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Is Your Sales Goal Too High? Then Quit!

Dear Stephen,

I'm in the contract office furniture business—to put it more precisely, I work for a manufacturer.

I am a regional sales manager, and my 2024 sales goal is insane. I've been going back and forth with my boss, the VP of Sales, on the goal since the last quarter of 2023. All the sales representatives I oversee, whom I must pass higher sales goals onto, are complaining as well, and I'm sure some are actively job hunting. We have a good team, but they don't respond well to my request to "do the math"—if my goal increases, then theirs must too.

I've had discussions with my boss and his superiors about the decrease in commercial leases being signed in our region, among many other reasons why our sales are not likely to grow more than 10% in 2024—if even by that much. But no one is listening... I've been told my sales goal is "open for discussion..." but it's already the end of Q1 and nothing has changed. Nor is there any ongoing discussion. The bottom line is that the people above me seem to be charging full steam ahead, with no willingness to compromise on the numbers set at the end of 2023.

In 2024, I'm afraid I won't make any additional money above my base salary. What should I do?


Sleepless in Sales


Dear Sleepless in Sales,

Today, when company leadership refuses to negotiate a sales goal with a sales manager (or a sales representative, for that matter), and it exceeds last year's sales goal by more than 10%, my advice is to consider looking for a new job.

Remember, as I've said many times before, this is the best time in workplace history to be job hunting, because there are plenty of opportunities!

Here's a new tip for everyone in sales: Negotiate less on salary and invest more energy in negotiating your sales goals and incentives. Don't get me wrong—a strong base salary is important. But if you're truly skilled in sales and sales leadership, you know the most important part of earning more is having an achievable sales goal that allows for significant commissions, bonuses, or incentives upon exceeding it.

Most companies operate on a calendar year, which means January is the start of that year—so I understand why your upper management is simply moving forward. It would be unusual for a company to negotiate goals three months into the year. And frankly, it's insincere of them to suggest the possibility of renegotiating your goal. It's done—it's set in stone! And chances are, your bosses are just as frustrated with their sales goals as you are. So, start looking, my friend.

For those of you working for MillerKnoll or any of its subsidiaries, be aware that your fiscal year is about to end on May 31, and discussions about sales goals are intensifying. Keep my advice in mind when you receive your new goal. If you're not satisfied, I won't have any sympathy if you don't attempt to renegotiate the goal the moment you receive it. Hey, MLKN stock has been rising, and so should your income. Go for it! (This paragraph is specifically for my MillerKnoll readers.)

For everyone else, it's an excellent time to look for a new job because candidates continue to dominate the market in 2024—at least for now. But this won't last forever.

For everyone in sales facing an unrealistic sales goal, whether you're a sales rep or manager, schedule a meeting with your boss. Come prepared with historical sales data and current market information. Be candid and explain that if the company is unwilling to consider a reduction in the revenue goal, you'll need to start job hunting. Be warned, some bosses may suggest you leave, but wise bosses today will adjust the sales goal. Why? Because they don't want to lose you, fully understanding the cost—in both time and money—of replacing you. They would need to train a new, unproven person, whom they likely paid more to hire, including a "sign-on" bonus, and potentially a headhunter's fee. Trust me—you have the negotiating advantage.

So, if you're good at your job, there's a strong chance they'll want you to stay. Meanwhile, you should be updating your resume and sending it to me and every other headhunter, because your next job could be just around the corner.