Minor Quota Misses Result in Big Frustration

A reader asks, "One of my sales representatives often misses quota by just a bit - 5% or less. No advice I've given them so far has seemed to work. They're frustrated and I am too. I'm not sure how to help them. Any suggestions?

So close - just not close enough. This all too common problem leaves many of my clients perplexed and confused. Because they almost always achieve their revenue target, clients tend to advise the rep in vague terms such as, "Be at your first call a little earlier in the day" or "make 5 or 10 extra dial outs."

Though well intentioned, those managing sales reps need to drill deeper and look for particular problem(s) such as:

  • not spending enough time prospecting
  • selling a lot of one product and very little of another
  • calling on favorite customers too often and other customers not often enough


A client of mine hired a rep for a sales position that involved 85% prospecting. In their previous position this salesperson spent only 25% of their day cold calling. Visits to current accounts took up the majority of their sales day.

Sales reports and conversations with the rep revealed they were really only spending 40 - 50% of their day prospecting - an increase to be sure, but not enough to succeed in their current position.

The sales representative and my client worked out a plan to gradually increase the number of daily prospecting calls over the next three months. In addition, the rep enrolled in a refresher course on cold calling skills.

Selling the Entire Line

On average, sales reps #1 and #2 achieve their revenue goal by selling 70% of Product A and 30% of Product B. Rep #3, always struggling to make quota, sells 84% of Product A and 16% of Product B.

Presented with this information my client took action. She showed Rep #3 both his numbers and those of the other two. Rep #3 met with and accompanied #1 and #2 on calls to specifically observe them presenting both products. Additional in-house product training has been scheduled.

Rep #3 understands he needs to increase sales of Product B by at least 15%.   He and his manager set a goal of improving sales of Product B by 3 or 4% a month for the next 4 months. With specific and reasonable targets set, the rep feels optimistic about his ability to reach those goals.

Inconsistent Customer Visits

Another client of mine manages a sales rep who "practically lives with" her top 15 accounts. She anticipates their needs, solves any problems, and personally delivered a part they needed the next day. Delivering that part, however, took the entire day (the client being several hours away). Not an emergency, the regular driver could have handled it.

After reviewing the reps "top" 15 accounts, we discovered those accounts were her 15 favorite. She treated several of the top revenue producing accounts as an afterthought. In adding up the revenue for the rep's top 15 accounts, my client and I calculated an overall decrease of 5% YTD.

Discussions with her revealed that she felt uncomfortable with - and discouraged about - the lack of progress with some of the top accounts. She and my client worked out a call schedule that has her spending most of her time with her major accounts and the right amount of time with her mid-level clients. My client will also accompany her on calls to clients where she isn't comfortable, to help her make some progress.

Take the Time

When a rep "just misses" quota regularly, don't reluctantly accept the situation. Avoid labels like a "disappointment," "underachiever," or "mediocre hire." Put some effort into discovering what the problem(s) might be. Review their numbers. Drill down a bit. Compare their performances with other reps. Consider their strengths and liabilities.

Managers need to isolate issues, ask questions, use examples, offer guidance, set goals, and hold reps accountable to improve the situation.   But above all else, when you speak with them, be specific about where the problems lie and what changes need to be made going forward.