Effective Sales Goals

October 13, 2011

Q: Our sales strategy focused on results rather than time spent working. That decision has caused me nothing but grief as everyone else resents the sales people who have met their goal and are sandbagging for next year. Should I go back and require a minimum number of hours per week and a fixed amount of PTO for them?

A: This is a common source of contention between all exempt and non-exempt category of employee and it’s generally worse with 100% commissioned sales reps – every industry struggles with this same issue. Two things come to mind that might help you.

One is adding an additional stretch goal. That can be in the form of an incentive above and beyond the typical quota. We have some members who layer on top of the comp plan various bonuses or trips, once the stretch goal is obtained. One member requires that the bonus be applied towards use during a vacation period. It’s produced great results.

The second is creating a “culture of discipline” with your company and working towards that becomes the basis for measuring everyone’s work ethic, their productive hours and their commitment to support other employees. This will help drive consistent behavior year-round. Ironically, we have found that the senior sales staff work ethic most closely models that of the senior executives. It tends to be that if the President works long hours, the sales staff does as well.

The thing is, everyone has a different level of ambition, drive and motivation. We all have different priorities for family time, vacation time, income expectations and so forth. Because of that you will have people who coast once the goal is met, others who race right past the goal.

Results-based sales plans can drive non-exempt co-workers crazy as they know it can impact their income, year- end bonus, company profits, or even their job. Technical people quickly assume sales people don’t work as hard or as many hours as they do. That is often a false perception in our industry. Alignment of overall goals within your company is the key to keeping everyone on task.

I would be careful to make drastic changes in your current plan. Keep in mind a surefire way to drive away successful sales people is to change their comp plan, or reduce their territory to increase coverage. It’s one of the hardest things to accomplish when it’s time for expanding sales coverage. — CW

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