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Ask a Trainer: How Should Organizations Adjust Quotas During 2020?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020
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In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Mark Donnolo advises on how sales managers should adjust their quota expectations during a turbulent year. Donnolo is the author of Quotas! and Essential Account Planning.

Dear Mark,

I manage a team of sales representatives, and I make compensation decisions for my team based on whether each rep met their yearly quota. However, my industry is one that has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our sales plummeted earlier this year and are slowly rebounding, but we’re certainly not where we expected to be when we set quotas at the end of 2019. It doesn’t seem fair to make compensation decisions based on quotas this year because many of my reps have not met their quotas through no fault of their own. Do you have any advice for how I can adjust quotas for my team during a crazy year?


Before I answer your question, I’ll give the caveat that my advice is industry- and sector-specific. For some companies, quotas have become unattainable; it sounds like your company is in this category. Other companies in other industries are doing well. It’s a disparate situation in terms of what companies are dealing with.

Given that context, adjusting on what the expectations are for 2020 is a big challenge. When it comes to quotas, some companies are doing nothing. They waited to see how things would go throughout the first two quarters of the year before making decisions for the second half of the year. These companies have been putting other types of performance measures in their compensation plans that are oriented toward helping customers rather than just closing a sale. In the early phases of the pandemic, many companies realized that they couldn’t sell, so they tried to find ways to help their customers and set milestones for how people could do that.

Now we’re moving into a phase where quotas are being adjusted to some degree. Companies are handling this in a few different ways. Some are breaking down quotas to discrete periods, with specific goals for each quarter during 2020. Other companies are looking to adjust for the entire year, now that we’re getting closer to the end of 2020.

Organizations are considering the bigger intent of what they want their sales function to have achieved when they come out the other side of the pandemic. The wrong answer is to look at quotas during 2020 and say, “How do we minimize costs?” The right answer is to build goodwill with employees and customers. If you keep this mindset, then you have a different set of challenge questions around quotas that will give you a different answer. We want good employee retention when the pandemic is over because as the economy gets better, people are going to think about how they were treated by their companies as it relates to quotas and compensation, and we want employees to feel good about that. We also want our customers to feel like they were taken care of and that we weren’t just continuing to push and to sell, but were invested in helping them and doing the right thing. So, the answer for how to adjust quotas for 2020 is going to be based on all these factors.

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Learn more about quotas from Mark Donnolo on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. His episode will air on October 7, 2020.


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If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub. Tim will be back next week to tackle a new question.


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Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.


About the Author

Mark Donnolo is managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of The Innovative Sale: Unleash Your Creativity for Better Customer Solutions and Extraordinary Results and What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation. He focuses on helping companies grow profitably by developing and implementing strategies that improve the effectiveness of their customer-facing sales, marketing, and service organizations. His areas of focus include sales strategy, customer segmentation, channel strategy, sales organization design and deployment, performance management, and incentive compensation. Mark’s work spans several industries, including technology, telecommunications, business services, manufacturing, and financial services.

Mark is the author of Quotas! and Essential Account Planning.

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