Blueprint to Quota Webinar

Perfect pipeline management is every sales leader’s dream. But, as you may have noticed, managing your sellers to keep their pipeline in tip-top shape is a beast all on its own.

Key Takeaways

  • Perfect your process first, then layer on training, tools, and technology.
  • If you’re losing 75% of your MQLs by the end of the assembly line process, you might feel like your wasting time. But guess what? You’re wasting even more time if you’re not hitting quota.
  • It’s more important to establish a repeatable revenue process than to accomplish quick wins.
  • Download the Blueprint to Quota worksheet, a free tool for you to add your numbers and see when and what you need to do to reach your revenue goals.

Remember to…

  • Build a blueprint for each rep to hit quota: Most reps don’t know the leading indicators.
  • Add incentives to form habits: Pipeline management isn’t a monthly check-in, it’s a daily routine.
  • Review your pipeline conversations: Minimize the time spent on forecasting.

Blueprint to Quota Transcript
Sanj Sanampudi (04:27):
Thanks, Rich, and to the team at MSP. I’m Sanj, Co-founder here at Concert. At Concert, we believe the world should commission smarter. And when we talk about commissioning smarter, it’s really on three levels. We’ve worked with neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists to understand how commissions actually drive performance. So a lot of how we normally think about commissions is, you close this much, you get paid this much. But it turns out depending on how you’re paying people and how you’re reporting to people, you can drive better performance. And our platform does that through three ways. The first is, we give teams real-time feedback on their commissions and quota attainment. The second is, we give analytics on helping set smarter targets. And the third is, we help you interpret your pipeline and understand how to drive performance through a pipeline.

So today’s content is really around what we call the Blueprint to Quota. We’re going to go through four key areas and then open it up to questions, as this is a pretty different topic for a lot of folks. And for me, it was really eye-opening on how much you can actually drive performance through behavior change. So we’ll explain what we mean by a Blueprint to Quota. We’ll explain how you can use our handy Google sheet tool that we’ve created to help you build your own blueprint. And then talk about how you actually operationalize that blueprint. And then finally, we’ll go over a few key takeaways and then open it up for questions.

Many of you who’ve registered, asked the same question. What is the Blueprint to Quota? So our view on a Blueprint to Quota is telling your team what they need to do and when they need to do it in order to hit quota. So oftentimes, when I’ve assigned quota in the past, or when I’ve seen other sales leaders assign quota, you need to close say $150,000 this quarter. Full stop. And what’s missing in that is actually telling someone what they need to do to get there and how they know before the end of the quarter, if they’re on track or off track.

So when we talk about the Blueprint to Quota, it’s really going through the specific sales stages and the typical timing that that needs to happen in order to convert by the end of the quota period.

So one way to help you guys understand our point of view on this a little bit more is we took a really supply chain operational view on how you achieve targets. So imagine you’re a car manufacturer and your goal is really completing cars and delivering them to lots. Well, you know that there are a bunch of steps that you need to take along the way in order to deliver those cars.

In this example, we’re going to say that we need a hundred completed cars by the end of the month. In order to get those hundred completed cars, you’re not going to expect that you can create them all in the very last day of the month. You’re not saving a hundred cars to be created on April 30th. What you’re really doing is you’re working backwards. So you’re making sure you’re doing the right things in order to deliver these hundred cars. So say in order to get a hundred complete cars, that means I actually have to put a battery in and fuel up slightly more than a hundred cars because there might be errors along the way. And if I’m filling 102 cars with a battery and fuel, then I’ll need 102 cars in joining, and there might be errors in joining, so in the chassis assembly and body assembly, I might need a few extra parts. And this is a car manufacturing process that these error rates are very low, but that idea is pretty much the same for sales. You need to worry about all of those pieces that go into delivering quota.

But the other thing that we learned from supply chain is that they don’t worry just about the stages and the pieces like where these cars are in their production pipeline. They actually worry about the timing as well. And this is really where we see more companies miss that element of figuring it out, based on a schedule, I actually am going to have to do this chassis assembly maybe six weeks before I can hope to have a completed car.

