How to Know in January if Your Reps are Gonna Miss Their Quota come December

As VP of Sales or Head of Sales, making quota is your job. It’s the sole purpose of your existence. Therefore, knowing whether or not your team is going to make quota as early as possible is critical.

Being January, I’ve spent much of the month with my clients evaluating their sales plans. Much of this time is spent sitting for hours on end listening to sales rep after sales rep explain how they’re going to make their number for the year. The return on these hours? I know who is going to make quota this year and who isn’t.

What I’ve learned after years of listening to reps share their sales plans is that there are 3 types of sales people; (a) those who know how they are going to make their number and can articulate it well, (b) those with some loose idea, and (c) those who have no idea.

(A) Those who know:  Those who know are very clear what challenges lay in front to them and have devised a strategy and plan to execute. They know what needs to be done and why. They are clear in the begginning of the year what goals, strategies and approaches they will use to get to their number. Their strategies and approaches are specific and measurable. Those in the know spend their time executing to a specific strategy designed to increase the probability of making their number. They have a plan and execute to it.

(B) Those with a rough idea: Those who have a rough idea think about what they need to do, but don’t write it down and don’t spend adequate time evaluating why what they think they need to do is accurate. Those with a rough idea leverage past experience and success. They operate from a, it worked for me last year, it’ll work for me this year mentality. They leverage what they know, put their head down and do what they’ve always done. The problem is, when things change or their approach no longer works they’re dead.

(C) Those who have no idea: This group is bigger than you think. They have no idea how they are going to make quota. They just go. They put there head down and start doing shit. They make calls, they meet clients, they read, they do everything or nothing. This group throws a lot of shit against the wall and hopes something sticks. Quota is made this way, but NOT because of the sale person. It’s because the environment allowed it to happen. The sales person got lucky. Those who don’t have a clue tend to work harder than everybody else, because they have no plan, everything is made up as they go. Quota is missed most by this group.

The majority of sales people fall into the (b) and (c) categories. They put their head down and go. They give little thought to approach or strategy. They don’t take into consideration the unique challenges they will face, mainly because they don’t see them ahead of time. They don’t plan for the environment. They don’t create unique and effective strategies to address their unique selling challenges or opportunities. Most sales people, even the most committed and willing, don’t know how they are going to make their number. They just start running in the direction of quota, reacting to everything and anything that gets in their way.

Quota is made this way and for millions of sales reps and heads of sales, it’s been this way for years.

The problem is, too much is left to chance and for you as a the sales leader that’s not OK. It’s almost impossible to see who is going to make quota and who isn’t and why. Quota attainment ends up being a surprise at the end of the year.

Today, more than ever, it’s not OK to not know who is going to make quota in January. Yes, I said in January. As head of sales it’s imperative you predict with a high degree of accuracy who is going to make their number and who is in jeopardy of missing their number at the beginning of the year, not at the end.

To know, in January, who is going to make quota, requires everyone on the team create a plan. You have to force the team to THINK about how they are gong to make their number. You have to require they share what strategies they are going to employ. How are they going to prospect? How are they going to penetrate 6 new logo’s? How are they going to grow the account from 3 million to 4 million? How are they going to grow their territory? How are they going to increase margin? How are they going to increase average deal size? How, how how . . .?

Once the team has built their plans, sit down and listen to everyone (for larger organizations this means direct reports and one layer down.) Critique, evaluate and assess each plan for probability of success. Assess the assumptions, evaluate the strategies, dig into their initiatives and ask yourself these questions; “Will this plan, if executed, be successful? Does this sales rep have a clue how they are going to make quota?”

If yes, then you are headed in the right direction and you can feel comfortable today, that quota is probable. If the answer is no, you’re in trouble. But alas, it’s only January and you can fix it. You have plenty of time to respond.

As the V.P. of Sales/Head of Sales it’s your job to make your sales people think. It’s your job to challenge their plans. You have to be able to see the path to success in January, not December. Sales is a journey to quota, therefore you have to know how your people are going to make that journey or else you’ll find only a handful of your team made it and the rest saying; “I knew I shoulda have taken that left turn in Albuquerque.”


To make sure your team has a plan that’s going to work download our GSIT Template (Goals, Strategies, Initiatives and Tactics). There is no better tool to separate the wheat from the chafe when it comes to identifying who knows how they are going to make quota who doesn’t.