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With a growth of 10.8 %, the year 2010 looked optimistic for the German media market, compared with 2008 and 2009. The improvement included online marketing, free magazines and trade journals, amongst others. Everyone was betting on a strong recovery for the key market players.

However, on January 18, 2011, the second biggest European print service providers, Schlott Gruppe AG from Germany, opened insolvency proceedings.

Founded in 1947 and publicly listed in Frankfurt, Schlott employed around 2,400 people during 2009. That year the company had “set itself the goal” to actively adapting to a new business climate, declaring that “in the next few years, we must achieve the defined targets promptly”. In 2011, having failed to reach their cost reductions and revenue targets, the group went busted.

Missing a yearly or quarterly sales goal or quota does not always lead straight to bankruptcy. It is nevertheless not a minor incident. It can spell trouble in a sales career and a difficult year ahead for any company. External factors, such as a global crisis can unmistakably impact reaching or not sales targets. However, sales goals are still goals, crisis or not. The well-being of employees, families, management and other stakeholders depend on reaching them.

In sales, targets are vital. Companies measure Reps, Key Account Managers and Sales Managers using them, either in euros or in the number of goods or services to be sold. In most businesses, sales quotas are almost a web of non-written contracts. Nevertheless, only 54 % of salespeople meet them.

If you are a sales leader, you most likely want to reach your sales goals, don’t you? Well, here we provide you with four clear signs of whether you will miss your sales targets this year.

“Uno” – You are not using the right sales KPIs

Businesses usually measure success using Key Performance Indicators (KPI). KPIs are the only quantifiable evidence to determine how well the company will meet sales targets in the future.

An organisation should select the most suitable sales KPIs and its sales reporting solution based on its information requirements. Using a sales reporting solution and selecting the appropriate Sales KPIs are a crucial criterion for the success of a company.

Of course, sales per quarter is certainly a sensible KPI to measure. However, total sales or revenues are lagging indicators. Most B2B companies will measure bookings instead, yet this is also a lagging KPI.

Measuring the number of sales activities, sales calls, and other pipeline KPIs are undoubtedly an improvement, for they are leading indicators. Leading indicators measure what comes before the sale. Nonetheless, if a sales leader wants to improve the predictability of sales and revenues, then predictive sales analytics should be adopted in the KPI set.

There are several examples of sales KPI using predictive analytics and how they can help a B2B sales team. Each company should measure the KPIs that makes it reach its sales quota. Using only sales or bookings per quarter is not the best idea.

Two – Your sales cycle has lengthened and you undercover the same amount of opportunities

Sales cycles in Business-to-Business are longer than ever before. Reasons why this is the case, abound. Buyer behaviour is rapidly changing in B2B. Buyers have more information at disposal and are investing in e-procurement tools. Some studies suggest an average sales cycle takes 22 % longer now than five years before.

Do you know how long does an average opportunity require in your company? Knowing how long your sales cycles are is an excellent first start. If you do not measure them, you should. Because if your sales cycle keeps getting longer and you do not take suitable action, you will miss your sales targets.

Once a sales leader understands her B2B sales cycle, there are several measures to accelerate it. First, a sales team should focus on those open opportunities with higher chances of closing. Second, key account managers should provide the customers with the information they need at the right time. Third, following up! It takes more than 12 contacts to close any complex sale. Sales representatives should avoid letting the good ones go unnoticed.

If your sales cycle keeps getting longer and you do not take appropriate measures, you will miss your sales targets.

Three – Your follow-up on sales leads and opportunities is done by pure heart or brute force.

Not all sales opportunities and leads are born equal. Some will close during the current fiscal year and will help a sales team reach its sales target; some will not. Since Key Account Managers close just 2 % of their sales in the first contact and 80 % on the fifth to twelfth, a systematic follow-up plays a critical part. Unfortunately, most of the B2B sales teams rely solely either on their hunches or on brute force.

Following sales opportunities by pure instinct might work on some isolated cases, but is extremely inefficient on the whole. Not everyone on a sales team has the same experience and certainly not the same hunches. The sales team will never be able to follow up on open deals consistently. This unreliable method brings sales leader to another bad option: brute force.

Following sales opportunities by pure instinct or hunch might work on some isolated cases, but is extremely inefficient on the whole.

“Visit them all” – they say. Or some of its diluted variations: “make 30 visits per week”. Visiting all the customers is following-up by brute force. Although setting sales activities goals is, in principle, a good idea, as a sales methodology, this does not ensure reaching sales quotas for two main reasons. First, having to comply with a high number of visits, key account managers cannot focus on those with better chances. Second, this method increases sales costs and reduces sales efficiency. Some companies try to compensate this with a timely sales coaching, some not even that.

Four – you are not coaching your sales team and engagement is fading away

Most sales leaders fail to understand the relationship between consistently reaching their sales quotas and mentoring a sales team. Sales coaching is not something that can be done once a year. Sales coaching requires trust and therefore, should be an integral part of a sales planning process.

If a sales leader trains her team as a default set-up, she will anticipate challenges and will be able to offer the necessary support. It will also boost team morale and combat disengagement. Also, the trust generated by coaching a team pays off when negotiating sales quotas.

There is more. Sales coaching support the team spirit during the whole year and makes sales challenges more enjoyable. As the Harvard Business Review recently wrote:

“We found that enjoyment predicted people’s goal persistence two months after setting the goal far more than how important they rated their goal to be.”

A bad coach is undoubtedly a weak leader. Bad leadership is just a better name to “we have 50 % chances of reaching our sales quota this year”.

Coaching a sales team is one of the sales management tasks with the highest leverage on quota reaching. Not coaching your sales team is a dangerous signal in your quest of reaching your sales quota.

“…enjoyment predicted people’s goal persistence two months after setting the goal far more than how important they rated their goal to be. Harvard Business Review

Four dangerous signs that you will miss your sales targets this year – Conclusion

Missing a sales target is a big miss for a sales leader and a sales team. It spells trouble and tensions. In the case of Schlott Gruppe AG, not achieving their sales targets was the prelude of a harder time ahead.

Reaching a future sales target lays, well, in the future. For most companies, achieving a goal in sales is still like tossing a coin with just 50 % chances. Companies using predictive sales analytics are one step ahead in this game, for implementing predictive analytics improves the chances of reaching realistic sales goals significantly.

There are nonetheless clear signals a sales team will fail. If a company is not measuring the most critical KPIs for their sales challenge, it can never be sure it will reach its target. The same applies to the situation where sales cycles are getting longer, but a B2B sales team keeps doing the same.

The software tools that a sales team uses and the coaching it enjoys plays a critical role. Sales opportunities management by pure instinct and lacking a proper sales coaching process are clear signals that a sales team will fail to meet its quota.

Do you have any further questions about sales targets and KPIs? We are happy to help!

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Link To Harvard Business Review – What Separates Goals We Achieve from Goals We Don’t


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