Sales people do not like to be tracked, measured or accounted for against anything other than quota

Max Effgen from has some interesting thoughts on Sales Enablement:

“[…] Having worked in Sales and having a CRM background, I know why user adoption [of CRM systems] is not higher. Sales people do not like to be tracked, measured or accounted for against anything other than quota. Think about it. What other organization is measured against a quota, that if not met, will likely result in job loss? Sales is already measured.

The sales enablement concept is very interesting because it gives sales a real reason to use a CRM system. If it does provide value, user adoption goes up, ROI goes up, and hopefully, sales go up. Then everyone will be happy. The average tenure of a Sales VP is currently 19 months. Can your organization survive with 19 months or less of sales data?”

Mark Allen Roberts from interviewed some sales people (links added by the author of this blog):

“[…] Sales are one of the most accountable areas of the organization and often are under the constant microscope of senior leaders as they have a significant, immediate, and direct impact on the bottom line.

[…] as a salesperson our job is to; Sell. Yes you ask me to do all kinds of little side projects, write reports, and conduct market investigations gathering data to insure what marketing is telling the CEO is actually what’s going on out here in this mystical place called “our market.” However at the end of the day my compensation is specifically tied to: selling stuff. The more stuff I sell the more money I make. My job is to “make it happen” with whatever you folks at corporate throw over the wall.

I tried telling you the reason that last product launch failed was because you created a product because you could and not because you should…but you said I was just making excuses and I needed to “sell through objections…and hit my numbers”

My pay, my commission rice bowl if you will, is about selling as much as I can, as quick as I can, and building relationships that plant seeds for future sales. With the internet my customers are more knowledgeable than they have ever been before about our products and services, (they often know things about our company before I do these days and this really makes me look bad in my market) so my job is really to help buyers solve their problems with the stuff I sell, and help them buy from us. I don’t like to discount our product unless I have to because my commission is based on the selling price, and the more I discount the more units I will need to sell to hit my targeted compensation. […]

I have to speak with all kinds of people I never had to sell before; CTO, CMO, CEO, CFO…

[…] About 70% of what marketing gives me I do not use. I know it will piss you off, but what I have been doing is writing my own stuff and using some of what Mike also created up in the North West region, you see it is old, but it works! […]”

Jeff Ernst adds ‘Sales reps will never use SFA [Sales Force Automation], so stop beating them over the head to use it’:

“[…] Every sales or marketing manager I talk to about Sales Force Automation (SFA) says that their company has to beat their sales reps over the head to get them to use it. Here’s how one of my clients describes their SFA experience:

“We spent almost half a million dollars to roll out our SFA system […] we wanted more visibility into our pipeline so we could get better sales forecasts. We tried everything to get the reps to enter data. First we offered incentives, but that didn’t work. Then we started sending emails to the sales managers when their reps hadn’t logged in. That didn’t work either. Now we’re threatening to withhold commission checks if they don’t update their deals. So the reps wait until the night before their sales manager is meeting with the VP, and then they throw in some data. We don’t have much confidence in the data, but at least we’re getting the salespeople to log in.” […]

You can’t blame the salespeople. They want to be out selling, but we’re asking them to be bookkeepers. As Joe Galvin from SiriusDecisions puts it, SFA really stands for Sales Force Accounting, since it provides management with visibility into sales but does little to help people sell. It’s no wonder it takes a stick to get them to use it.

What would your reps say if you asked:

Has the SFA system helped you be better prepared for the dialog you need to have on sales calls?
When was the last time you won a deal because of your SFA?
Do you get more value out of the SFA than you put in?
The last question is the kicker. The value meter is way out of whack. Reps are being asked to put a lot of data in, but they’re not getting an equal amount of value out. So they stick to using the tools they value…their Blackberries and iPhones.

