The No-Zero Policy – Setting Sales Expectations

Monday, August 12 2013

A battle continues to rage over whether or not a “no-zero policy” is good for students. In Canada, many school boards are implementing this standard, in which it is against the rules for teachers to award a “zero” for assignments that have not been submitted or are late.

Let’s consider the impact of a no-zero policy on salespeople and business results. A number of questions come to mind, and they would seem silly if they weren’t considered within this context:

  1. If you submit a proposal ten weeks after the RFP deadline, should you still be considered for the business?
  2. Do you get paid for sales that you ‘almost get’ but go instead to your competitor?
  3. Should you get paid for a proposal that is thrown out because it has multiple spelling and grammatical errors?
  4. Who is responsible for the losses if a customer accepts your proposal; but your math calculations included zero margins?

How long would you expect to be employed if you did these things?

Failing is part of real life. A life with zero failures is a fantasy, where actions have no consequences, others take responsibility for your errors, and you don’t have to be accountable. That’s more likely to land you in jail than in a successful career.

In most sales positions, expectations are or should be clearly defined. For example, you may be expected to make 50 contacts, 10 appointments, and 5 advances every week. You are expected to send out five proposals per week and to generate $200,000 per month in sales. If you are consistently doing the activities, then the result should be the sales.  The no-zero rule doesn’t work. You don’t get a promotion, a bonus, an award or even to keep your job if you don’t do the requisite activities and get sales results.

Students who are raised in a no-zero policy environment will have a rude awakening when they join the workforce. Companies and sales managers could have a difficult time finding young employees who understand how the business world works.

While I am a strong advocate of encouraging people to build on their strengths and minimize the impact of their weaknesses, it doesn’t negate the value of knowing how you measure up against others with the same opportunities. Setting expectations and consequences – both positive and negative – and following through on those consequences is key to a company’s success in selling. Setting expectations, measuring and documenting results, and comparing those to others in the team may not be considered appropriate in school, but doing so is a key success factor in sales.