We often celebrate companies who are achieving their goals and KPIs for the year and hitting milestone after milestone. However, there is often a large gap between the company’s overall growth and the number of sales reps attaining their quotas.

This creates a disconnect. 

The company is winning, but the sales reps don’t see a path to hit their targets. They become disconnected because they see that their efforts are directly affecting the performance of the company, but they aren’t getting rewarded. 

Our industry’s feast-or-famine culture has seen many reps burn out. But there is a path forward: We leaders can play a vital role in boosting their confidence, increasing retention and building predictable patterns by setting the right metrics.

Let me show you how.


Feast-or-Famine Culture

The culture of tech sales has long led to burnout and contributed to a 35-percent average sales turnover rate that is three times higher than the average attrition rate. The majority of sales reps work on commission resulting in a disproportionate amount of their pay at risk. With so many sales professionals not hitting their quotas, that means they also are not making the amount of money that they anticipated. It’s a heavy load, and the constant heaviness and pressure that comes with consistently not meeting targets leads to desperation, and often, demotivation

But here’s the thing about sales: Success begets success. The better reps are doing, the more confident they will be —  confident in themselves and confident in the product. This comes through in the sales process and leads to better win rates and higher deal sizes.

Reps become less likely to chase deals that aren't good or to offer discounts that aren't warranted. During my time as a sales leader, I have consistently seen people who are successful get more and more successful, while those who get behind on their number have a difficult time getting back on track. Their confidence plummets, which leads them to make fewer calls, which leads to a dwindling pipeline and no closed deals. From there, the only choice seems to be for them to try again, this time somewhere new. 

For this reason, it is essential that you put in place an onboarding program and ramp that increases the chances of success in the first two quarters. And when things get off course, you need to have a clear early intervention strategy. I am focused on creating goals and metrics that increase the chances that our reps will be successful. 

It all starts with the “how”: How can we approach onboarding to create a foundation that sets everyone up for success? At Hootsuite, we have established “Metrics That Matter.” When new reps come in, we equip them with a playbook that outlines the way we sell and the key metrics that will determine their success. Throughout the ramp time, we measure their performance against the metrics instead of a quota. We believe that this strong foundation will lead to sustainable future success. 

Let’s take outbound sales: Success is directly related to meetings. Getting a meeting is not only the first step in the process, it’s also one of the hardest. Many times, training and coaching barely cover this crucial skill. The first thing we do is help our reps to meet their first meeting target. We know how many meetings it will take them to achieve their quota.

This first milestone is one of the most important to get a rep off on the right foot and set them up for future success. Initially, we don’t even think about the outcome, just setting up the meetings. Then it’s all about how they convert those meetings into opportunities. Only when they are reaching those opportunity metrics are we then looking for the closed/won, the booking metrics and the quota achievement.

When we break it down into those pieces, we can more easily identify and support people where they are having challenges. 

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Setting Achievable Goals to Boost Confidence in Our Reps

Next, we set goals that we believe people can achieve based on data. Every sales organization has an equation. It might look something like this: N opportunities x winrate x average sale price = closed/won revenue

When you plug in the numbers, the equation shows what has to happen in order to reach a certain sales target. If there isn't any data that supports the assumptions, then we have to ask ourselves if the target is actually achievable.

 I do not believe that achieving quota should require good luck or superhero performance. I will not knowingly set the majority of our reps up for failure. I do not believe people deserve that work environment. Everyone deserves to be able to play to win, and “achievable” should not be confused with “easy.” They are not the same thing. 

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Building a Simple, Predictive and Conducive Sales Model

Simplicity in sales roles is incredibly important. As a leader, it’s important to think about creating the right roles for your organization. Each role must have a clear path to success. 

At Hootsuite, we have transformed our organization to delineate specific customer-facing roles. We now have sales reps who are focused specifically on inbound leads, reps who are focused on outbound acquisition and others who are focused on nurturing and growing our existing customers. Many companies have this organizational structure and there are several reasons why. 

Why Your Sales Org Should Have Different Customer-Facing Roles

  1. Better customer experience
  2. More clarity for each sales position
  3. Simpler metrics 
  4. Greater options for diverse roles and career trajectories

 One of the reasons people burn out in sales is because they’re doing the same thing over and over again. This approach creates several options for role optionality. 

I’ve heard many reps say something like this: “I'm leaving, but I don't want to leave. I really like the people I work with. I really like the culture, I really like our guiding principles and all of the benefits that we have, but I just need to do something different.” By having a sales structure that offers various types of roles, we can provide the change in scenery they need to feel refreshed and invigorated — without having to leave the organization. That translates into a shorter ramp-up within the new role, and it allows them to stay part of the team and work with people they love. 

In the transition, we allow our people to choose their role. We believe they will be most successful when they're in the role that best matches their skill set, or their career aspirations.

Finally, distinct roles provide clarity of what is expected in the role, as well as a reduced set of metrics. Instead of having one role that has many different metrics that are important, we can really focus on the three or four metrics per role that will lead to success.

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