We’re coming up on the quarter.  We always are, really. Some of you are going to beat the plan! Most of you maybe, even. I hope. But not all. All of us have a rough month, quarter, or even year at least once.

And if you are going a rough patch, even a seemingly minor one, it’s super important to distinguish between a Soft Miss and a Hard Miss.

What’s the difference? In a Soft Miss, bookings are still growing. Just not as fast as plan, and/or as fast as you’d like. In a Hard Miss — bookings have decreased from the last period.

Hard Misses are a potential sign of a big problem in sales. Because most good sales teams, even with a flat number of leads, even with a decrease in leads … get better:

  • They get better at closing.
  • Better at increasing the revenue per lead.
  • Better at upsells.
  • Better at increasing the deal size.
  • Better at handling objections.
  • And better at competing.

And that means even if you fail a good sales team by not providing them more leads, or more features, they will generally close still more out of the same number of leads one quarter over the last.  Almost always.

So if the quarter ends a bit softer than you’d hoped, but is still up in terms of bookings vs last quarter — yes, still do worry.  You’re behind.  But maybe don’t 100% blame it on sales if they sold more this quarter than last quarter.  They still did their job.  A Hard Miss by contrast is a sign of a potentially troubled sales team.  Because they aren’t getting better — for whatever reason.  A Soft Miss though may mean with just some better features, and some more leads, a bit more help from marketing, a strong new hire or two, growth can not only continue … but accelerate.

A Soft Miss is usually a sign you need to help the sales team.  Help get them more leads (e.g., hire a real VP of Demand Gen).  Close more feature gaps for them (e.g., hire a VP of Product and/or Eng).  Arm them with better collateral.  A better marketing website.  Etc. etc.  Ask them what you can do to help.  Offer to join 5-6 more Zooms with prospects and customers a week, and let sales know you expect all those meetings to be used (to help).  Figure out where you can give your sales team a boost.  Be there even more for them, and make one great hire at least to support them.

A Hard Miss is a sign things are broken.  You may have fallen out of product-market fit.  You may have fallen behind competitively.  Or yes, you may have made an mis-hire in your VP of Sales.  A Hard Miss, you need to make a change.  If you want, you can give it another quarter.  But after that — it’s time for radical change.

A Soft Miss is going to happen every 4-5 quarters or so.  Every quarter can’t be perfect.  But a Hard Miss?  One can happen.  But more than one of those from a sales team is a big flag.  Your mini-brand, your market presence, etc. should always be growing.  As should your new bookings.

And if you are having a rough quarter, here’s more on what to do about it:

How to Gracefully Miss a Quarter. And Take The Right Actions Afterward.

(an updated SaaStr Classic post)

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