While an SFA system has become an absolute necessity for the management of a sales team, it has been implemented as a tool of control rather than a tool of sales enablement. Traditional SFA systems are intended to collect data about sales activities for the benefit of managers, so they can get their pipeline and forecast reports, but are not built to give salespeople guidance on how to sell better.

If you want people to use your SFA and keep their opportunity records updated, give them a reason to go in. As you’re discovering the messages, tools, and conversations that are proving to work for your best reps, make sure these are delivered to your sales team through the SFA. Put your sales playbooks into the SFA. Turn your SFA into an SEA… Sales Enablement Automation. […]”

All blog posts cited above were published on August 6, 2009. Please visit the sources to read the full texts and to leave comments for the authors. Whilst you should check out all the comments below, I would like to highlight the one from Bryan Karp (@midnitecoder).

10 thoughts on “Sales people do not like to be tracked, measured or accounted for against anything other than quota”

  1. Let’s be realistic. We hire sales guys to sell. That’s what we want them to do and that’s why we reward them the way we do. If they can’t sell we get rid of them and get new sales guys. Asking them to do anything other than selling is a fool’s game.

    I’ve seen what happens when sales guys are measured on things other than quota. When they don’t hit quota because they’re working on those other non-sales things, they get punished and their compensation is impacted.


  2. So maybe its up the the managers to base salary not just on sales, but on the value of the data put into their SFA. Maybe it is possible to reward team players, and punish the ones who refuse to follow the needs of the company.

    Do you have sales people who hit their numbers so much higher than the rest of the team, but won’t use the SFA? Obviously, this would make punishment difficult.

    If all your sales team are close to equal, then a reward system makes sense. In this economy, they need all the help they can get – even if it is just from their own team.

    Just a thought.


    1. Hi Todd

      Thanks for your comment.
      I would go further than “… even if it is just from their own team” and say that the data/information/knowledge what ever you want to look at, that lies within their own team, is the most crucial source to tap into. How to motivate sales people to be willing to share and to take the time to share is an interesting topic and I would think that a combination of positive rewards like peer recognition, exposure, awards and financial incentives should be the way as opposed to negative things like punishments for those who don’t do it. Looks like I agree with you that they should earn more when sharing more or lets say when what they shared makes others sell more. However, on the other hand I like the simple yet rigid statement from the blog post above: They should not be tracked, measured or accounted for against anything other than quota.



  3. Paul:
    I don’t like that statement at all!
    I don’t sell specifically, but at every job I have ever held, I had more than one responsibility. I was judged, rewarded, punished, on several areas within my job area.

    I wouldn’t want any salespeople at my company who are so narrow minded as to think that their ‘only’ job is to sell. They also need to make the company successful. They can do that by tracking complaints, getting new ideas, sharing information, etc. They absolutely should not just be accountable for a quota – they need to be held accountable to all the other tasks that their job requires. Just like the rest of us.

    Thanks for looking at my Blog.



  4. Thank you for including my content!
    To clarify, how most companies’ value sales is their % to quota. Or the popular phrase among us sales guys “we are only as good as our last…. (Let’s just say “sale” as I am a salesman and a gentleman) “.

    My teams over the years did not mind being tracked or measured as long as the right spirit was behind it. If you are doing so because you do not trust I am out working my butt off then no, save your money and your time. If you are doing so like a market leader in hopes of understanding places in the buying cycle that sales consistently go into a holding pattern, and your desire is to bring me new tools to help keep the conversation flowing…then bring it.

    The challenge then becomes do you work for a market leader or a market loser?

    Mark Allen Roberts


  5. I agree with the sales is there to sell. The average tenure of a Sales VP is currently 19 months. That means that the Sales VP is there to sell to his or her existing Rolodex and then leaves for another opportunity to resell into that Rolodex. I have seen that many times. Also I have seen smart companies hire sales with the right Rolodex to get into new markets. Sales are team players when it is to their own benefit (i.e. helps them sell). Naturally this does not lead to robust sales data in the CRM system. Incorporating sales enablement tools and features that helps sales do their job better (i.e. sell more) will lead to better user adoption, better data, ROI, etc.

