Why You Missed Your Sales Quota Last Quarter

So you missed your sales quota last quarter. It seems like a huge, complex problem with no clear solution. What’s broken? How can you fix it? And how do you commit to a quota for next quarter and feel confident about hitting it?

It’s a complicated problem, so let’s break it down. I’m Patrick Purvis, ZoomInfo’s senior VP of revenue and a veteran salesperson. When people fail to meet their sales quota, I can almost always point to one of three reasons:

  1. An unhealthy sales pipeline
  2. Poor messaging
  3. Selling to a single point of failure

Let’s work through detailed solutions to each of these sales problems — so when next quarter rolls around, you won’t have any doubt about hitting your quota.

Problem #1: You have an unhealthy sales pipeline

Insufficient pipeline volume is often the biggest factor in missing your sales quota. Let’s dive deeper into this issue to determine if your pipeline and conversion rates are sufficient — and what to do if they’re not.

We’ll investigate this issue by looking at some key metrics related to pipeline effectiveness and efficiency. These metrics include the following.

  • How many leads did you generate?
  • What percentage of leads converted to opportunities?
  • How many opportunities turned into new deals?
  • How long is your average sales cycle?

Examining these metrics will allow you to work backward from your current lead goals. Look back at your last quarter and determine the following:

  • How many leads do you need to generate to result in X amount of business?
  • How many leads do you need to generate to hit your goal at the end of the quarter?

What if you’re not generating enough leads to meet your quota?

The above exercise may have confirmed what you already suspected: you’re not generating enough leads. You may only be halfway through the year, but you know you need to do something, quick. If marketing doesn’t deliver enough leads in October, and you have a 60-day sales cycle, December is going to be bad.

While your business may be implementing inbound strategies to boost lead volume, those activities take a long time – months, if not years — to build. Luckily, you can boost leads rather quickly. It’s not easy…but neither is justifying another bad quarter to your boss.

Here are the three tools you’ll need to fix your lead problem, fast:

1. Email campaign capabilities

A lot of people think: “Email doesn’t work in my industry! We’re in a “relationship-driven’ business.” Yes, it does work in your industry. We have clients executing well-done email campaigns who work in every space, from complex ERP implementations, to IT staffing for Fortune 1000 companies.

Email marketing generates the highest ROI of any marketing activity: 67% of businesses list email as their top earner, dollar for dollar.

2. A phone

I hope you don’t take this for granted.

3. High-quality contact data

All sales and marketing campaigns fall apart when they’re using dirty data. Whether you build or buy your prospecting data – hire people to research and build your database, or buy it from a reputable data provider — make sure you have great data.

With these three simple tools — email, a phone, and solid contact data — send an email to all the prospects on your list.

It should be short and focused on the problem you help companies solve. Remember that the email is NOT about you. It should speak directly to your prospect’s needs.

One of our clients, a small IT consulting firm, used the following message in a recent email marketing campaign. The message was sent to 400 CIOs, received 37 responses, and turned three of those into new clients. Not bad for a company that typically does $1M+ engagements!

Here’s the email script they used:

You’d be surprised at the response rate on that one and how effective you can be when you’re getting referred down from a C-level exec! (Or, depending on how you react when your boss tells you to look at something, maybe you wouldn’t.)

Now for the hard part: Pick up the phone. Sending an email alone is not enough. You have to pick up the phone, get people to answer. A good rule of thumb is to plan on making about 20 calls to get one prospect on the line.

Problem #2: Your messaging is insufficient

Many salespeople fail by using one generic message for their entire audience. I see this from a dozen companies a day: “Hey Patrick, we do IT staffing. Do you need IT staff?”

Messages like that aren’t tailored to my role, to my company, or the pain points I care about. That message isn’t truly meant for me — and you can bet your bottom dollar I’m never going to respond!

1. Personalize your messaging.

Your messaging should be tailored to your audience. And if your audience varies greatly, you’ll need to segment your message.

Segmentation requires accurate data, as well as really deep data: You’ll need to know more than just the prospect’s name, title, and the company they work for. When you layer in their industry, their company size, and their role (and not the generic “VP of IT” kind of role, but rather in the “VP of IT who handles Database Administration and we’re using MongoDB” kind of way.) This opens up a whole world for you to get creative, have fun with your messaging, and see killer response rates.

Consider the difference it makes, for example, when you know that the prospect is an Information Security vendor selling anti-virus software … and you have a list of VPs of IT.