And then the sales process. Again, you can draw this up basically the same way. You’re going to probably have, again, a few more closed lost deals than these, but the concept is the same. And the timing concept is still the same, where not everything closes at the same time. You might need to start your outbound activities before you start your inbound activities, because outbound takes longer to close, for example.

So when you take this view of when you need to do these activities and how many you need to do, you get what we are calling the Blueprint to Quota.

So the next part is, okay, great, maybe, hopefully, you believe what I just shared. And you’re like, “Okay, that makes sense. Let me try it out.” How are you going to build this blueprint?

So at the end of the session, we’ll send you guys a Google sheet. You will not give us your email or anything. So don’t worry about it. Not gated. Just a simple Google sheet for you guys to fill

So, step one, you’re going to input the target quota for each rep and your average sales price in your quota period end date. These are the real basics of your quota. A few tips that we have along the way is, don’t overthink this. This is a Google sheet. You can fill these numbers out and change them. Nothing is set in stone. And the second thing that we’ve seen in our work as we’re advising on how you would use the blueprint, create separate versions by sales motion. So if you have a team that is selling both mid-market and enterprise, and you have a point of view on how much they’re going to close from each of those segments, create separate versions, because those segments close and convert very differently, and the averages are really going to lead you to a totally different, probably incorrect, path.

So once you’re giving us the basics of your quota, what you would fill out on your Google sheet is rename the stages that we’ve indicated here to match your process so it’s really relevant to you. Indicate the number of days that each deal is in, in this specific stage. So this is the number of days set, it’s in the stage until it is either moving forward or marked as lost, on average. And then the second thing that you would indicate is the conversion rate, from stage to stage.

So don’t overthink your conversion rates. This is conversion rate from stage to stage. Very simple example here. If you had 50 SQLs and that converts to 10 SQOs, you are going to call that a 20% conversion rate.

And then boom, we’re going to populate this blueprint for you. And you’re going to know, based on time periods, how many activities you need, and if you’re on track or off track to reaching your quota.

One thing to think about as you’re looking at this blueprint is how are you actually going to measure timing and progress against this? CRMs don’t make stage tracking and stage history all that easy to report on. So it might mean that you’re tracking things in a Google sheet for a while or that you’re adding a few fields to Salesforce.

Rich Sgro:
And Sanj, a question on that. When we think about visibility. Visibility breeds accountability. Accountability breeds action. Where have you seen folks be successful in getting this information in front of their reps? What are some best practices that you’ve seen with that?

Yeah, probably the biggest thing is slightly changing pipeline management conversations. Where we’ve worked with a bunch of folks who were having pipeline management conversations that were more around close date and dollar value, instead of how many deals are actually at play. Spoiler at the close, just because you’re changing the close date doesn’t mean it’s going to close, or you’re more likely to hit quota. But if you have more deals in play, you’re more likely to hit quota.

That’s a funny factor, right? That’s like a wish casting, not forecast. I’m like, “Oh, I’ll just put the close date this quarter and maybe it’ll happen.”

Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s not a bad thing to do. The psychology of it is, if you do change the close date, it does help you think about, “Well, if I really think this is going to close by April 30th, what are the steps that I would take to get there?” But that is for one deal. It doesn’t actually help you holistically think about how you’re going to get to this bigger target.

The other tip that we have in here and we can share it is, the one great thing that has come out of Salesforce is lightning experience, which is otherwise horrendous, if you’re a Salesforce nerd, is that you can switch to a Kanban view. And viewing your pipeline through that view actually shows you the number of deals you have in each stage much more clearly than typical Salesforce reporting does. And we can share a few slides on how you can flip to that view at the end of this.

Cool. So hopefully, you understand what the blueprint is, why it matters, how you can use this sheet to help you build it out. So how are you going to use the blueprint now? We talked a little bit on how you can report against it, but are you actually going to use it to coach your team to hitting their targets? Or coach yourself to hitting your targets?