    Paul thanks for including my comments in your blog post above.



  6. Absolutely! Sales people must be measured by much more than just their quota. I run the Pre-Sales department where I work and engage with multiple internal sales people and multiple external channel partners. While quota is certainly an important aspect in what they need to be measured by it can by no means be the only measure.

    I’ll walk through each of the points, but sales people should also be measured by the
    * ROI of the deal
    * Lead to close time
    * Customer satisfaction after the deal is closed
    * Accurate population of data within the CRM
    * Forecast-to-actual sales
    * % Penetration within account
    * Time per sales stage
    * Attrition rate per sales stage
    * % Conversion rate by lead type (hot/cold)
    * Average deal size
    * Ramp time

    Metric: ROI of the deal – It does no good for a deal to be sold if the return is going to take years, or there will never be a return because the contract ends before a return can be recognized. Far too many times I have seen in companies where the sales rep pushes for a deal to meet their quota without regard for the level-of-effort required by services, or support after the deal is closed. This then kills any margin left.

    Metric: Lead to close time – While not a metric to hold a rep 100% accountable for it is a key metric. Imagine if you knew for all your deals the typical lead to close time from when it entered the queue from BusDev and/or marketing to when it was closed. This can enhance your visibility and forecasting capability. Additionally it can help highlight individuals how might need additional training and who might be able to help them.

    Metric: Customer satisfaction after deal closing – This ties back to ROI and later in the account when you try to get a reference. If you have a true ‘Cassius the closer – character from Selling the Wheel’ they worry about getting the deal closed, not always what is required afterwards. This can lead a bad taste in the client’s mouth and put the deployment team in a precarious situation.

    Metric: Accurate and complete data population within the CRM – A no brainer! I have heard the reasons why it isn’t done from various sales people and it ceases to amaze me.

    Metric: Actual-to-Forecasted sales per time period – this does tie to quota, but really it ties closer to how well the rep does at forecasting. Additionally if you track this over time companies can increase their visibility in corporate forecasting, and also detect problems earlier. If you detect a sales person is historically off by 10% you can adjust in your corporate forecasts and help them with training to improve. If you see a one-time drop you can keep an eye on them for the next time period vs. trying to guess what happened last reporting period. Seems like a no-brainer, but as I’ve talked to people it seems this metric is never reported on or tracked.

    Metric: % Penetration within account – In most sales engagements there are specific roles that need to be identified. Where deals can go bad pre or post deal closing can be attributed to not having fully penetrated the account to find all the key players.

    Metric: % Conversion rate by lead type (hot/cold) – Simple measurement by resource to determine what % of leads they are given convert.

    Metric: Time per sales stage – Quickly highlights for management and sales person if displayed properly deals that need attention. These would be the deals where it is taking significantly longer in the current deal stage vs. the average. Additionally it helps to identify problem spots if it is tracked. We measured every stage in one of pre-sales efforts and were able to quickly identify key areas for improvement, and develop a longer-term plan. By doing this we reduced our step within the sales stage thereby helping the sales person move the deal faster. My point is…IF you track the time per stage by deal you can quickly find areas that need improvement and focus a team to improve the methodology.

    Metric: Attrition rate per sales stage – Where are deals falling out of the sales process and of equal importance is why?

    Metric: Average deal size – Easy metric to measure, but if you measure properly you can get a good feel for the number of deals you’ll need to close when doing next year’s budget.

    Metric: Ramp time – Sales people just like everyone else need to be measured on how long it takes them to be self-sufficient. While most have the sales background every company has a unique value proposition, methodology and of course product / service. If a particular rep is taking longer than average you can work with them to close the gap with training or determine if you need to make a change.

    I’m sure there are other metrics that can and should be measured, but the list above are my thoughts.

    Hope that helps and let me know if you think I’m off base.


    Bryan Karp


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