5 Sales Quota Management Best Practices

Help More Salespeople Succeed


  • There is no single method to fix all sales quota shortfalls. But there is a short list of best practices to improve selling effectiveness and salesforce quota achievement.
  • Improving team quota attainment delivers a force multiplier effect. When more sellers achieve their target goals team morale improves, staff turnover decreases and staff invest more of their discretionary effort into their careers.
  • To help more sellers succeed, consider our diagnostic approach that shows the 6 most common root causes of poor performance and 5 best practices to increase sales quota attainment.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Sales Quota Management

The Sales Excellence Report found that, on average, 49 percent of a company's salesforce achieves their annual quota. It also found that for many companies, the top 20 percent of sellers account for just over 60 percent of the company's revenues. This unequal distribution skews quota performance measurement, except for the Best-in-Class leaders, which revealed the most even quota allocation among performance archetypes.

To help more sellers achieve their goals, you should begin with a diagnosis that filters through symptoms and identifies root causes. Only then should you follow through with sales quota best practices.

Sales Quota Management

A Diagnostic Approach

Responding to symptoms and not root causes will exacerbate poor performance and waste valuable time needed to reverse the trend. Accurate and complete diagnosis is a prerequisite to fixing the right problems.

But that can be more difficult than it sounds. There's always a lot of noise to filter through, such as "our competitor dominates this space" or "our prices are too high."

We've been working with business leaders to improve quota attainment for over two decades. As part of our work we have developed a diagnostic tool to quickly identify the root causes that most impact performance shortfalls. Here's a summary list of revenue performance diagnostics that can help surface the factors most impacting selling effectiveness.

  • Low win rates. The average B2B sale opportunity win rate is 48%. If you incur a close rate much less than that chances are sellers are either chasing the wrong deals or falling short of optimized selling processes.
  • High losses to no-decision. When more than one-fifth of lost sale opportunities are lost to a no decision outcome, sellers are failing to properly qualify leads. A contributing factor may also be that marketing campaigns are overly broad and not targeting the company's ideal customer profile (ICP).
  • High losses to competitors. When salespeople incur repeat losses to the same competitors there are a few common culprits. It could simply be they are getting outsold and in need of performance improvements such as sales strategy or sale methodology. It could also be the result of product inferiority. When salespeople say the product isn't competitive, sometimes they're right. Products need continuous innovation, or they stagnate and become commoditized.
  • Long sales cycles. Increasing sales cycles suggest that sellers would benefit from coaching, sales enablement, a more disciplined selling process and a mix of low barrier offers. Technology such as proposal automation, Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) and Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) can also help shorten selling cycles.
  • Poor productivity. The most successful salespeople spend about 30% of their time engaging customers. If your staff are below this benchmark, they are likely being steered into unintentional tasks. Poor productivity manifest itself with lone wolf salespeople, random acts of selling and unsustainable heroic efforts.
  • Low profit per sale. This is generally the result of elevated discounting. This situation is exacerbated by sellers who use discounting in place of selling strategies and optimized processes.

From our experience, we also analyze the pipeline and forecast to uncover opportunities for improvement. The pipeline review will align sales challenges with the sales process. For example, if deals are stalled in the TOFU (top of the funnel), performance will be improved by implementing more systemic qualification and discovery processes.

If deals are stalled or lost in the MOFU (middle of the funnel), performance will improve with better sales strategies (especially win plans) and presentations.

Deals lost late in the funnel (BOFU) will suggest specific performance improvements in negotiation and closure techniques. The pipeline review will also uncover invalid and dead opportunities that are over-stating the forecast and should be recycled or removed.

5 Sales Quota Management Best Practices

There's no one way to fix the challenges above but there are best practices that increase selling effectiveness.


Strategic Selling

The Sales Plan, Strategy, Process and Methodology are sometimes called the 4 assets of strategic selling or the 4 cornerstones for sustained revenue growth. These selling assets are instrumental in achieving consistent and repeatable outcomes.

The sales plan is driven by management. It forecasts the revenue target, identifies the actions to achieve the goal, and mobilizes resources to execute the actions. Data-driven planning, clear objectives and prescriptive methods significantly increase the likelihood of achieving the revenue target.

The best sales plans accelerate revenue generation by directing marketing and selling efforts to the customer markets most likely to buy. The planning analysis uses customer and market data to identify the shortest route to the most profitable customer segments. This roadmap is the most efficient path to your revenue goal. The plan then applies laser focus to the actions that will achieve the revenue target.