Your message could be something like:

Sounds good, right? But, there’s a catch. That list of 10,000 VPs of IT included:

  • 1,000 VPs of Information Security: Your message resonated with them.
  • 1,000 VPs of IT Governance, Risk, or Compliance: Your message sort of spoke to them.
  • 3,000 VPs of IT Infrastructure: They might have forwarded your message to the security folks.
  • 5,000 VPs of IT Application Development, Business Intelligence, Telecommunications, Asset Management, Procurement, Database Administration, etc. etc.

Is it any wonder your response rate is low? Let’s take that segmentation idea a step further.

2. Segment your lead list

Imagine you knew your audience’s roles and responsibilities before you sent your email. And don’t stop there; imagine if you knew who used one of your competitor’s products, and what industry they’re in, and how big their company is…

You can segment and create messaging as detailed as your data!

Let’s say a portion of that list — say, 300 contacts — were VPs of IT responsible for Risk & Compliance in the healthcare industry, and furthermore were using your competitor’s product. You could get really specific with that! And you can alter the message, just slightly, for every segment of your market.

The key is focus. Like the line in the Karate Kid reboot (don’t judge me), “Your focus needs more focus.”

Segmentation is key for both sales and marketing. Your marketing department should be executing on this strategy already.

3. Implement a persona-based workflow

It can be helpful for sales reps to have a routine established around personas. Here’s a sample workflow that I offer my sales development reps:

When I start my day, I should get specific: “Today, I’m going to focus on VPs of Information Security at pharmaceutical companies.” I know what case studies I’m going to cite, what my social proof is (competitors that I will name drop), I know the use case for my product in this industry, and – most important – I know the role I’m targeting. That’s what I focus on.

Perhaps Monday is Pharma, Tuesday is Financial Services, and Wednesday is eCommerce. Or maybe Monday is VPs of Security, and Tuesday is VPs of Compliance, and Wednesday is VPs of Application Development.

You get the picture: Focus on the focus, and the messaging tends to fall in place.

Problem #3: You’re selling to a single point of failure

The third most common pipeline problem is failing to connect with actual decision-makers — or worse, hanging all your hopes on one solitary decision-maker. Let’s examine each of those mistakes, which together combine to form the larger problem of selling to a single point of failure.

1. Secure contact with decision-makers

The operations specialist you met at that trade show. The marketing manager who filled out a form on your website. The intern who’s evaluating products and requested a demo. Yes, these are leads in the sense that they expressed interested in your product — but they have no purchasing power!

These individuals might open the door for you to reach a true decision-maker. But, if you’re strictly selling to a prospect with no purchasing power, you’re setting yourself up for failure. In such situations, you have to push for a meeting with a real decision-maker. Don’t get complacent and think you’ve hit the jackpot by making a contact at your target company — get the right person on the phone.

2. Establish multi-threaded relationships.

Even if you’ve reached a decision-maker, you may still be making the mistake of relying on a single relationship to close a deal — a.k.a., a potential single point of failure.

Think about it this way. How many times have you established a great rapport with a decision-maker — only for them to leave for another company, go on an extended vacation, get sick, have a change of heart…or just stop responding?

Purchase decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. One of the best ways to keep the momentum going is to engage as many decision-makers as possible at your target accounts. This process is referred to as building multi-threaded relationships.

If you have org charts – insight into a company’s organizational structure — it’s not usually difficult to identify potential members of the buyer committee.

If you don’t have hierarchical information, just ask your prospect — ideally during your first meeting, so you can start building those connections early in the sales cycle:

  • “What other stakeholders would be interested in this?”
  • “Do you have a superior — or direct reports — who would have an opinion? What’s their contact information, and I’ll be sure to include them.”
  • “Who needs to actually sign off on this deal?”

Take a look at your target accounts and see if there are opportunities to loop in more points of contact.

Just in case your buyer buddy takes an extended sabbatical to Tahiti, you’ll need someone who’s still invested in your product. Those warm, tropical beaches are lovely, but you’ll never get there yourself if you miss your quota again.

Final thoughts

So crunch some numbers and use your conversion rate to figure out how many leads you need to generate to hit your sales quota. Personalize your messaging for your specific buyer. And when you finally connect with your prospect, make sure everyone is included in the conversation. Focus on these three key areas and you will fix most of the leaks in your sales funnel.

Of course, an abundance of great data on your key accounts and prospects doesn’t hurt, either.

Patrick Purvis is a senior VP of revenue at ZoomInfo, where he is responsible for strategic account growth. Formerly chief revenue officer, Purvis is a graduate of Oregon State University where he studied economics.

To learn more about how ZoomInfo can dramatically scale and improve all aspects of your go-to-market strategy, contact our sales team today. We offer the most intelligent B2B contact database on the market.