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Quota. There isn’t another word that strikes such fear, stress, and sleepless nights for anyone in sales. And it’s for good reason. According to CSO Insights’ recent World-Class Sales Practices Report, only slightly more than half of salespeople met or exceeded their quotas last year. Worst of all? This is the fifth year of decline.

There is a litany of reasons why this is happening. Of course, we have the age-old problem of quotas that are simply unattainable right from the get-go. Unfortunately, even in 2018, unrealistic sales expectations continue to be built off of poor forecasting, and resources that are spending less than 50% of their days in actual selling activities are pushed to sell more. Beyond that, sales organizations, as well as individual sales reps, are still not capitalizing on all that is available today such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and predictive capabilities to improve the likelihood of attaining quota.

It’s not about volume.

Let’s take an example of an age-old sales tactic: cold calling a certain number of people on any given day. It used to be a numbers game. If you call a certain number of prospects, you are bound to generate a certain number of meetings or opportunities to sell as a result. But in 2018, that is no longer necessary. If you have a CRM system and are still doing call lists the same way as a year ago, then there’s a missed opportunity to improve sales performance. The whole purpose is not to have to make that many calls. It shouldn’t be a numbers game anymore and calling 100 people; it’s about calling the right 10. That means using and making a commitment to the CRM system and really taking advantage of analytics and artificial intelligence. It’s the only way to try and free up the time reps need to meet (and exceed) those quotas.

You can’t make customers buy faster.

Simply put, customers are going to buy at their own pace. It’s important to walk that tightrope between actually doing your job of selling, making your quarterly number, and also maintaining your role as a trusted advisor. Remember that customers often aren’t on the same timeline as you. They don’t look at a sales process and think, “I'm so glad to be in stage two of the buying process. I can't wait until I get to stage three.” That is internal language and internal milestones, not the customers.’  

Customers don’t care that your quarter ends in three weeks and you need that deal to make your quota. The reality is they may still need two months to complete their research or get a budget approved. However, there are ways to keep things moving forward. Focus on the logistics of quotes, pricing discounts, and approvals — and how these can become much more seamless, automated, and timely. Nothing is worse than losing weeks of time due to paperwork delays. You might not be able to make a customer buy faster, but you can certainly make the process to reach a decision much quicker.

Fix the “people and process” part of sales.

You can have all of the technology in the world that can (and will) help you sell better and tackle the ongoing quota problem. Who doesn’t want less emails and more time talking to customers? Or have the precise piece of content that a customer would value? Or shave seconds and minutes off tedious tasks?

All of that can happen in a sales organization today. But it’s all for naught if sales leadership, managers, and reps don’t collectively realize the “people problem” and spend time getting processes nailed down to use technology correctly. Technology — such as CRM, AI, analytics, and more — is the enabler to sales, but it can’t work without total cooperation across the organization especially between sales, marketing, and customer service. Say a lead is scored and handed to a sales rep. If the rep treats all the leads the same, then what’s the point of scoring it? And how about all the data that isn’t entered in a CRM. (I know, I know, who wakes up every morning and says, “I can’t wait to put data in the CRM.”) But the more information that’s entered (either via humans or automation), the more the system starts to learn the patterns of customers and opportunities. Sales reps often don’t realize that when they hold information back from the system, they’re actually hurting themselves because managers don’t have the insight when setting quotas, managing forecasts, and getting needed help in place.

At the end of the day, there needs to be a complete mental shift throughout a sales organization. Don’t hang on to the past when you can embrace the future of selling right now and improve the sales team’s ability to hit and exceed quota.

It’s important to walk that tightrope between actually doing your job of selling, making your quarterly number, and also maintaining your role as a trusted advisor.”

Tiffani Bova | Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist, Salesforce

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