Learn from Last Year Before Moving Forward

A client writes, "With the final numbers in for 2015, the sales staff I manage made the company sales goal by 102%. The whole team had to grind it out, closing several last minute deals to just surpass quota. Everyone's exhausted - me included. Two of the reps finished under quota (one at 94% and the other at 88%). Both tried hard. Do I let this go or pursue a conversation with each of them?"

Bleary eyed from a difficult Q4, a lot of sales leaders say to themselves, "We hit the goal. Let's start the New Year with a clean slate." Leaving the situation unaddressed with the two underperforming reps sets you up for potentially struggling through another difficult Q4 in 2016.

First Things First

Now that the dust has settled, meet with each rep. Review the numbers. 

  Goal Actual Difference %
Rep 1 $1,000,000 $940,000 ($60,000) 94%
Rep 2 $1,000,000 $880,000 ($120,000) 88%

They didn't just miss quota, they missed it by $60,000 and $120,000 respectively. Hearing and seeing the numbers underscores the seriousness of the situation.

Get More Granular

Show how the shortfall specifically affected revenue results monthly and quarterly.

  Quota Shortfall Quarterly Shortfall
Monthly Shortfall
Rep 1 $60,000 $15,000 $5,000
Rep 2 $120,000 $30,000 $10,000

Use Relatable Examples

Connect the quota shortfall to sales actions.  If $8500 represents a mid-size deal and $13,000 a larger deal, show the reps the number of sales they needed to close to achieve their goal.

  Quota Shortfall In $8,500 Deals
In $13,000 Deals
Rep 1 $60,000 7.1 4.6
Rep 2 $120,000 14.1 9.2

Some salespeople find it easier to understand the situation this way.

Distinguish Between the Two

Rep #1 came within 6% of quota.  

Rep#2 fell short by quite a bit: 12%.

As the sales leader, ask yourself:

  • How long has this rep been with the company?
  • What is their history of achieving quota?
  • What kind of help/coaching would be helpful?
  • Do they have a good chance of succeeding?

Determine whether one (or both) merit the effort you'll have to put in to ensure they achieve quota regularly.

Review the Whole Year

With four quarters worth of numbers to look at, you now have the ability to see what you might not have seen before.


  • Rep #1 ran 10 - 15% behind at least 2 months out of every quarter  
  • Rep #2 had a disastrous Q3, achieving less than 50% of goal

Do you understand why? Try to diagnose the situation.  

Create a Plan

Work with each rep individually.  For example, based on your diagnosis perhaps:

  • For Rep #1, achieving minimum productivity standards (cold calls, appointments, proposals) aren't enough. He needs to increase his activity by at least 20% to meet his number consistently.
  • Rep #2 must have a fuller pipeline of closable deals going into Q3. This means more prospecting activity on her part in the beginning of the year.

Set the Stage

While Reps #1 and #2 finished under quota, the rest of the sales team achieved their numbers. It is doable. Both reps must agree to address their weak points. Make clear that a repeat performance of 2015 could result in disciplinary action.  


Focus your coaching time with each rep where they need help. Have them work with salespeople on the team who are strong in the areas they struggle with. If budget allows, provide some outside training.

Observe and Prepare

Watch and see if they take the matter seriously and act appropriately. Track their numbers closely.

The minute you mention the possibility of disciplinary action to some reps, they start job hunting immediately. Contact potential replacements. Understand who's available in the marketplace. Meet them for lunch or coffee.  

If the current reps turn things around, great. If not, you'll be ready to hire replacements as quickly as possible.

Final Thoughts

Avoid another draining, exhausting Q4. Start the New Year with a solid understanding of who didn't help achieve quota and why. Take corrective action early in the year.