My name is Sonja, and I am a hunter.  At least, this is how every company who ever employed me in a sales position, labelled me.  I beg to differ.  I am naturally inclined to farm, yet occasionally I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

In a nutshell, sales reps are split into two groups – hunters and farmers.  Normally, “hunters” are driven by challenging sales targets, and a desire to make heaps of money.  Farmers get to babysit the clients after the fact and “on-sell” or “up-sell”.  They also have targets to chase, which may or may not differ from those of the hunters.  It all depends on the company you are working for.  I’ve seen the chaos and backstabbing created in sales teams when challenging targets are set by Sales Managers, who don’t manage the process and outcome correctly.  FACT – Salespeople are by nature emotional creatures, so there is a thin line between creating an environment of motivation vs one of utter demoralisation when targets are not met.

If your sales reps only have one goal — meeting their sales targets — they’re selling themselves and your business short (literally).  The last week of the sales month can lead to a very cold-blooded, hard core approach to sales, if targets are way off.  This can have a negative consequence on client retention, for instance.  Your hunters are going in for the kill, and your normally-gentler-by-nature farmers starts to become bloodthirsty. This rings even more true when basic compensation is affected if targets are not met.  The looming idea of not being able to pay your rent because your basic won’t cover your expenses, does not motivate a person to work harder.  Rather it drives a person to either crumple in defeat or do what is wrong.



 So how do you set targets to motivate?  I can easily launch into a list of a day long here, but someone once said to me “Keep it simple Susan”.  Yes, he got my name wrong, but twenty years later, I still remember those words when I find myself in a heap of distress.  When I was a Sales Manager, I got my team to focus on the following three motivators to chase challenging targets and stay motivated:


Celebrate the small wins

Start by holding your reps accountable to smaller weekly or monthly goals, and you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll slay the “Beast Target”.

Smaller weekly targets allow sales reps to build confidence and keep focus.  This way individuals and teams can track progress towards the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and it helps the manager to quickly identify reps who are not performing.  Swift intervention is now possible as to identify whether there is a “lazy rep” issue or a real problem, like an external factor making it impossible for the individual to reach their target.

An article published by Harvard Business School found that is particularly helpful.

One of the key missteps highlighted in this article states “organizations often lose top sales talent because of target setting that penalizes success. One common misstep is using past performance as a yardstick. If a top performer overshoots her annual target by 20%, her next year’s target is set at 120% of the current year’s — while next year’s target for a rep who achieves just 90% of this year’s target remains unchanged. Not surprisingly, top performers find this unfair and often jump ship.”


Adjust for changing market conditions

In a failing economy, many companies drastically reduce spending on all levels, and it could affect a sales rep’s ability to meet her target. Take for example, cutting cell phone and fuel allowances.  If I can’t make the calls or get to my clients, I can’t make the sales.

Losing a key client because of the economy is almost like slitting your own throat.  Boy do you bleed!

Changes in technology and competition from newer, innovative products and services can seemingly saturate a market overnight.  If the target isn’t adjusted for market conditions, ACTUALLY REACHING the target, is as far fetched as Jack climbing that beanstalk while the giant is standing at the bottom chopping away at the stem with a big old axe.


Set Activity Goals

This will teach a rep to stay in touch with new clients at least once a month and build that relationship.  People buy from people they like and trust.  Eventually it will all add up to the monetary targets.  Getting to know your client becomes a great motivation to not just make the sale, but to also retain and grow the client.  A lot more emphasis should be placed on this aspect.  KNOW YOUR CLIENT!  Honestly, it makes the business of chasing those targets a lot more fun.

I do believe that the world of sales has changed radically over the past 10 years.  The one thing which remain unchanged though is the sales target….and it is ALWAYS challenging.  As the old saying goes “If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen”.  Even if you work for the most awesome company, being in sales demands a very particular set of skills backed up by a kind of crazy personality that thrives on pressure.

Happy selling!