The sales strategy is the blueprint to win competitive deals. It shows how to win customers and drives the win plan for each sale opportunity. It's important to recognize that selling strategies are not defined by your company or product capabilities but by your differentiation and ability to deliver unique customer value.

The most effective selling strategies are built on the four tenets of competitive advantages, customer strategy, Unique Value Proposition and collective core competencies that solve for the customer.

A sale methodology is a prescriptive but dynamic framework of selling strategies, tactics and responses. It aids the buyer in completing his purchase decision, systemically advances the sales cycle and maximizes the sellers win rate. Your sale methodology changes the focus from what you sell to how you sell. There's compelling research showing the link between sale methodology and sales quota achievement.


Improve Win Rates

Increasing sales close rates is the most direct method to improve seller performance. It is also more effective and less costly than just playing the numbers game of increasing the volume of pursuits.

However, the goal can be more difficult than it may seem as poor win rates are a manifestation of factors occurring before the sales cycle even begins. For example, if marketing campaigns do not target your ICP then leads distributed to the salesforce will be less qualified and incur lower close rates.

Once leads are distributed to the salesforce, research shows that applying buyer insights and customer intelligence will improve win rates. But these insights are generally created by the marketing team. So again, improving seller close rates must be considered in advance of sales pursuits.

Low barrier offerings are another tactic proven to increase close rates. But like the prior examples, offerings are normally created by marketing. These examples show how successful marketing and sales alignment are needed maximize sale opportunity conversions.

However, the salesforce is not without its own capabilities to improve sales win rates. Research shows several of the top methods include improved lead qualification, more differentiated selling strategies, more precise sale opportunity win plans, more rigorous loss analysis and more formal coaching to name a few.

There's a lot than can be done, so a best practice is to simplify and automate using a Sales Playbook that facilitates guided selling and automatically suggests the right Plays and recommendations at the sale opportunity record in your CRM system.


Reallocate Time to Spend More Time Selling

The research findings show that reallocating salesperson time to increase customer engagement increases win rates and quota achievement. While I don't think research is needed to make this recognition, it is helpful in sharing how much time is spent in various areas, and the measurable impact of shifting time from low to high value activities.

There are three ways to improve staff productivity. You can redesign processes to be more streamlined or effective, apply technology to automate otherwise manual activities, and develop analytics to work smarter.

Begin with business process redesign as it's a precursor to the other two. There's no sense in automating inefficient processes. Experience shows that business process analysis will identify two key opportunities – activities that can be performed more effectively in less time and activities that can be eliminated. The later delivers an immediate reallocation of time.

You cannot refine a process before it is consistent.
You cannot improve it until it is measurable.

We often recommend using Agile Value Stream Mapping as the process redesign method. This technique quickly identifies idle periods which extend process durations. It also designates process steps by value or non-value so it is well suited to eliminate non value-added steps and activities.

Agile Value Stream Mapping

Staff productivity and efficiency are complimentary but distinct. Becoming highly productive in low value or non-essential tasks does not improve performance. Productivity measures focused on efficiency without a focus on outcomes is a losing proposition. However, when the two are pursued in parallel, selling time can be shifted from low to high value actions that drive measurable outcomes and improve seller performance.


Better Coaching

Harvard Business Review reports that most selling organizations have invested more time into coaching in the past five years than the previous 50 and advises, "This makes perfect sense as research by the Sales Executive Council shows that no other productivity investment comes close to coaching in improving reps' performance."

The report also shared that coaching achieves the biggest gains for sellers in the middle. That is those reps below the top producers who don't have as much to gain and above the lowest performers who may be in the wrong profession. According to the report, coaching improves the results for 60 percent of sellers in the middle by up to 19 percent.

A separate research study from CSO Insights identified a link between coaching and sales quota management. When coaching skills exceeded expectations, quota achievement was 10 points higher than when coaching skills were rated as needing improvement.


Automate with Technology

CRM software is the system of record for sale opportunities. It has the customer data, process automation and information reporting to make reps more informed and more productive. Sales Force Automation (SFA) software is a part of CRM that gives sellers what they need to do their jobs better.

SFA software can perform lead research, display a 360-degree customer view, manage Account Plans, facilitate guided selling and integrate Sales Playbooks. Using AI or workflow tools it can recommend next-best-actions, calculate opportunity scores and deliver alert notifications. SFA reporting offers dashboards to display sale opportunity updates and the most important performance metrics in real-time. It can facilitate win/loss reviews which contribute to powerful knowledgebases.

Technology is essential to empower the salesforce with information, automation and scale.

See the 5 sales quota management best practices to make more sellers successful.

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