If your company is like most startups, you offer unlimited paid time off to your employees. For most people, this works great, but it puts sales reps in a tricky situation. When they’re out of the office, they’re not talking to customers, signing deals, or filling the top of their funnel.
In roles where compensation is closely tied to a strong pipeline, it can feel like vacations just aren’t realistic. How can sales leaders help their reps take stress free time off without hurting their ability to do their jobs? Start by offering a quota relief system.
In the best case scenario, a rep who’s going on vacation will leave the office with a strong enough pipeline that their manager, or another teammate, can close out their deals for them. But this still doesn’t address the stress of coming back from a holiday with nothing in the top of the funnel.
Taking time off in a transactional sales environment is especially stressful. Two weeks away from the phones means multiple missed deals. Even enterprise sales reps will feel the pressure from loss of deal momentum.
To combat this, your sales organization should provide a quota relief system, which is a reduction in quota for the sole purpose of helping an employee take PTO without stressing about losing their paycheck, or even their job.
You may already offer wellness benefits, like mental health days that employees can take whenever they need to. But if the quota is still the same for that quarter, you’re not alleviating the problem. The purpose of a quota relief system is to actively encourage your people to use their time off and recuperate from any burnout.
If you’re a VP of Sales, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Don’t just talk about mental health breaks, make them possible. I’d rather my reps take vacations and come back feeling 100%, rather than stressed the whole time. If reps are coming back in the same state that they left, you have a problem.
As an operator and sales leader, you have to balance quota relief and quota attainment very carefully. After all, you still have to hit your number, performance targets, and other sales goals. Don’t reduce quotas all over the place. Otherwise, you’ll burn yourself out when you start missing targets because you were too lenient with relief.
Here are the 8 steps I follow when I designed my relief system:
I recommend 2 weeks per year per sales rep. To ensure your sales organization still hits quotas set by the company, plan out your annual revenue target assuming 50 weeks of work per rep instead of 52. Or stated another way, just because everyone gets a 2 week reduction, doesn’t mean goals go down by the same amount. The additional 4% of quota will have to spread around.
This is controversial, I know. It goes against most finance and accounting principles. But it’s the best way to ensure that you don’t screw up on business goals while still doing good by everyone. The difference will actually be quite nominal. It’s worth the extra work when employees can have a true vacation.
If a rep takes vacation in the first half of the quarter (or however you measure a performance cycle), then the quota relief should apply to that quarter. If they take time off in the second half of the quarter, then apply the relief to the next quarter. This smooths out performance by ensuring that there’s enough pipeline to close out the quarter, plus gives the rep a chance to fill up the top of the funnel for next quarter.
Reps must request quota relief far enough in advance for the team to plan ahead for the quarter that the rep is out of office. I suggest a minimum of 3 months in advance. If 20 people ask for quota relief in Q2, you want to have the time to ask people with more flexible vacations to reschedule their time off. Quota relief is not mutual exclusive from hitting performance targets, they must go hand and hand, which is why this process must be managed well.
Whether it’s during the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, or the time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the reality is that everyone will be out of office anyways. If you allow quota relief, you have no chance of hitting your quota for the month.
The only exception is if their vacation time was already approved before a PIP was in place. It’s not fair to take away quota relief from someone who had approval and paid for their vacation before they were put on a performance plan. Other than that, a seller who’s on rocky ground needs to work with their full quota.
Quota relief should only be available to individual contributors. Managers have way more of a support system to help take over their tasks. They can ask any of their reps, or even other managers, to cover for them while on PTO.
Reps don’t have to take a whole week off to secure quota relief. It can be spread out over time - 3 days here, 4 days there. Yes, this can be a handful to manage but it’s more forgiving to your reps’ real life plans.
This includes the CFO, rev ops leader, and sales managers. The VP of Sales and the CFO must agree that a quota relief program will be offered and how it will be implemented. You have to track the program meticulously, otherwise you’ll screw up your numbers.
Sales ops needs to create an approval process that everyone is aware of. Show reps how to apply and list out what information is needed to get approved. When a manager receives a request, they submit it to sales ops first to make sure there are no conflicts. Ops can be in control of the master doc of who has relief scheduled and when.
A quota relief system is above and beyond what most sales organizations will offer. Reps and managers need to act with integrity by not abusing the relief system. Gaming the system by faking vacations is a fast way to lose the trust of your boss.
Some people won’t like the idea of quota relief. After all, this is sales and it’s the rep’s job to meet quota. But a quota relief system isn’t about changing targets. It’s about giving people the freedom to take time off and actually rest. It’s about playing the long game of sales success.
If managing your pipeline is part of your out of office stress, visit our blog to learn how to run a pipeline review effectively.
Best practices for ensuring your organization is maximizing leads
How to ensure communication is happening efficiently & effectively across your organization