So the first thing to know when you’re looking at this blueprint is that people like to win. So we are naturally going to always focus on this 150K number and our progress against the 150K number. The learning, the process, all the stuff that you need to get there is not as fun. It makes a worse story. It’s not as fun to think about. It’s not as fun to do.

So when you’re thinking about how you would get your team to behave differently around their pipeline, or how you would get yourself to behave differently around pipeline, you need to keep that in mind where you don’t need to reward yourself for closing a deal more. You need to reward yourself for staying on track, to hitting your number. And more than the human brain’s desire to win and all of the chemical rushes that we get from winning, is that people don’t like negative feedback.

So in this example, we’re saying that you need to have 59 MQLs in order to ultimately close six deals. That means 53 deals are going to be lost over this cycle. And knowing that people really don’t like negative feedback, there’s a natural inclination to circumvent your process. That you would say, “Ah, this isn’t really working. This is a waste of my time. I’m losing so many deals. Why would I even talk to this person?” So it’s really important to get ahead of that in your management conversations.

But Sanj, in looking at this, why wouldn’t we go further down in the funnel and just try to put sales engineers on more demos, so that way the sales qualified op to demo rate is 100%. Why wouldn’t we start a little bit lower and work on those things?

Yeah, that’s absolutely an option that you have. But what we’ve found is that most people don’t have a predictable sales process. So if you think about that car manufacturing example, a manufacturing operation is quite predictable. And when you’re improving processes from a supply chain standpoint, you’re actually looking for predictability first and then creating an intervention to change that outcome.

In most sales processes, we don’t even have that baseline, discipline and predictability in order to understand where is the most impactful place to change our process.

And I’m going to call a point out and add a little bit of context to what Sanj was saying there. As sales leaders, we have more and more tools at our fingertips to solve each one of these stage problems. I’m sure there’s a tool out there that can help me convert more opportunities to demos, or write better proposals and all of that. And that’s all wonderful. But this, what Sanj is hitting on here is really important. You have to have a good process or a good understanding of your process before you can deploy tools effectively.

I think the canonical example here is, if you have really, really bad email and really, really bad positioning and marketing, and you load that up into a sales engagement tool, now you’re just firing off bad email to more people. You’ve optimized a bad process. So now you’re doing a bad thing more quickly. And what’s important here, folks, and what Sanj will spend some more time on is, this is really about the process and making sure you’ve got a good understanding of that first, then deploying fixes, where it could be technology. It could be training, it could be, hell, maybe you need more people.

Yeah. And I would say I’m the heartless, former CFO who looks at numbers and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” The, I’m wasting my time, bit is the thing that certainly when I was CFO, certainly when I was running sales teams before, it really grinds my gears. If you are not hitting quota, literally nothing you’re doing is wasting your time. You’re wasting everybody’s time by not hitting quota. So really figure out what parts are reproducible, what parts are really lucky, and what parts can you optimize?

And I think that this requires a certain level of intellectual honesty. And Sanj, you and I have talked about this a lot before where you’ve got the uneven sales team. The sales team’s overall attainment is at 90 or a hundred percent, but that’s on the back of one gal who’s done 300% of quota and everybody’s at 30%.

Back to what Sanj said before. It was a quick point he made, but averages can disguise and hide a lot of things that will help you start to uncover these things. You have to be intellectually honest with yourself. You can’t hope that we’re going to get a blue board every quarter or Sanj is going to be at 300% and the rest of the team is going to be at 30 and we’re going to be okay. This is really about that process and making your revenue machine repeatable, as opposed to just saying like, “Oh, I’m wasting my time. I’m just going to tag the CEO in early because that worked before, so it’ll work now,” which is cool. It’s just not building a repeatable revenue process. It’s building a quick win for a deal, which yeah.

