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HPMD Bullets

Interactive Co. Sales Support Team


Interactive[1] is a medium-sized financial information provider, of about 600 employees and $120M in annual revenue. They were recently acquired by a large North American Bank. Interactive sells custom financial market databases and applications to "Wall Street" financial services firms.

The Problem

Interactive needed to grow sales at 20% to remain competitive and cover its acquisition costs. Prior year’s sales quotas were increased accordingly. The result was widespread defection of the sales force, and turnover tripled.

What Was Done

A sales incentive program was established to reward excellent individual and team performance. Sales rep’s who reached 200% of quota and branch offices that reached 150% of quote would win an all-expenses-paid trip to Maui. We worked with the largest branch office, in the New York financial district. The first seven months of the year had resulted in a sales performance record of only 93% of quota for the branch.

A quick study of the branch’s call reports for the past two years showed a high correlation between face-to-face calls with customers and Interactive’s consultants (the sales support team). We set up a simple objective: to double face-to-face calls. A basic score-keeping device was used: consultants recorded face-to-face calls on a flip chart in the main hallway. As they returned from the day’s calls, they tallied the results for all to see.

Next, we made a “bet” with the senior vice president of the division. We said we would make 150% of quota by year-end, or we would buy him a bottle of wine of his choice. If we won, he bought us the bottle (and we all went to Maui!).

Face-to-face calls began increasing, and so did revenue. Every consultant was fixed on the goal, and booking calls with the sales rep’s and every opportunity. By December, we knew we were close. Everyone made a “full court press” during the month, putting in extra hours, suggesting special New Year projects that would start by year-end, and calling in favors. On New Year’s Eve, the crew worked with the data processing department to ensure all client jobs ran before the close of the year.

A few days after the branch results were tallied, the vice president of sales called a meeting at the branch. He said, “I’ve got good news, and bad news.” We all were at the edge of our seats. “The bad news is you did not make 150% of quota.” We were outraged! But he continued, “the good news is, you made 153% of quota!” The celebration was immediate. People were hugging and high-fiving. We felt on-top-of the-world. And ready for some Hawaiian R&R.


This case illustrates a the power of a team that “gelled.” Here are the top ten components of our success:

1. We had an immediate problem to solve: 93% of quota and the need to increase sales
2. We all “owned” the problem of low sales
3. A clear and challenging goal was present: reaching 150% of quota
4. There was a clear benefit and reward for achieving the goal: we all go to Maui.
5. We had a specific, measurable and realistic objective: to double face-to-face calls
6. We took a risk and “signed up” for a challenge: the bottle of wine bet
7. We published frequent results for all to see: the hallway flip chart of call tallies
8. We took ownership and initiative for results: we chased the sales reps for calls.
9. We were all committed to working together: the December push in particular
10. We celebrated as if we won the Super Bowl!

[1] "Interactive" is a fictitious name of an actual company with which HPMD has worked. This project was completed in December 1985. The company has since been acquired by a consumer data provider, later acquired by a UK media company, and most recently merged with a real-time market data firm.
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