to sustain the momentum.Her best clients pain was the inability to keep up with the growth and give their clients excellent service.

  • Psychographics.  This is the personality or attitude of a prospect, and it’s important to consider as you create the list of desired qualities in a qualified opportunity.

Let’s say your product or service requires a prospect that has business culture of innovation. If your salesperson keeps calling on potential clients that cling to the status quo, she will achieve frustration, not revenue goals.

Your salesperson’s ideal client is one that thrives on progressive, next-level thinking and is willing to pay for it.Your salesperson isn’t hitting quota because she is pursuing dinosaurs which are not your ideal client.

  • Lead Sources.  Field salespeople often meet with potential referral partners, which are non-competing vendors that sell to the same prospects. Referral partners introduce members of their networks to each other. This is a great strategy for prospecting— if you and your referral partner pursue the same ideal clients.

A salesperson can get very busy running multiple coffee meetings with referral partners.  The problem is the only outcome to these meetings is a caffeine high. The salesperson’s referral partners isn’t able to refer the right type of business because:

  • The potential partner wins business on low price. Your company wins on providing high value. The result is your salesperson is introduced to and wastes time with meeting with cheap, transactional prospects — not your ideal client. 
  • The potential referral partner’s decision makers are mid-level managers. Your salesperson calls on CEOs and CFOs.  Lots of introductions are being made to prospects that can’t make a buying decision.  Again, not the ideal client.

Set up your sales team for success.  Determine your ideal client and disqualify the rest.  It’s amazing what will happen to your sales team’s productivity and sales results when salespeople work harder and smarter. 

Good Selling!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colleen Stanley
Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership, Inc. a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, emotional intelligence and hiring/selection. She is the author of two books, Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success, now published in six languages, and author of Growing Great Sales Teams.


  1. Hi Colleen: back in the ’90’s, had I acquiesced to my company’s definition of an ‘ideal’ client, I would have tanked on achieving my quota. For brevity, I’ll give management’s definition of an ideal customer simply as a manufacturer or distributor. But for me there were two serious problems with this: 1) my sales territory had few of these accounts, and 2) that point-of-view also matched the ideal my competitors were after. A crowded space, vendor-wise, to say the least.

    So, I aggressively pursued opportunities that were admittedly speculative, but I built a decent portfolio of opportunities, and eventually, my bets paid off. One particularly sweet win was a large, multi-location provider of radiology services. No one in my company had solid experience with this type of account. The year they purchased, they became my largest customer, generating over $500,000 in revenue. I attribute my success in large measure to the fact that my competitors were mainly slamming into each other elsewhere – in their own ‘ideal’ accounts, which left me to pioneer this account pretty much alone.

    Looking for ‘ideal’ customers is good advice if you’re naturally cautious. But situations like mine sometimes warrant a re-definition of ‘ideal’, and if you’re a rep who understands his or her territory, stick to the courage of your convictions.

    One other thing I’d like to mention regarding not hitting quota: a question that should always be asked is “is the quota realistic?” Too often, companies look to gaps in quota achievement as a sales effectiveness problem. Frequently, it’s a planning problem. I usually start with, “How did you formulate that number? . . .” The guesswork and assumptions that were used can be astounding.

  2. Andrew:

    Great points and perspectives. You know, that’s what makes sales such a great profession. It’s that great combination of proven principles and creativity!
    In regard with the sales quotas, I still see too many sales organizations defaulting to the “ten percent increase” across the board instead of analyzing each territory.

    Keep the good insights coming!


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