Our 2022-2023 State of Sales Enablement Outlook Report found that only 26% of sellers achieved above 90% of their quotas. With so many sellers missing quota, leaders are often asking themselves:
What’s going wrong?
Before you can identify a solution, you first need to identify the root of the problem. This blog post will help you diagnose why the majority of sellers are missing their numbers each quarter.
And even though these issues might ring a little too true for you and your team but don’t worry. Now that you know why quota attainment is a problem, you’ll be able to determine a solution and the next steps.
Read on to explore seven of the top reasons why your quota attainment and sales productivity may be slipping – and what you can do to turn things around.
- Reason #1: You’re only focused on onboarding
- Reason #2: Your reps can’t find the content they need — or they don’t even know it exists
- Reason #4: You’re taking an ad hoc approach to sales coaching
- Reason #5: You’re using the wrong metrics to measure readiness (or not measuring at all)
- Reason #6: Your training program is all over the place
- Reason #7: You’re using point solutions that focus on a single piece of the readiness puzzle
What is a sales quota and why is it important?
A sales quota is the sales performance target sellers must achieve during a certain time period, usually a quarter.
When a seller achieves their quota, they’ll also receive their incentive target pay. Sales quotas are set by sales leaders and are an incentive for sellers to perform. Sales enablement teams work closely with sales leadership to monitor quota attainment to ensure enablement efforts are focused on helping every seller meet and beat their quota each quarter.
Often, sales organizations invest a lot of time and resources into developing a great onboarding program. And that’s certainly not a bad thing. A solid onboarding program can serve as a great foundation for sellers’ success, familiarizing them with the company, its products, goals, and how sellers will play a role in achieving those goals. What’s more, great onboarding is proven to get you closer to your revenue goals.
According to the 2022 State of Sales Readiness Report, on average, sellers at winning organizations take four weeks to complete an onboarding program and are fully ramped in four to five months.
This 40-50% decrease in industry average ramp time ensures sellers can start generating revenue earlier.
But the thing is, new reps are bombarded with information during onboarding — and unlikely to retain it all. In fact, research from Ardent Learning shows that the most significant loss of knowledge happens within the first day and within three months, most people have forgotten between 84% and 90% of the information they learned during training.
Instead, organizations must also incorporate continuous learning (what we refer to as sales everboarding) if they expect reps to absorb and retain information — and then apply that information in the field. Our research with Heinz Marketing found that 78.6% of companies that have an effective training program meet 100% of their selling quota. And 90% who hit 75% or more of their quota participate in sales training on a monthly basis. If you’re not there already, now’s the time to transition from onboarding to sales everboarding.
Reason #2: Your reps can’t find the content they need — or they don’t even know it exists
We’ve all heard the adage about content being king. For revenue organizations, the sentiment is certainly true. Sales content — both internal and external — plays a key role in selling success.
Most organizations understand the importance of content and devote time to creating plenty of it. This normally includes internal content (such as a just-in-time training piece or a recording of a top seller delivering their sales pitch) and external content (such as pitch decks and sell sheets).
The goal of content is to ensure sellers are always ready – and have what they need to move deals forward. But even the greatest content is completely useless if a rep doesn’t know where to find it — or that it even exists. And this happens… a lot. Our 2022 State of Sales Readiness Report found that 50% of all engagement is generated by just 10% of content.
The most successful revenue organizations house all content — both internal and external — in a single, easily searchable platform. That way, reps have easy access to the content they need, when they need it, so that they can spend less time hunting for content (or — gasp! — creating their own) and more time moving deals forward and hitting revenue targets.
Reason #3: Your reps don’t know why deals go south
A rep shares the news that they’ve lost a deal they thought was in the bag. You try to dig for more information, but the rep can’t seem to articulate exactly why the deal was lost. And that makes it pretty difficult (if not impossible) to coach that rep toward better outcomes in the future.
Of course, frontline managers are busy. They don’t have the time to sit in on every rep call to understand what’s going right or wrong.
