Sales Expectations Vs. Goals

Expectations vs. GoalsSales goals are carrots created by salespeople and organization that everyone strives to meet. Typically goals are set higher than expectations.

Expectations are a list of measurable criteria and behavior policies creating a basic performance benchmark.

Goals and Expectations are unique from each other, they are not the same.


One of the best actions an organization can take to is to create a clear list of basic sales expectations.
This list should include the following:

  • Sales revenue
  • Start and Stop date to achieve revenue
  • Record keeping practices
  • Marketing actions
    • Calling
    • Partner development
    • Meetings
    • Sales presentations.

By implementing expectations everyone in the sales group has a clear benchmark of performance. Because sales management can be a fire drill new hires are often left to wonder. “Am I falling short, meeting, or exceeding expectations?”  Your list of expectation will allow them to see for themselves how they measure up.


Goal setting is an action for salespeople to look internally, placing the “bar” higher than the company expectations. Salespeople should set their goals so that they move well beyond basic company expectations. In addition to setting individual salesperson goals every sales group should develop an overall sales goal. Management needs to view goals as upside and expectations as must have levels of performance.

Company budgets should work off of expectations!

This means that you should never set goals and expectations at the same level. I look at expectations as my “Good Enough” watermark. When a salesperson meets expectations they earn the right to stay on the team! When a salesperson achieves their goal they receive a bonus.

When setting quotas (budgets) should you look at expectations or goals?

The only quota that matters to salespeople is the one they carry around in their head. This is the one which holds the amount of money and recognition they want to achieve in their own lives and is completely independent from anything the company publishes.

I find a good policy is to set sales quotas at your “Good enough” expectation level and then implement a commission plan that highly rewards salespeople that help your service bureau achieve the overall sales goals. Here is an example for a retail salesperson (50 and under employees focus.)

Sales Quota:

  • 120,000 Annual payroll sales
  • Quarterly quota 30 – 45K depending on quarter
  • Base Salary + XX% annual payroll revenue

Sales Goals  Bonus considerations: Quarterly Bonus Considerations

  • $100 for every  five opportunities developed by one business partner
  • $250 bonus for every $5000.00 sold above quarterly quota
  • $500 for adding five work comp clients
  • $500 for adding 10 HRanswerlink clients
  • $50 dollars for each demonstration hosted in our office

In developing a sales bonus program look beyond revenue and bring in overall business goals. The more services you deliver to customers the more likely it is they will not leave your service bureau. So, you should tie your sales expectations and bonus structure to drive sales habits which deliver more than just payroll business.

In summary expectations will keep everyone on task and leave no mistake as to who needs to “up” their game. Goals guide your team past expectations helping salespeople reach their full potential. Sales budgets should be set according to your service bureaus expectations with bonus gates/programs clearly defined rewarding salespeople that perform at a high level and deliver on company sales goals.


How to use Tasks in to manage your Tickler process

In this video we show how to use Tasks in We also demonstrate how you can use the recurring option to better manage your sales tickler process.

If you have an idea for a future “How to” please submit it in the comments section of this post!

Are you really losing on price?

Are you really losing on price?The truth is, price is ALWAYS a major part of the buying decision. Some buyers understand market price; they do their homework or have purchased your service/product in the past. This group also knows what to expect at certain price points. Other buyers have no clear idea about price and expect salespeople to educate them (frightening, but true). So why do you or your salespeople always seem to be selling on price?

The answers, listed in no particular order:

  • Poor selling skills
  • “Me too” selling by all competitors

Most price issues are generated by the people selling the services. If no one is good at selling or differentiating how she is the best provider, the only thing left to talk about is price. This reality is hard for most salespeople to accept because what it really means is:

  1. You suck at sales
  2. Your company sucks
  3. Your industry is full of hacks

You can correct or take advantage of two of these. If your company sucks, leave!

A simple action to add so that you don’t totally suck at sales is to become skilled at identifying how much a buyer expects to pay. Looking at their current expense is NO indication of the buyer’s real price expectation.

Have you ever tried to get out of a bad relationship? Think of it in these somewhat strange terms:

Say this current bad relationship costs you $85.00 in happiness dollars. In return, you get:

  • A dinner companion
  • Someone to hang out with
  • His annoying habit #1
  • His annoying habit #2
  • His annoying habit #3
  • Etc.

Now someone else comes along and is willing to get in a relationship with you at a cost to you of $125.00 happiness dollars. In return, you get:

  • A dinner companion
  • Someone to hang out with
  • A friend you enjoy
  • Going to movies you want to see
  • Freedom to be yourself

Would you rather pay about the same just to be in any relationship so long as it’s not your current one or invest an additional $40.00 to be in your ideal relationship?

Sales is about gaining an understanding of buyers’ needs and helping them achieve their goals with YOU! A first step in not totally sucking is to ask a simple question or two early so that everyone can focus on the buying process.