Sanj (21:48):
So what do we do about overcoming all of this inclination to not focus on process? Because honestly, even as Rich and I were riffing on why process matters. It’s like, “Process is boring. That last two minutes of conversation was boring.” So how do we get our brains back in it? And before we go into the solution, we’re going to try an exercise that hopefully, Rich doesn’t remember. But we’re going to try an exercise with Rich on helping you guys understand how negative feedback actually will impact your team’s performance. So Rich, you’re our guinea pig here, and everyone on the webinar, please do this along at your desk. I’m going to show you some words. Don’t read the word, but say the color of the font out loud.

The color of the font. Okay. Red, green, purple.

Great job. You’re not colorblind. I guess that’s all I’ve learned from that.

Let’s stop here because I feel like I’m ahead of the curve for whatever comes next. Let’s just call it a good webinar, Sanj.

No, this is great. Try it again. Okay.

Yep. Oh. Blue, green. Blue. Purple, green. Jesus. Okay. Sorry. Purple, red, green. There we go.

Great. You’ve seen how tricky we are, and hopefully, everyone noticed how Rich struggled. He was acting, if you couldn’t tell. But the first time Rich did this, he actually didn’t say a word because his brain froze up. But now you guys get the activity, you get how tricky we’re going to be. Let’s try it again.

So I call the fonts aloud. Green, blue, red.

Right. So this little psychology experiment that we ran through is called the Stroop test. What a Stroop test does is it gives us mixed signals or mixed cues and sees how our brain processes these mixed cues to get us to an outcome. And through this exercise, there are three things that most of you, if you were playing along at home, would have noticed. Usually, people performed the fastest when the color of the font and the text matched, like when you have harmonized cues and it’s really easy to process them.

People tend to be slowest in that second example the first time you see a mismatch because your brain is like, “Whoa, that’s not what I was expecting. That’s totally different than what I was thinking. How am I going to solve this problem?” Because usually, people’s first inclination, that thing that you’re you said in your head but didn’t say out loud, is the wrong one. And that gives you negative feedback. So that second example gives you that first taste of negative feedback.

What happens the third time that you do it though, is that people tend to be a lot faster. They can see through the text and the font, and you’re able to focus your attention to the font color and really ignore the text. And every time you do it after that third time, people tend to get faster to the point that it almost becomes as quick as the very first time when the cues match. And the reason it happens is because your brain actually rewrites the process. That negative feedback forced your brain to figure out a different pathway to get to your outcome. I promise this has something to do with sales. It’s not just an interesting psychology thing.

So back to our Blueprint to Quota. You have these 59 deals that you worked. These are 59 individuals, Stroop tests, and 53 of them, according to this example are probably going to lose. That results in 53 individual process rewrites for each salesperson. And if you’re wondering now, “But these are probably really small things that they’re changing along the way.” If you’ve ever been in an organization where you reduce sales training every three to six months, this is why. This is really what losing is doing to your team’s brain.

Well, I have a question here, Sanj, and I’m going to put you on the spot with this. Is this something that maybe there’s a hack involved here? And I know you’ll talk a little bit more about how to make this more of a routine, but is there a hack in here where we celebrate some of these losses?

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It’s not celebrating the loss necessarily, but it’s normalizing losses.

Yeah. It’s like when you teach somebody how to drive a manual transmission. It’s like, “Okay, cool. Sanj, stall the car. Just get it out of the way now.” Okay, cool. That’s going to happen at some point in time, but let’s get comfortable with that. I can see a similarity here.

Yeah. It’s really reframing performance against these targets. So what’s interesting about negative feedback is, feedback isn’t created equally. So a customer telling you no to your face is actually less impactful than your boss telling you, like, “Ah, don’t worry about it. You did the right thing.”


So we value the feedback more from people that we’re close to and trust and who we work with regularly. But there is another hack in here, and probably to the surprise of no one, we’re going to say it’s compensation. So the real way to break through this urge to change a process is to build a habit around it. And when you build a habit, it becomes this thing that is much more ingrained and it’s impervious to feedback.

