Nearly every salesperson has been there at some point — feeling like life has to revolve around meeting quota. Now there’s no denying reaching your sales goals is important, it is your job after all. But real life also happens.
Sometimes you need to take time off. On one hand, taking time off can be a good thing, and can be planned for accordingly, such as a vacation or parental leave. However, sometimes unplanned events can throw even the strongest sales reps for a loop, and in these situations, quota relief may be necessary.
In sales, a quota relief is an adjustment to a sales quota that has already been set. Depending on the organization’s sales structure, quota relief can be granted at the management or executive level.
Before we dive into when and how to extend quota relief, let’s discuss some of the realities of taking time off for sales reps.
Considering a traditional Monday through Friday workweek, there are 19 to 22 sales days in a month. When you take three to five of them off, you’re giving up 10 to 25% of the time you have to close business and create future opportunities.
Taking time off can be necessary. Whether you are taking a much-needed vacation, or have to tend to a personal emergency, being pulled away from work is a reality of being human.
But time off can be really hard to take in sales — particularly when you carry a monthly quota. If you’re new to carrying a number, learning how to take time off can be trial and error.
Below, I’ve outlined nine key strategies for taking an extended time off as a salesperson, the pros and cons of different leave lengths, and a few tips for managers on how they can help their team take needed time away.
Taking Time Off, With or Without Quota Relief
Here are some best practices for taking time off for salespeople.
1. Plan Ahead with Your Manager
Your manager is your partner in success. Work with them to create a plan that makes you both feel confident about the break. In the event you plan to take time off for a vacation or planned leave, aim to work with your manager 60 to 90 days in advance to ensure everything is covered during the sales period you will be missing. In the event you need to take an unplanned leave, an effective best practice for sales teams is to implement a backup or buddy system.
Each rep should be paired with a peer that they meet with on a regular basis to keep them up-to-date on what’s happening with their accounts. Additionally, each rep can keep a backup document up-to-date that outlines their major projects and activities. With this in place, teams can be adequately prepared if a rep needs to suddenly take time off.
This ensures even if someone has a leave that wasn’t planned, there is a member of the team who knows exactly what is happening with their accounts and is prepared to provide assistance.
2. Increase Activity Before You Leave
First, calculate how much activity you need to do to hit your targets. Let’s say it typically requires 20 demos per month to hit your goal. If you’re taking a quarter of the month off, ramp up your activity while you’re in the office so you still get those 20 meetings done.
For example, a sales rep planning to take five days off and gives their manager 90 days notice can plan 90 days of 2X activity, 2X demo meetings, and 2X closing calls to make up for five days of selling on PTO.
3. Do A Deep Dive Into Opportunities That Need Attention
Schedule time with your manager to review all of the opportunities in your pipeline and make sure there are detailed notes on each one. If you expect an interaction with the prospect to occur while you’re away (such as a demo or email exchanges), introduce the contact to your manager or backup while you are still in the office.
Prioritize opportunities based on the timeline and the buyer's process. For example, if you have an opportunity who have a zero to 14-day launch date, this should be prioritized over opportunities with 30-plus day launch dates.
4. Automate Prospecting
Before you leave, use a free CRM like HubSpot to set up automated drip campaigns to email leads multiple times while you’re out.
5. Don’t Set An Out-of-Office (OOO) Message
An OOO message is a blocker to a prospect who wants to engage. Do you want to block a prospect? Of course not. Here’s how to keep your prospects engaged when you’re away.
6. Let Your Manager or Backup Step In
Give your manager or backup access to your email account, or set up an automatic forward so they receive your emails. They can look out for requests from key opportunities and responses to automated prospecting emails.
7. Check Emails While You’re Out (If You Feel You Must)
Create a time limit and "give yourself permission". But cap yourself at 30 minutes at a time. This time limit will force you to be hyper-productive and can help prevent you from going down any rabbit holes.
8. Take Planned Time Off At the Beginning or End of the Month
If you can control when you take time off, aim to head out at the beginning or end of the month so you have three full weeks to focus on hitting your number.
Notes for Management
Here’s some advice for managers looking to extend quota relief, or ensure their team is successful even when they have a rep taking time off.
1. Encourage your team to take time off.
Whether you have a team member who wants to take a vacation, or who needs to step away to attend to personal matters, ultimately you should encourage what is best for the employee. If you make your teammates feel guilty when going away, they may not take the needed time away, and if they do, they may not get the most out of it from fear of missing their mark or letting down their team.
This is an opportunity to lead with empathy, and to work with your reps to determine the best course of action so the employee taking leave and the team that is still working feel supported.
2. Communicate your expectations.
Your reps are looking to you to set an expectation of what proper planning looks like, especially if they are less experienced. If an employee needs to take time away, communicate exactly what they need to prepare before they leave to set their team up for success.
This could look like giving them a template for a thorough backup document, or asking them to prepare an analysis of where their current deals stand, and a recommended course of action for each account so you or another employee can keep the deal moving.
3. Consider focusing on other performance measures.
If unforeseen circumstances will make it difficult for your reps to meet their quota, consider pausing metric-driven performance plans for a period of time. This means you can use data other than sales numbers to evaluate rep performance, such as considering their ability to build solid relationships with prospects, how effectively they support their current clients, or their efforts fulfilling leadership duties on your team.
While the numbers sales reps hit is an important part of the role, it is not the only value reps bring to the table, and a holistic look at the reps’ performance before their leave or unforeseen event should be considered.
4. Change sales targets to provide quota relief.
When you consider extending quota relief to reps, make sure you are making a data-informed decision that is in the best interest of your team. What you don’t want to do, is lower a sales target only to put your team in an even more challenging situation during a later sales period.
Take a good hard look at how much revenue your team is bringing in, and how much flexibility is available from a cash standpoint. Can your organization afford to provide reps with a reduced quota one or two times per year? If so, quota relief is a powerful way to improve sales team health.
Here are a few ways you can provide quota relief:
Shift quota to another point of the year — If you are working toward annual targets and have some flexibility on when your reps can reach these numbers, consider shifting their quota values to another point in the year. For example, if you have a rep who needs to take a leave of absence for several weeks during the first quarter of the year, you may be able to add the sales targets they should have reached during their leave to their second-quarter goals.
Extend monthly performance period — For those who have shorter windows of time, you may want to consider extending the monthly performance period by a week or two, to give reps additional time to reach their sales targets.
It may be challenging to take time off or have team members away when working in sales, but it’s 100% necessary to live a balanced, fulfilling life. Use these tips to take the time you need without sacrificing your quota.
Originally published Mar 24, 2020 1:15:00 PM, updated July 10 2020