There are few things in sales more daunting than receiving your quota for the year in January. The big, round number can seem intangible at first — like a mountain looming overhead.
Often, the only way to summit it is with a sales plan.
Displayr Major Account Executive Alexine Mudawar has been building these plans since she started in sales about eight years ago. At the beginning of every year, she breaks down her sales quota and career goals into a multi-page Excel spreadsheet.
Modeled after an entrepreneur’s business plan, her cover always starts with an executive summary of her career goal for the year. In some years, it’s been to earn a promotion, in other years she’s sought to make enough commission to buy a condo. Starting with the career goal helps inform her plan for the year and makes it about more than just reaching quota.
“The plan was great in the short term, but it also created a framework for me to replicate, not just at that company, but at every single company [after].”
From there, she creates a roadmap to her quota and beyond. Her plan will tell her down to the week and day how many dials she needs to make, meetings she needs to schedule and demos she needs to run to reach her final quota by the end of the year.
This plan is the secret sauce to Mudawar’s success as an AE.
“The impact was almost immediate,” Mudawar said. “The plan was great in the short term, but it also created a framework for me to replicate, not just at that company, but at every single company [after].”
As much as sales is about relationship-building and so-called soft skills, it’s also a numbers game. Sales plans help break the quota down into a math equation that considers average deal sizes and the number of interactions needed to close a sale. In doing so, it can help a rep predict the unpredictable relationships they’ll need to navigate over the course of the year.
And, if the plan is done right, it can even help a rep exceed their quota.
Base It on the Data
Before Mudawar starts breaking down her massive quota into daily goals, she looks at the sales data in the CRM.
If she’s worked at the company for more than a year, she’ll look for information on her average close rate, deal size, meetings conducted and dials made. But if she’s new to the company, she’ll base it on the historical averages within the company. Her goal is to root her KPIs in as much data as possible.
One of the most common reasons a sales plan goes awry is that it’s built on assumptions. Mudawar has seen reps make plans that include closing 10 enterprise deals in a month when the best sales rep in the company has only closed 10 in a year. While on paper that would get them to their year-end quota, the plan will only set them up for failure.
“Assumptions are the enemy,” Mudawar said. “If you’re just shooting from the hip, then I think that’s a huge mistake.”
It’s also important to customize the plan to your abilities. This is where a sales ops team can help. At Beyond Pricing, Director of Sales Ryan Walker has worked with his sales ops team to create a sales calculator linked to the data in the CRM and each rep’s tenure and role.
“If you’re just shooting from the hip, then I think that’s a huge mistake.”
A less experienced rep may need more touches to close a deal, or their market may be composed of smaller customers, requiring them to close more deals in a month. Giving reps the tools to determine the KPIs for themselves can improve their motivation to reach quota.
“It gets much more buy-in because they actually understand the logic behind how you’re getting there,” Walker said.
Set Realistic Targets
After taking historical sales data into account, it’s time to reverse engineer the quota and set goals.
The challenge is to create an equation of sales activities that makes reaching quota as predictable as possible. To do that, Mudawar breaks her total quota down into monthly targets and then divides it by her average deal size, taking into account what types of businesses she plans to close in her pipeline.
The key is to plan around a conservative forecast of deal sizes. One of the strategies that helped Mudawar become a top performer her first year in sales was forecasting fewer enterprise deals than her colleagues.
“We’re trying to replicate what’s working and then sweeten it with those larger deals.”
Based on the company’s ICP, she found that midsize businesses were its dominant market. So, she built a plan that accounted for 60 percent midsize deals, 20 percent SMB and 20 percent enterprise. While her forecasted deal sizes may have been conservative, it actually gave her better odds of surpassing her targets.
Smaller deals were more predictable, which meant she could count on them month to month. Planning her quota around those deal sizes meant that any enterprise deals she closed would be gravy.
“We’re not trying to recreate the wheel,” Mudawar said. “We’re trying to replicate what’s working and then sweeten it with those larger deals.”
Walker has also found this strategy helps him achieve his stretch goals. As a former AE, he’d often set his quota at 150 percent to goal and build his plan around smaller, more predictable deals. That way, if he did the minimum in his plan, he’d surpass his quota.
Calculate What It Takes to Reach Your Quota
In one of Mudawar’s first plans, her goal was to close five net new logos a month.
After looking at her company’s historical sales data, she found only 50 percent of prospects committed to a deal. So, she estimated she’d need to get 10 accounts to the committing stage. To get 10 accounts to that stage, she calculated she’d need to run about 20 demos a month, since only half of those customers move on to the deal stage.
But not every customer shows up to a demo, so she baked that uncertainty into her plan. She estimated she’d need to book 25 demos in a month to run 20 of them. Finally, scheduling those demos takes phone calls. In order to set up one demo, she found it would take about 50 dials.
“It’s a completely new mindset to get into for a rep who hasn’t done it before, but it’s important.”
The end result was two simple daily goals: Set one demo and make 50 calls. Of course, as she’s grown more experienced, she’s been able to lower the number of touches per deal. Still, this makes a successful day infinitely more attainable than tying it to her monthly quota.
“My goal is to schedule one demo every single day,” Mudawar said. “That’s like easy-peasy.”
But it’s important to remember that the plan is just that — a plan. Things don’t always work out the way you predict. As a result, the sales plan needs to be an ever-evolving document that reflects reality, Walker said.
Print it off and check off a box each time you reach your daily goal to hold yourself accountable. If you fall short, you should use it to recalculate the activity you need to make up for that deficit, he added.
“It’s a completely new mindset to get into for a rep who hasn’t done it before, but it’s important,” Walker said. “If you’re operating from a deficit because you were out a few days or it’s a shorter month, you have to understand how that impacts what your daily input requirements look like.
Make a Plan for Your Career Goals Too
Success in sales, however, is about much more than daily activities and quotas. While reaching those targets is important, it’s also easy to get lost in the daily grind and burn out.
That’s why Mudawar always incorporates her own personal goals into her sales plan. Styled after an entrepreneur’s business plan, her yearly plan has an executive summary on the cover. In this case, the summary is her personal goal for the year. She makes sure to map out what she wants, by what date and why.
“You can celebrate wins on a much smaller level than just, ‘Hey, I’ve got this million-dollar quota. Let’s hope I can get there.’”
Just as she calculates what she needs to do to hit quota, she’ll map out the steps to accomplishing that goal. If it’s to become a leader on the team, she’ll make a plan to schedule one-on-one sessions with SDRs and do call blocks with them to showcase herself as a leader. She’ll also make it a goal to speak at two thought-leadership sessions outside the company.
In addition, it’s helpful to make goals for the non-quota-related tasks that are part of the job. This can include making the time to update Salesforce each day, reading two sales professional-development books during the year or growing your social sales presence.
Taken together, these goals ensure Mudawar is always progressing in her career and serve as the “why” behind her numbers.
“This chart isn’t what gets me to my goal necessarily,” Mudawar said. “All of this other work and all of these other areas that I’m focused on and driving toward, those are really the gas in the engine that will then get me to that goal.”
Ultimately, the sales planning document helps reps make their ambitious goals more manageable, Walker added. No matter how motivated a sales rep is, it can be overwhelming to see a $1 million quota. Spending a day or two forecasting a realistic plan for the year can make reaching and surpassing those goals not just a reality, but a given.
“By giving people a more granular understanding of what I can do today ... it feels more achievable,” Walker said. “You can celebrate wins on a much smaller level than just, ‘Hey, I’ve got this million-dollar quota. Let’s hope I can get there.’”