Habits are extremely, extremely resilient and surprisingly easy to form. So the first thing on building a habit is you need to give a target to the habit you want to build. The second thing is you need a scripted routine. So it’s not like the first time you ever saw this. I want to do this, this is how I get there. So in the case of, I want 59 MQLs, I get to those 59 MQLs by following this outreach sequence and follow up pattern, or use this prospecting lens.

But the final piece of forming habits, you can have a target, you can have the routine, you can hit a target, but it doesn’t stick unless you have a reward. Your brain needs some sort of consequence to prove that the routine was worth it, and the chemical release that you get with the reward commits that to memory.

The takeaway of it is you need to start paying on pipeline metrics, and to do that, you have three key elements. You have the quota. So you’re setting targets around these pipeline metrics and holding people to those targets. You have the playbook, so people know how they’re supposed to achieve those targets. So what set of activities do I need to do to get an SQO? And then finally you have the commission. So really clear points that you’re paying people on. And what you’re paying people on is whether they win or lose. This is what’s really different from the typical view of commissions. You’re paying them on the activity. You’re not worried about how it actually converts forward. It’s just that they went through the motion. And by doing all of these things, you’re actually normalizing the loss.

So in this case, if you’re paying on each of these 25 SQLs, it doesn’t matter whether they convert to SQO or if they’re ultimately lost. You’re holding people to the process and that’s removing any notion of negative feedback. What do you think about that, Rich?

Yeah, I mean, we’ve worked together so many times. Every time I hear it, it’s still, there’s this part of my brain that’s like, “But no, nuh-uh, that’s not how we pay salespeople, Sanj.” The perk here that’s really always enlightening for me, when I get to chat with other organizations that aren’t thinking as forward as Sanj and the team are.

When they deploy these sorts of changes, it does actually start to have some impact, where you’re focusing on the process and not the outcome. And it’s not to say that outcome is not important, but one of the challenges, especially if you go through trying to hire and trying to promote and trying to grow your sales organization, you always have … or is often a trope where you have the rep that does everything wrong and is ahead of quota, consistently. And they think that they’re amazing and they’re just really lucky, but they’re a pain in the ass, the sales engineers don’t want to work with that person. The deals that they hand over to customer success are terrible. This process adherence and process-related compensation starts to solve for some of that, that dysfunctional high performing salesperson. And it snaps the team into a mode where it is executionally and operationally efficient and excellent, much like that assembly line. Versus just rewarding when cars end up on the lot and it’s like, “Oh cool, we’ve got nine new Teslas today. Wasn’t expecting that.”

It doesn’t even need to be the story of the one dysfunctional rep. It could be the one rep that everyone just needs to copy their process. The one really functional rep. And we’ve seen it really clearly with our work. We worked with one customer who has 10 BDRs and they only had one BDR hitting their meetings quota each month. And nine who are performing to maybe 30% of quota, abysmally. And when we worked with them to look at their data, we were just seeing like, “Guess what, the person who is hitting quota actually was sending prospecting messages to twice as many accounts as the average rep was touching.” So they introduced an incentive to just find the right accounts and start communicating with those accounts. And two months later, eight people are hitting quota now.

It’s funny. Those little tweaks, and I feel like too, this is topical as well as we start to plan for a post … I don’t want to say post-pandemic. But we come out of a little bit of the hibernation that we’ve been in or some of us have been in for the past year. It’s important too because it gives you a little bit of resiliency, as well from a planning standpoint. I can look at this and say, and I know there was a couple of questions that we got during registration, but it’s like, how do we plan to triple, triple, double, double, double, and how do we plan to grow our business? And a lot of it starts with having a good understanding of what the sales motion is, looking at and having the data and collecting that and getting good feedback as early on, and then rewarding for process adherence, as well as for making sure you’re getting the outcomes that you’re looking for here.

Yeah. And I think the classic triple triple double double double formula is like, you throw more bodies at it. But actually, you don’t need to throw that many bodies at it if you actually figure out your formula.

