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3 Reasons Why Your Sales Team Miss Targets

If missed sales targets figure large in your experience, you are not alone. The 2017 Selling Power survey of 400 sales teams found that in nearly one in five teams 75% of salespeople are missing target. 

Even the top 20% of respondents said that 25% of their salespeople miss target. In most other business disciplines this level of divergence would not be tolerated. Think of production acknowledging that 25% of quality thresholds are missed. Or logistics only delivering on time 75% of the time or a finance team admitting to these levels of inaccuracy in their reporting!

Why are so many salespeople missing target?

There are three main reasons that quotas are being missed so frequently.

  1. The quotas themselves are wrong.
  2. The quotas are right, and the salespeople are not performing.
  3. The incentive and reinforcement system is not now fit for purpose.

Wrong quotas

There can be several reasons why quotas are set wrong. Here are our top 10.

  1. Pressure from above to hit corporate thresholds.
  2. Adding x% to last year
  3. Adding a “fudge factor” at each level of management
  4. Ignoring or misreading market trends
  5. Not taking into account selling in a VUCA world
  6. Being unwilling to give bad news early
  7. Ignoring input from individual sales professionals
  8. Trying to avoid disrupting incentive systems
  9. Focussing on past results not leading indicators (see ACE below)
  10. Unrestrained optimism rather than “optimism with its eyes open.”

The quotas are right but…

If the quotas are right, then the issue lies in one of three places.

Activities: Are the sales-people doing enough? What is the optimum number of sales calls? How has today’s activity target been set? How much time is being taken by “non-sales time? Increasing the number of sales calls is usually the fastest way to improve sales performance. We can demonstrate how a 25% increase in sales activity can be achieved in a 12 week period.

Concentration of focus: Are salespeople talking to the right people in the right organisations about the right products and services?

Effectiveness: If our people have the right activity levels and the right concentration of focus then it is probably a question of effectiveness. It is important to have a clear picture of the TASKS (talent, attitude, skills, knowledge, style) of the sales team but also to have clear metrics for each stage of the sales process. SalesLevers can support you in TASKS diagnosis and, development and tuning and with process diagnosis, formulation, development and tuning.

The best and simplest way to identify the quickest route to improving sales performance is to  take the quick and simple SalesLevers ACE Diagnostic.

Rewards, incentives and reinforcement

Sometimes quotas get missed simply because the incentive system is wrong. Sometimes punishment gets in the way. In the sad case of Wells Fargo’s cross-selling debacle, a really good customer-centric approach was taken badly off course by the incentive and disciplined approach. See my article on this.

For a really good and thought-provoking 9 minute read on how incentives, reinforcements and punishments have an enormous impact take a look at this excellent article from Farnham Street.

The Selling Power survey can be accessed at


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Want to find out how well your team really performs? Take the ACE Diagnostic, then give us a call.