What would the “goodest” restaurant tech quota look like?
“Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people.” When Simon Sinek talks about great leaders, he’s not wrong.
I’ve had my own firsthand experience with a SaaS quota I thought was ridiculous. I’ve managed teams selling to restaurants with quotas I couldn’t make heads or tails of. I’ve also interviewed hundreds of restaurant tech AEs and sales managers who all had their own horror stories and whispered them to me like we weren’t supposed to talk about it.
Individuals selling SaaS to restaurants seeking to hit their quotas know sometimes it can be bonkers. There’s highs, there’s lows, there’s head scratching, and there’s moments when you just want to scream into a pillow.
More than once I’ve asked to take a peek at how restaurant tech companies write their quotas. I think the biggest mistake being made is happening long before the first Excel spreadsheet is even opened.
Alright MarketMindedTM friends, let’s talk about it.
Should we be great, or should we be good?
What is an objectively “good” quota? This is actually a really good place to start. Ask 2 people and you’ll probably get 2 very different answers.
Founders would probably say a good quota grows the business and helps hit targets that position the company for its next investment or acquisition. Short and sweet. I like it! And they’re not wrong. Sales managers, on the other hand, will likely give you a much more nuanced answer for what a good quota is, one that aligns with SMART principles that build sales culture and grow teams. It might have a little more emotion tied to it, but also not wrong. A+.
Where restaurant tech seems to fumble a bit is just how different these goals and quotas can become in their extremes. What happens when an executive’s growth targets (aka “the best path for revenue”) eclipse a manager’s need to build teams (aka “do good, be the goodest”).
Quotas shouldn’t just be good, they should do good
Are quotas that force a company to hit insane revenue targets “at any cost” really in their long-term best interest? Think about this.
Investors and execs want quotas that go from good to better to best, where the opposite of a good or best quota is a bad quota that takes too long to get them where they want to be. Good-better-best numbers are tied to a single obligation: profit. The problem is, when profit-only numbers are passed down without being properly researched, they’re often unobtainable. Sales reps almost always want to help grow the larger business, but their primary objective is simple: make money. If they can’t do that, if their number is too high and they constantly underperform, they aren’t going to stick around. And when reps leave, you’ll find that instead of focusing on numbers, your priorities quickly shift to trying to keep enough players on the field to even play the game.
We need another option, and luckily there is one. Instead of good-better-best, instead of good as the opposite of bad, we have good-gooder-goodest where good is the opposite of selfish. Quotas that do good.
Goodest quotas focus on business growth, sure, but they also focus on the benefit of “the many” and not just “the few.” They benefit individuals with numbers they feel empowered to hit. They benefit teams by building a culture of attainment. And they benefit the higher-ups who, in true Moneyball fashion, can execute a growth strategy built on predictable “get on base” singles rather than constantly praying and swinging for the fences.
Now, if you’re like me you’ll think this sounds awesome. Who doesn’t love counting cards to guarantee a win? But there’s a mentality shift that needs to happen here, and it isn’t an easy one.
“Goodest” quotas often start with soul searching
Setting business targets that focus on bringing everyone into the company’s “circle of safety” starts with attitude and culture, about caring and having the courage to think outwardly and not just inwardly.
It is easy to convince yourself that anything short of exponential growth is garbage. But what good are sexy 2x projections if you never hit them? We already talked about the negative impact unobtainable quotas will have on your sales team. I’d argue that hitting a linear number predictably is a more desirable outcome than whiffing on a radical one year after year.
Years ago a former boss and co-founder told me, “big doesn’t always mean great.” I still think about that. To me, obsessing about growth is dangerous. What we need is a plan that prioritizes growth but doesn’t ignore the obligations we have to the co-workers that make up our team. What would that plan even look like?
Using Fair Process as our north star
For starters, here are 3 guiding principles I believe in:
- Quotas should be equitable,
- Quotas should be effective, and
- Quotas should be ethical.
These ideals are easy to sell on paper, but sometimes ruffle feathers when targets start dropping below what a board wants to see. But if we can agree that equitable, effective, ethical quotas are the outcome, we can use the three mutually reinforcing elements of Fair Process quota creation—engagement, explanation, and expectation clarity—to gather buy-in, prove our logic, and then manage ourselves against reasonable, researched growth targets.
Now, this topic could turn into a novel in a heartbeat. For the sake of brevity, I’ve tried to oversimplify my thinking into bullets that lead to the actions I would take during the pre-quota gen, quota-gen, and post-quota-gen stages to focus me on positive business outcomes all around:
- PRE-QUOTA GEN: Focus on engagement → Assess if you have equitable quotas
- Involve all relevant stakeholders, including quota carriers, to ensure you avoid blindspots or bias. What’s working? What isn’t working?
- Find “tipping point” strategic shifts that surface small acts that have positive, disproportionate influence.
- Be honest about the company’s desired growth, what it would take to get there, and how present and future team member’s play a vital part in that process.
- Solicit feedback to capture doubt or dissent as early as possible.
- QUOTA GEN: Focus on explanation → Assess if you have effective quotas
- Share transparent quotas to individual team members. Give reps time to review and understand what they’re being asked to contribute.
- Share context for how quotas were researched (historical bookings) and reached (future-state revenue targets).
- Share relevant criteria and data that support how you reasonably expect them to attain their number. This should include numbers of Accounts Closed-Won, number of units booked, conversion rates, pricing used, etc.
- POST-QUOTA GEN: Focus on expectations → Assess if you have ethical quotas
- Update roles and goals, as necessary, in writing. Have reps sign that they accept the plan. Mid-year adjustments, if made, should be executed as amendments to your plan.
- Be honest about what you don’t know, which could include factors like competitors, acquisitions, product releases that could be pushed or missed, or market conditions that could unintentionally threaten quota attainment. Quota relief, in my opinion, is under-utilized in this industry.
- Measure results monthly, evaluate and adjust quarterly (if needed). Check for equity in results; if collective teams are missing, what are your next steps?
Here, the principles of engagement, explanation, and expectation clarity help create a framework that motivates and guides sales teams toward success while fostering a culture of fairness and integrity. The 3 E’s serve as a reminder that quota setting is not solely about profitability numbers but also about people, ethics, and responsible leadership.
When was the last time you heard someone say, “I want to be good at writing quotas, so I’m studying it”? For me, never. Honest question: how can you be good at something if you don’t study it?! This is a problem, btw, that I’d imagine you can find in just about any industry.
For companies to do well—for companies to sell more products, get more investment, become more competitive—in a certain sense, they’re going to have to start behaving. We’re already seeing a shift in the market where industry leading companies are becoming Certified B Corps, meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency. I’m here for it.
But let me be clear. I’m not saying you have to throw your growth expectations out the window or tell off your board when they bring up accelerating your speed-to-market. What I am saying is that there are always several paths forward, and sometimes the slightly slower path will get you to the same destination on a more scenic route.