A New Sales Focus

By Bill Farquharson, Sales Vault. Read Bill’s tip below or watch Bill here.

Good morning!

I received an email recently from a client. He’d hired a new rep and wanted to know what he should set as a sales target for year one.

I get the question a lot and find it impossible to answer. There are just too many variables:

  • Are we talking new business?
  • Are you giving them accounts?
  • Are these experienced reps or newbies?

What I do know is, setting an expected dollar amount for a rep to hit is the kiss of death. Both managers and reps get fixated on it and nothing good happens as a result.

No orders are written in the first few months as a rep learns the ropes. Managers, looking for a return on their investment, start wondering if they’ve made the right hire. Sales reps, feeling this unreasonable expectation, start to wonder, “Is today the day I get fired?”

This is not a healthy selling environment. It’s no wonder printers churn through new hires and then blame the rep for failure.

So, let me give you a different metric to focus on and manage to: Opportunities.

Think of an opportunity as the potential for an order. It’s what happens before a sale is made.

A prospective customer tells the rep, “Call me in two months to talk about the signage I need.”

An existing account wants to redesign a printed piece and a meeting is set for two weeks out.

The rep has a promising first appointment and the customer asks for a plant tour.

While none of these situations will pay the bills until they become orders, for a new sales rep they are signs of progress and indicators the rep is doing his or her job.

What’s more, setting an opportunity goal — instead of a sales goal — results in a more positive management approach, and believe me, new reps are terrified of failure and need all the positivity they can get. Conversations between manager and rep can focus on the progress of these opportunities. Suddenly, “What did you sell?” becomes, “Let’s talk about where your sales will come from.”

The number of opportunities should grow from week to week and, yes, they should turn into sales.

If it sounds like I am oversimplifying something complex, you are right. I am.


I have seen too many managers kill off otherwise decent sales people because they set up a sales goal that has no basis in fact. They see money being spent, no immediate sales, and intentionally or not, turn up the heat and add pressure to an already pressurized situation.

Managers, let go of your hope for a quick ROI and change your focus to something more reasonable, achievable, and all around better.


Coming soon to The Sales Vault: If you are new to sales, you will want to see the five free video tips for reps who are just starting out. Stay tuned for the link when it goes live!

Bill Farquharson can be reached through the website or by calling 781-934-7036.


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