Sales Targets, Helicopters and Street Views

It’s pretty difficult to distinguish between valid reasons and excuses for not meeting sales targets.

Some may use the prevailing tough economic climate as an excuse for why new sales targets can’t be met.  And yes, there may be valid reasons in some declining business sectors where even hiring ten of the best sales superstars won’t make a significant difference. Another reason might be that those huge new sales targets were thumb sucked out of thin air by a  wishful CEO and/or ‘finance’ instead of through careful and strategic analysis of what existing and prospective customers opportunities could deliver.

Non-delivery on sales could also be blamed on a product/solution being seriously below par in comparison to a competitor’s offering as a reason for their poor sales performance – which may be worth investigating – even when at least one or more of their co-workers is reaching their sales target. Why is that? Better territory? Organic growth in existing accounts? Luck? Perseverance? Sales ability?

Are there as many valid reasons and excuses for making target as there are for not making target?

I recall a conversation with a sales manager who told me that he’d just let go of a few underperforming reps because they had not made target for the past three months (he claimed that he diligently followed the ‘correct’ performance management processes of course). However he couldn’t tell me why they had not achieved the results, but merely that they were full of excuses. Bottom line – he hadn’t taken the time to find out why the sales weren’t rolling in nor had he questioned his ability and skill to recruit, onboard, train or coach effectively. He only had a ‘helicopter view’ of his team and customer base. He didn’t have a clear ‘street view’ (think Google Earth car here).

If a sales manager has a street view and can tie inactivity to poor performance or unproductive activities to non-performance then yes, by all means reach a conclusion that someone might not be worth their sales salt and must be let go.

Having this in-depth understanding of the activity levels and selling ability of each of their team members enables a sales manager to effect positive change where needed.

The bottom-line is, when it comes to holding someone accountable for meeting their sales targets, a sales manager also needs to be held accountable to be really close to what’s happening in each person’s territory.

A sales manager’s failure to develop a ‘street view’ may just result in the loss of really great salespeople for all the wrong reasons.

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