Grading, Making Quota...and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Wed, Apr 30, 2014

This is the final week! Or, more appropriately...this is Finals Week.

Tufts Time passes very slowly and then speeds ahead, so it's hard to figure out how I'm already facing the last of the exam periods at Tufts this afternoon. 

Last week's presentations to the company management of three companies were superb!  Hard to imagine how these three happening today can be that much better.  And yet, I know from six years of teaching marketing at Tufts that every semester, the students are more and more passionate about what they do, are more and more focused on new learning skills and more and more anxious about trying to figure out what lies ahead.  That actually becomes an important part of my job in connecting the best of the best with our customers, my investments and my business friends who are looking for outstanding graduates and interns. That's a CTA, by the way, so if you're looking for superb entry level sales and marketing employees, just email me with a detailed profile of what you're looking for.

The problem after today is that it leaves me with the very difficult job of grading.   Different than measuring sales people to their quotas, which is a perfect math formula in percentages to plan/goals/time, the art and science of grading often comes down to the infamous bell curve. Since I have a high student rating on campus, I can get away with a bit of not paying attention to the curve...but not by much, so it always takes me days to calculate, re-calculate, and then to do it one more time before I push the "SEND" button. 

Each semester I take my students through my grading formula during the first class:

  • 4 case studies=25%
  • classroom participation =20%
  • semester-long company project=50%
  • me=5%

The process is always taxing.  The "A's" are easy.  The "C's", the same.  If there were anything below a "C", that person would have been washed out weeks ago.  It what's in the middle along with the various pluses and minuses that creates the personal angst for me.  But, invariably it gets done.  And it always seems to work even though there are the inevitable disappointments both on my side and the opinions of some of my students.

For me, grading is actually much more difficult than measuring sales people. For salespeople, there are countless activity measurements.  There is adherence to the sales plan measurement.  And, ulimitately there is quota measurement, and in my book, quota is black and white.  The only things that can get in the way of performance to quota are (1) the quota assignment was not agreed to between the salesperson and their boss, and (2), there was some national or global event that tipped the earth off its axis a bit.  Everything else can be managed by a proactive and innovative salesperson.  Perhaps not in the time alloted, but it can be managed all the same.

And yet, in B2B sales, only 54%-63% (depending on the study) of all sales people achieve their quotas in any period.  So, why is this?

sales stats 

My thesis is that Reason #1 is the inability on the part of the salesperson to deliver an effective value proposition.  Reason #2, is the inability on the part of the manager to consistently train the team.  

But, that's me, and this afternoon, as I head off to Tufts, I'd like to hear from you as to what you think are the reasons behind this consistently big variance in quota and sales performance

Keep Selling!  Keep Running! Keep Challenging! Keep Learning!

Jack Derby 

Head Coach  

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Tags: Sales Best Practices, Sales Management Best Practices, sales and marketing best practices, sales, sales effectiveness, sales enablement, best sales practices;