As a sales leader was lamenting about the performance of one of her sales representatives she looked at me and said, “You know, 94 % is a great mark on a chemistry test but not so great as a performance to plan”. I couldn’t help but nod in agreement — if only I had gotten ninety-four. As for being 94% to plan in October, I also had to agree. There is just so little time left in the year to make it up.
If you are in sales (or marketing for that matter) you will probably know what the sales leader was referring to; if you are not, I will try to offer a perspective that may help.
At the beginning of each year everyone in the sales organization is given an annual sales target* (also called a quota or sales plan) and performance is measured against how they do relative to the target (and usually compensated in some way). This annual target is usually divided into four quarters, with each quarter divided into three months; ultimately you end up with a sales target for each month that adds up to the annual target. In effect, each month is a performance benchmark that allows progress to be measured. As an example, if your actual sales in January was $100,000 and your target for January was $90,000 — you are 110% of target; if your actual sales after the first nine months is $940,000 and your target is $1,000,000, then you find yourself 94% of target (with a deficit of $60,000). That means, in October, you not only have to achieve your target for the final Quarter (October, November and December) but you also need to make up the $60,000 deficit to ensure achievement of your annual plan.
It should be pointed out that when you are looking at performance versus target you need to consider monthly performance for sure, but most importantly how you are tracking to your annual plan — some months will have you above target, and some months you will be under, but it is the aggregate by the end of the year that is important. Being significantly below target so late in the year makes the likelihood of being below target by the end of the year much greater, and this was part of the issue the Sales Leader was wrestling with.
At this time of the year, it is all about CONFIDENCE in being successful by year end — the clock is literally ticking. Behind the Sales Leader’s lament with a lead performance indicator of 94% was the concern that there was no “line of sight” to how the sales rep was going to make up the current deficit, or for that matter, an understanding of why there was a deficit in the first place.
And this is the real issue regarding the situation — a lack of understanding of the situation, why the deficit is occurring, what is being done to correct the situation, et cetera. The reality of sales is there will be times you miss your target (sometimes there are situation that happen that are beyond your control) but it becomes a real sin if there is not an understanding what is happening. I know for a fact the Sales Leader would be a lot less concerned if her sales representative had proactively addressed the reasons for being at 94 % of plan, what the situation was, what activities were being taken, what the new opportunities were to address the deficit, et cetera.
Without any of this, there is a very good reason to be concerned with 94%… sales is not a chemistry test after all.
*If you are leading (or part of a sales organization) that does not have an annual sales target you are pretty much guaranteed not to succeed over the long run.