Do you really need quotas in sales?  

To some that have been raised with a quota, the answer may be of course “Yes”.  But to others, quotas seem almost dated, and a bit draconian.

Quota or not — won’t reps just close as much as they can — since they want to make their commissions?

Especially if the comp plan is a good one, won’t it just incent folks to close as much as possible? Who needs an icky “quota”?

I wasn’t sure for a while. In fact, back in the day at EchoSign / Adobe Sign, we had goals but not really traditional “quotas”.  Our goal was just close at least $30k a month, but it wasn’t a quota, and once we had an engine going, almost everyone blew past it.

I asked a seasoned account exec this question a little ways back, and his answer was, “Quotas don’t matter anymore.  I want to make as much as I can.  In fact, I spend every dollar I make.  Quotas won’t change that.”

But time has gone by and I’ve learned the reality is, you need both:

🥕 Commissions are the carrot

🥢 Quotas are yes, the stick

All carrot — you stop when you’re full. That may or may not be what the org needs out of sales.


  • Add a check-and-balance to the system, and make sure everyone acts at the level of performance the org needs to thrive.
  • Make the goals clear to everyone.  Otherwise, it’s too easy to hide from a bad month or quarter.
  • Align individual goals with team and company goals.  For example, an AE might be fine with 40% quota attainment if they only have to work 15 hours a week to hit it, or are working a second job.  But that might be a big waste of leads for the startup, which could route them to someone with 100% attainment,
  • Moves everyone out of “best efforts” mode.  Best efforts sounds nice and comfortable.  But only the very, very best perform their best when there aren’t clear goals.

It may seem a bit mechanical, a bit dated, quotas. But sales is about putting up numbers. Not just the numbers that a rep might choose to hit, but about the numbers the organization needs to survive and thrive.

Sales has a lot of tough parts. It’s not for everyone. It’s not really a best efforts role in the end.

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