Identify an initial budget or price point:

“What are you expecting to invest on this project?”

The buyer will either tell you a monetary range or twist in her seat before saying “I can’t or would rather not give you that information.”

If he twists, be simple and help him out. Take your rough idea of price and give him a range to consider.

If your widget costs $100.00 month, you might say:

“Most clients expect to pay between $100.00-$150.00 a month. Does that fit within your budget?”

Notice that you should place your expected number on the low end. At this point, you want to see if you can even participate in the buying process. The buyer will either agree to the budget or explain that your numbers are low, high, or come clean and tell you he has no idea what to pay. Regardless, you now have a number to work with and can place pricing aside and help the buyer identify his ideal relationship. If you are high, don’t worry; find out what type of relationship they are looking for. When all is said and done, if you can deliver the relationship he really wants, he’ll find a way to invest in you.

If your sales team is selling price first, immediate and dramatic action should be taken to help them all earn more money. The following information should be considered.

How to bring your sales team around to sell first and align price later

  • Ask this question first: Is your company actually priced within market? I define this as being 20% either side of the market leader’s price.
  • Don’t let your team adjust price on any new business for one quarter. This may be kind of hard for some managers. Don’t worry about the short term. You need to be thinking of future team health. If a manager can hold firm on price concessions, the sales team will spend more time helping buyers BUY from them and less time giving price. Once they get it, they get it!
  • Create a great SPIF program focused on holding price.

What to do if your main competitor is 20-40% less on every deal and they’re actually winning the deals

  • Verify that the competitor is actually winning. Call lost accounts to make sure a change or deal occurred.
    • Survey these accounts
    • What did they like most about the winner?
    • Is the purchase working out as expected?
    • If price wasn’t an issue, would they have chosen you?
  • As a sales team, do a Differentiation Worksheet
    • “Ben Franklin” each company
      • Where are you the same?
      • Where does your team say the same thing?
      • Where do you do the same things?
      • What can you change to stand above this competitor?
      • How can you demonstrate value to these clients against this competitor?

Work as a team to develop a simple sales approach to use when competing against this competitor. By being prepared, your team will instantly bring a better buying experience and more likability to the sale.

Leveraging your Sales Cycle to Improve Sales Stage Performance

When I’m trying to get a snapshot of what makes a sales team tick I always look at wins across business segments by Sales Cycle Age.

This information is very helpful when analyzing team forecasts and identifying where your team members are strong. When you apply a Sales Cycle Age to a forecast it brings a hard statistic that you use as a benchmark against a sales persons aged opportunities. As a Sales Manager it’s our job to review this information with each salesperson, demonstrating the fact and fiction of their forecast. When sales history is applied to a forecast we help salespeople remove much of their emotional connection to their forecast list helping them focus sales energy on deals within their typical win range.

I’ve spoken about the importance of segmenting business in the past. When the business is broken down into parts it becomes much easier to see where to market. When you apply Sales Cycle Age to segments you can see where you win fastest. When you can see your strengths we can see our positive selling patterns and apply training and coaching to bring up performance across the entire team.

A new wrinkle to sales metric analysis is Stage Age. Sales Cycle Age is far easier to measure because we are only looking at the time involved from creating a buying cycle to a win. However measuring Sales Stage Age requires salespeople to follow team rules and modify opportunities as client’s progress through the process. Everyone that has ever been in sales knows this is a tough one to sell; if you are able to motivate your sales team to measure Stage Age they will be helping themselves to improved performance.

Here is an example of a Sales Cycle broken down by Sales Stage:

  • Lead: 10 Days
  • Qualify: 10 Days
  • Working: 10 Days
  • Demo: 10 Days
  • Quote: 10 Days
  • Win: 0 Days

As you can see this is a 60 day Sale Cycle, each stage should take 10 days.

Once you apply Stage management techniques you’ll be able to see trouble deals before it’s too late. The easiest way to implement Stages management is to gain a team commitment to monitoring their Stages for 90 days. Managers should allow the sales team to create, as a group, to create the stages of their sales process. If they build it they will own it! To keep everyone interested, sales management must lead the way.

Managers are looked to for leadership and if your sales team feels something is unimportant to you than it becomes unimportant to them. My advice is to review the Stage management result each week and ask for team input on improving the process. At the end of the 90 day period you will start to see patterns develop along with a typical age history in your wins.

While we can learn a lot from our losses it really is easier to improve by focusing on your strengths. Analyzing wins will yield information that is far easier for salespeople to apply to their day to day life. Now that you have information on stage age you can create a measurement report that everyone can use to more proactively help prospects become customers.

If you are going to roll-out sales stages to you team start with a very simple list used on larger Segment 3+ opportunities. (In payroll sales Segment 3 is any deal with annualized payroll revenue over $4,000).

  • Qualifying
  • Presentation
  • Proposal
  • Negotiation
  • Win

I hope this information sheds some light on how you can use Sales Cycle and Stage Age to improve team performance.

