In 2007 Tom Brady threw 50 touchdown passes, setting an NFL record. The next year he was out all season with an injury, and in no season since has Brady thrown even 40 touchdowns; his five year average is 32 touchdowns per season.
If Tom Brady was in sales, some might ask if he’s making his quota.
A major reason that Brady had such an incredible, quota-busting year in 2007 was that the Patriots signed All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss and changed their offense entirely to take advantage of the Brady-Moss combination. Just having Moss on the field meant that opponents had to shift their defensive players to focus more on Moss, leaving other receivers open more, too. (The Patriots also acquired Wes Welker in 2007 and he actually had more receptions than Moss, but far fewer touchdowns.) Brady took full advantage of this opportunity.
With Brady out with an injury the next year, the Patriots reverted to more of their traditional tight-end centric offense which focused a bit more on running and less on passing, and they’ve continued with that since.
The reasons why people in sales make or don’t make their quota can be complicated, too. Making quota in a company that dominates its industry and has great brand equity, marketing, and a great sales management and process may be less of an individual achievement than a rep making 80% of quota in a company that’s an industry laggard. Skilled reps may also not make quota at a company that’s rolling out a new line or changing its pricing – or facing competitors that are. For example, just this week Google announced a major reduction to its Cloud Platform pricing – just a few days before the end of the quarter. That could have a huge impact on how well the sales reps at Amazon, Microsoft and other cloud competitors do this quarter, and in the near future. [Update: a day later, Amazon announced a big price cut, too, but I think the basic point still holds.]
Which is all to say that it’s complicated. As I wrote before, it takes a village to close a deal.
Sales job listings often say the company is looking for someone who made quota each of the last three years, or had a certain income level. But hiring companies should probe a bit more to find out what was behind the person crushing their numbers, or failing to, to find the truly skilled individual performers.
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