If I was a sales rep, I would be gnawing my own arm off in frustration when it came to end of quarter. I honestly can’t get a proper handle on what’s going on with quota setting, but I know that it smacks of weak leadership and sales reps getting a very, very raw deal.


Once upon a time quotas made sense. People had to push hard but they could get there – and seeing their colleagues achieve quota gave them the competitive push and morale boost to stretch for it. Targets were set based on historical performance, current and projected marketplace conditions, competitive positioning… the things that have a real bearing on possible conversions.


Sales Directors would use their marketplace knowledge and strategic understanding to negotiate quota with the boardroom. Yes, there was always influence from upstairs. Yes, there was always input from other departments. But in a sales-led organisation sales had real strength and weight, and years’ worth of practical knowledge and relevant experience went into hammering out targets that meant something.


So where has that strength from sales leaders gone? Because I keep hearing about quotas set by accountants on behalf of a moaning mass of growth-hungry and market-ignorant stakeholders and City analysts. Accountants are number jockeys – they’re just looking at outgoings, overheads, debt-related costs and desired growth, then conjuring up a quota based on what they need to offset those costs and exceed that growth target.


That’s not a quota, it’s a wish list. They may as well write to Sales Directors saying “We need your people to bring in £X million this quarter… and we want them to chip in and buy us a DB5. And if they could put in a good word for us with Eva Green we’d love to take her out for a drink sometime.” They may as well scrawl a number in crayon on the back of a cereal box and throw it at reps for all the thought that goes into it.


It’s a bullshit way of setting quota. It will dropkick morale straight out the window, foster disengagement and tear a steaming great chasm between leadership and sales teams. It will encourage lies and fairy tales when it comes to forecasting and review meetings. It will push your people to start managing perceptions rather than driving performance. It will fill your beloved CRM with smoke and mirrors and bullshit, and everyone will suffer.


It’s sheer idiocy.


So where is the push back? Why are sales leaders accepting f**king ludicrous numbers that they know aren’t reachable? Why are they rolling over? Why aren’t they storming into the boardroom and demanding to know which jumped-up calculator-licker had the cheek to drop this rubbish on their desk?


You tell me, because I honestly don’t know. This all seems deeply, deeply stupid, but there must be a reason… right?


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– Tom @WSL