Highlevel view of the two processes of payroll sales.

Sales process influenced by Henry Ford.

Selling can be compliment from lessons created at Ford.

Ford assembly line circa 1935.

I like to think selling is simple.  People choose to make things complicated. Usually the villain is the salesperson. Many times sales get stalled or fail to develop because of a disorganized selling process.

Implementing a CRM typically helps salespeople get organized. CRM ideally includes a simple to follow process  that GUIDES salespeople to make the right steps. Some companies spend a ton of money on high-end Sales Training/Methodologies. Salespeople become so overly trained they actually lose their ability to effectively sell.

It’s refreshing to see a post from Build a Sales Machine that lays out an extremely simple process for sales development. If you are looking for a way to help your team become more productive, do yourself a favor and read this post: Create Predictable Pipeline by Moving Prospects through an “Assembly Line.” The author, Aaron Ross, does an excellent job identifying a simple-to-use system that any company can implement.

The IT factor of selling. You had IT as a child. It’s time to get IT back.

Where has my IT gone to?

Where has my IT gone?

Hands down, there is nothing better in life than being a parent.  Our children can make us laugh, swell with pride, cry and scream all in the matter of 10 minutes! Children’s ability to bring out the best in adults is amazing. So, what can we learn about selling from our own childhood?

  1. No is just the beginning of negotiations.
  2. There is more than one way to ask a question.
  3. Don’t give up, don’t EVER give up!
  4. IT

We’ve all experienced 1-3 in action. We can remember doing them ourselves or see them in action with our own children.

In sales, the IT factor is an internal DESIRE; it’s the driving force that elevates a mediocre sales person into a serious producer. As children, we all had the sales IT. At some point, we were told NO a hundred different ways. Yet, the obstacles placed in front of us never seemed to matter. As a child, you know what you want —  it’s just that simple.  Each NO meant we either tried a little harder or changed  methods until we reached our goals.

It was on our childhood trips to the store or talking with our parents about school that we learned our sales skills. The store and kitchen were our classrooms to develop our selling style. A lifetime of NO’s makes most people fear even asking a question. Success breads success.

I have a poster on my wall from a Marathon I ran a long time ago. On it, there is a quote that defines what I am talking about:

“From where does it come, to see the race to its end? It comes from within.”

Committing to complete a marathon is probably the easiest means to discover your internal IT.  A marathon is a long process of training, pain, suffering, doubt and when completed, joy. Along the way there are  doubts about why you CHOSE to take on this challenge. Things like:  “It’s too early/cold/hot to run. My leg hurts.  The game I want to watch is on.  I can run tomorrow.” Yet, to complete a marathon, you put all these things aside. Why? Because you made a choice, a commitment to yourself to complete a marathon. Your IT is speaking, telling you — ” if you stop now, you are quitting on yourself and that is the worst thing you can do.”

To complete a marathon, you must work at it each and every day. Your marathon IT will not allow you to stop working toward the goal. IT knows the reward for achievement is better than the alternative. Even a day of rest has a purpose: to heal your body to train again. Your diet changes and everything in your life alters by making the choice to complete a marathon. The choice begins to ignite your IT. It’s on miles 17,18, 19… of the marathon when you discover if your IT is truly in you. It’s late in the race when you are tested. When self doubt speaks louder, your IT will carry you to the finish.

In sales, the choice to grab onto your IT is all on you! A good sales manager can help get you through the painful days and see your dips before they become too severe.  Your ultimate success depends on your ability to let your IT take control and guide you to buying customers. IT teaches the value of LISTENING to understand and speaking to be understood.

To turn on your sales  IT, you must first define your race:

  • Distance – What is it you are after?
  • Goal Time- When will you know you achieved your goal?
  • Pace- How can you judge yourself along the way to ensure you don’t get off track  (Daily or hourly measurements- KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID )

So if you feel you have lost your IT, don’t worry. Make a commitment and get yours back. Before you know it, your internal IT will have a life of its own and you will be a child in the candy store. Except this time, you have the means to buy everything you always wanted (let’s hope you also have full dental)!

Selling today is no different from selling yesterday.

I’ve been seeing all the sales pros posting items to help us sell in tough times. To them, I say:  “Better late than never. Or, welcome to the party.”  Our economy has been on a downward trend for well over a year, yet most the people I know in sales just finished off another record year of growth. So how are these people growing their business while the general economy is shrinking?

Answer:  Top performers perform no matter the circumstances.

Top producers don’t let outside factors limit their ability to do their job well. They adapt with their prospects and always work toward positive outcomes. It is not enough to be a cheerleader.  A professional salesperson gets results from within and must block out all excuses. Today it’s the economy, tomorrow it’s your product, the next day it’s your price, the day after that the wind is from the north . . .

I’m not going to sugarcoat things —  the economy is off, but it has been OFF for more than a year. Focus on what you can do, NOT what you can’t control.