When Your Quota Is Out of Reach

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Just about every salesperson, no matter how good, has experienced that sinking-in-quicksand feeling of being way behind on the period's sales quotas. When the moment of realization hits, it's all too easy to panic – especially if your sales manager is breathing down your neck (because HE has quotas, too!).

Don't Panic About the Quota

But panicking will only make things worse. The best way to handle this situation is to work faster and smarter than before.

You probably won't have time to work up enough cold leads to get out of trouble, although flooding your pipeline will certainly help you avoid this kind of situation in the next quota cycle. When your deadline is around the corner and you're way behind, there's only one way out – short-circuiting the normal sales cycle.

Every industry and every company has a certain rhythm based on the length of the sales cycle. Some salespeople tend to have slightly longer or shorter sales cycles within the same company, but a basic uniformity exists due to the nature of the sales team's product and of the customer base. If you have to radically shorten that cycle, you'll need to think creatively.

Keep in Touch

The first stop in these moments of desperation is your existing customers. Hopefully, you have been keeping in touch with them, helping out with any issues and generally banking some goodwill credit.

If so, now is the time to draw on that credit! Call them up one by one and start asking for referrals. Depending on the nature of your product and of your sales goals, you may also be able to upsell these existing customers or otherwise sell them additional products.

Next, it's time to touch base with your stalled sales.

No doubt you have sales that simply seem to die off in the middle of the cycle. Get back to those prospects and pull out all the stops. Find out what is impeding the sale, and if there's anything you can do to remove that impediment. This doesn't necessarily mean offering a huge discount – often a prospect's objection has nothing to do with price. Nor does it mean lying to or otherwise deceiving a prospect, which is highly unethical and will land you in far worse trouble than a simple missed quota.

Contact Your Network

Finally, get in touch with your networks. Most people have several support groups – coworkers, business contacts, friends, family, etc. So call in your favors from your buddy in tech support, your neighbor who keeps borrowing your lawnmower, your uncle Fred, your groups on LinkedIn, and anyone else you can think of. If you belong to a Chamber of Commerce or ​another local group, see if they have any events in the next day or two. If not, call up the office and ask them for help! They may be able to make suggestions or even guide you to a few people who are ready to buy.

Self Evaluation

Once the immediate pressure is off (one way or another), it's time to sit down and figure out how you ended up in that mess in the first place.

If you're not already doing so, start tracking your activities and see if there are areas in which you're not being productive. If you think your quota is simply unrealistic, schedule a meeting with your sales manager and see if you can have them adjusted in the future. And of course, send heartfelt thank-you notes or gifts to anyone who helped you out during your time of need.