X-Ray of Broken Collarbone

Missed Sales Targets: How to Avoid the Crash

I knew it was broken as soon as I hit the ground. My shoulder had shifted nearly two inches on impact, and now, sitting by the side of the road, I could feel my collarbone poking up from beneath my skin. Needless to say, the pain was unbearable. Just a few years earlier, I had begun riding as a knee problem was keeping me from my normal release of running. By now, I had become a full-on cycling enthusiast; or, according to my wife, an addict.

As a cyclist, you learn quickly that you fall into two groups — those who have crashed and those who will. I had just graduated from the latter to the former. And for the next eight weeks, I’d be in a sling. What’s crazy about the wreck, though, is how much clarity I had afterward about WHY I crashed. Looking back, I could see all the signs as if everything had happened in super slow motion. As I recalled the events in great detail, I reflected on the past two decades and the many conversations I have had with sales managers just after their team had crashed and missed their sales target.

Like me, they always seemed clear about what had happened after the fact, even though they could not avoid the wreck before it happened. So what is it that causes sales teams to miss their targets and suffer the painful consequences of the crash?

No Shortage of Data

When I had my accident (a pseudonym, really, since it was my negligence that caused the wreck rather than a chance occurrence), I had no lack of information that could have helped me avoid the crash. I knew the conditions, had good visibility and was even provided adequate signals from other riders in my pace line about road hazards.

Similarly, most sales organizations and their sales teams find that the root cause of their failure is NOT a shortage of data. While there are undoubtedly helpful analytics and supplemental reports that can extend the value of the information available through the company’s CRM/SFA tools, the lack of this data is rarely the underlying cause of the team’s failure.

Thus, while better information can facilitate improved management, it will not in and of itself prevent performance gaps.

Sales Teams — Don’t Fixate on the Wheel

If lack of data isn’t to blame, what is? Looking back on my crash, it’s easy to see that I was simply too focused on the wrong information. Every rider knows there are certain axioms governing safe riding in a pace line.

For example, don’t look behind you; keep focused on what’s happening in front of you.

This one is probably obvious to even the most novice rider.

Less obvious however, is the importance of avoiding the trap of fixating on the wheel of the bike in front of you — and this particular problem is also far more difficult to avoid. Even seasoned riders can become “entranced” by the rear wheel of the bike in front of them, especially when it is just inches away and you are cruising along at 20+ MPH.

That’s exactly what happened to me. Instead of looking ahead, I got caught looking down.

The result was a big OUCH!

Fixating on the wrong information can be equally as devastating for sales leaders. Managers often “fixate” on certain metrics, such as funnel activity, only to find the sales teams increasing the value of their pipeline while still missing sales targets.

In one case, we had a team that was required to keep seven times their quota in the pipeline at all times, so every person did precisely that. Unfortunately, at the end of the year, this team only achieved 60% of their sales target. Clearly, something was missing, and this excessive focus on a single metric wasn’t allowing the sales leader or people on the team to properly diagnose the problem.

The Predictive Metrics for Selling

So, what should be the focus of sales teams and their managers? Like cycling, sales leaders must force themselves to look forward and consider a COMBINATION of metrics that predict success or failure. While pipeline activity is certainly one of these things, it should not be the sole focus of a manager’s analysis if it will lead to excluding other key metrics. We recommend every salesperson on the team have a mathematically valid sales success plan that defines targets for:

  • New Opportunities

  • New Proposals

  • Average Sale Value

  • Proposal Ratio

  • Closing Ratio

You can download a simple Excel spreadsheet for creating the sales success plan here. By regularly reviewing each seller’s performance relative to the target for these predictive metrics, sales leaders can identify gaps BEFORE a crash in sales results. Further investigation into the behavioral issue producing the gap, and the underlying skill or knowledge gap that is the root cause, allows both the manager and seller to define corrective action that will minimize the pain of the miss and perhaps help them avoid the missed targets and sales crash altogether.

And take it from me, avoiding a crash is a far better outcome than explaining it after the fact!

Want to learn more? Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at www.axiomsaleskinetics.com.

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