Right. And I think that the other part on that as well, you can unlock all different sorts of, especially if you look at each one of these as mini assembly lines, there may be optimizations that you can make that is, to Sanj’s point, it could be technology, it could be process, it could be enablement. It’s not just the mythical … And engineering, right, Sanj, the mythical man month? Where if we just have more engineers on the project, that’s going to shift faster. And that’s how you end up with Windows Vista.

You can’t do that with sales in all instances. You can’t just hire double the number of salespeople, double the quota and somehow it will math its way to conclusion. It might work, but this allows you to check and say, “Do we need that many reps? Or do we need half as many? And we just make them twice as productive because we get them to focus on a little bit further up in the process versus just on the closing component.”

Right. And the other thing. So we’ve talked a lot about, “Hey, if you do these things, you’re going to hit quota.” But if you do these things every month, every quarter, you actually are going to hit quota every month and every quarter. The predictability aspect of this is really, really huge.

We’ve worked with one of our customers and looked at their data and we could see these four salespeople were your best salespeople last quarter, they’re all going to close zero this quarter. And we could just see from their numbers that they didn’t have enough deals in play. And what we worked with them on implementing is, they actually now have an opportunity creation incentive. It’s small, but significant, and across their 20 AEs, if they close one more deal as a result of this incentive, it pays for the incentive for the full year. You don’t have to put a lot of money behind these, but they’re highly, highly effective. And they’re highly, highly accretive.

Sanj (48:07):
I’ll go into my wrap-up then and to give a few takeaways for people, while we’re waiting if there are any other questions. So, these are just bonus tips on how you can use this to guide your conversations. A lot of pipeline management conversations… So we’re a commissions company we’re talking about, pipeline and process, we’re talking about the types of conversations you should have. This is all feedback that’s really integrated to how you’re going to build habits on your team.

So we try to understand how people are talking about their pipeline. And one thing that we’ve observed is, people don’t really talk about pipeline management. Most conversations are really around forecasting. People are talking about close dates and amounts. And that’s not going to be the thing that helps your team build resilience through this process and build the right habits that ultimately lead to quota.

So, the questions that you should be asking are, “Oh, do you think we’re doing the right things to help you hit your MQL goal? What else can we do to supplement your pipe? Or where do you think we can optimize this process, because it seems like you’re not going to hit your SQL goal.”

The other recommendation that we have is, you’re going to try to build your conversation bottom up. So don’t have a standard template for everyone on your team. It’s really meet that rep where they are. And talk about the number of activities. So don’t worry about the dollar amount so much. If you have this predictable business that we’re trying to build, it’s really around activities. So do you have the right number of opportunities that play to hit your number?

And then finally, in your CRM, train yourself to stop staring at a mountain close date. Train yourself to start looking at the number of opportunities to stage and any exit criteria that you have to move from that stage to the next one or to lose it.

Oh, there’s a whole session to be had on that last bullet point. These are all phenomenal. The thing I’ll add to this too is, really have a definition of when you create an opportunity, when you advance it, and when you close loss it. Don’t just let stuff hang out in Deadwood with hope cash thing. It’s not going to work for a lot of what Sanj is talking about here.

Yep. So hopefully, we’ve made a compelling case for how you can use your pipeline more effectively to drive performance and predictability. But the three things are, remember to build this blueprint. You can use our sheet, but if you don’t want to use our sheet, build your own blueprint, tell people exactly what they need to do to hit quota. And if you can’t answer that question, it’s pretty unfair and unreasonable to expect your reps to hit quota.

The second thing is, think about how you can add these incentives along the pipeline to form habits. And we talk about building this as an integrated part of your comp plan, you can roll this out as a spiff and try it out for two or three months if you want to.

And then the final piece is, review your pipeline conversations. And try to be intentional about the times you were talking about forecasting because that is an important exercise. But box your forecasting conversations to only be about the forecasting side.

Transcript has been edited for length and clarity