But the good news is that conversation intelligence solutions, such as Mindtickle’s Call AI, allow managers to understand what’s really happening in the field. With conversation intelligence, sales managers can identify competency and knowledge gaps that might be standing in the way of a seller closing more deals — and then work to deliver coaching that’ll diminish those gaps and empower the rep to close more deals.
Reason #4: You’re taking an ad hoc approach to sales coaching
Sales coaching — when it’s done well — can have a tremendous impact on rep productivity and quota attainment. Research tells us eight out of 10 teams who have effective coaching practices hit greater than 75% of sales quotas.
But sales coaching often isn’t done well. Often, there’s no top-down agreement on coaching goals and methods. Instead, frontline managers are left to their own devices to coach as they see fit. This means many of them take an ad hoc approach that involves purely tactical efforts like deal reviews, and they don’t have the time, sales coaching tools, or training needed for effective coaching.
The ad hoc approach to coaching isn’t effective. In fact, it’s downright counterproductive. Research from CSO Insights tells us that 75% of sales organizations waste resources due to random and informal coaching approaches.
Instead, an organization must build a culture of coaching if it expects to see improvements to quota attainment and productivity. And this has got to start from the top, with the chief revenue officer.
Start by defining what you hope to achieve by building a culture of coaching. Then, there must be alignment on a standard coaching approach that’ll help you achieve those goals.
In addition, if it’s going to be effective, coaching must be individualized for each rep. Organizations should first define their ideal rep profile (IRP).
This is the set of skills and competencies a given rep must have to succeed at the organization. With the IRP in place, it’s easier for managers to identify skill gaps — and then provide personalized sales coaching to address those gaps.
Reason #5: You’re using the wrong metrics to measure readiness (or not measuring at all)
The same CSO Insights report mentioned earlier found that a mere 24% of enablement teams are able to measure the ROI of their programs. That’s a big problem. Without consistent measurement, you can’t understand how your efforts are impacting sales readiness — and how to optimize programs for better results.
A lot of organizations say they measure impact. But often this involves tracking metrics like adoption and engagement. Sure, usage data matters — but it only tells a small part of the story. A rep might consume all the training assigned to them, yet continue to miss quota every quarter.
Instead, organizations must regularly track a wide range of data on sales performance to understand how their programs are actually impacting productivity and quota attainment. Of course, these metrics vary from organization to organization, but there are some core metrics that should be tracked by all. For example, organizations can (and should) track each individual’s performance against the company’s ideal rep profile. They should also leverage data from sales conversations to measure how training is (or isn’t) applied in the field.
The right technology equips sales leaders with the right data at the right time — presented in a way that’s easy to consume and take action on.
Reason #6: Your training program is all over the place
With everything else on your plate, focusing on building out ongoing sales training programs sometimes falls to the wayside. However, there’s a case to be made for making sales training programs a priority project in the year ahead. Our research with Heinz Marketing found that 78.6% of companies with an effective program meet 100% of their selling quota. Outside of that, organizations have seen improved seller engagement and retention. To build a sales training program that works, make sure you’re:
- Going beyond onboarding
- Defining what good looks like
- Making it personal
- Reinforcing it
- Mixing up the format
- Measuring the impact
Reason #7: You’re using point solutions that focus on a single piece of the productivity puzzle
The revenue technology landscape is complicated. There are quite literally hundreds of vendors that promise their solution will solve the problem of sales productivity and quota attainment.
Some of these vendors may even bill their wares as revenue productivity or sales readiness solutions. But in reality, these offerings only address a single component of true revenue productivity, such as training or content. On their own, they’re not enough to improve quota attainment and productivity. And investing in multiple solutions is expensive and complicated.
They often don’t play well together — and they require your reps to learn and use several technologies.
In order to truly increase quota attainment and sales productivity (and achieve sales readiness), sales leaders must be able to:
- Define excellence
- Build the knowledge their reps need to close deals
- Equip sellers with content aligned to the sales process
- Analyze what’s happening in the field
- Optimize reps’ behaviors to improve outcomes
While you may have invested in products that address one of these, the most successful sales teams are those that use a solution that addresses them all — within a single revenue productivity platform.
This post was originally published in January 2022, was updated in January 2023, and again in October 2023.