There comes a point in a sales professional's career when he or she misses quota. And maybe it's starting to happen more often than not. Maintaining a pipeline is akin to running a business: it takes focus, strategy, discipline, and execution. "There are two main factors in a sales rep achieving quota. Competency and performance. If you're not hitting quota, you need to improve your competency. You want to be in the 1% of what you do. Where are your holes? Find those and improve on them. If you're not trying to be in the 1%, what are you doing?" Tim Armstrong, with over 20 years of enterprise software sales management, suggests the following:

1. Get Focused

Remove all distractions, and realize that being a consummate sales professional takes mental focus to determine who the right targets are and how to manage your time wisely. After hours, examine your calendar and see how you're really spending your time. Every minute of your day is important to running your sales business, and you should be micro managing it as effectively as any CEO. If you aren't blocking out time for prospecting, follow ups, and other revenue generating activities, focus your first goal on re-evaluating your time and focusing on what's going to get you to quota.

2. Pipeline Cleanup

Are you qualifying leads in your pipeline out properly? Are you qualifying out the ones that don't belong and focusing on the right opportunities? Ask the hard questions to your prospect and eliminate all potential business that realistically won't close. Qualify them out, and let them know why you are. Often time professionally "breaking up" with a prospect will re-engage them into a conversation of what's stalling the sale.

Constantly run your day by your pipeline. Figure out where the real opportunities are, and stop creating busy work with time wasters. Once you have a realistic view of your pipeline, you actually know how much prospecting you need to do. "The real performers are always looking to trim down their pipeline, not add to it. The result is ultimately bigger and better pipeline and a freer flow of information," Tim explains.

Once you eliminate unqualified opportunities, you have opened your schedule and lent your energy to prospect better opportunities that are potentially more valuable.

3. Check Tour Metrics

Is it a real pipeline or are some of your deals wishful thinking? Once you've eliminated the waste, your pipeline must be at least three times your quota. Now, you need to evaluate your personal metrics to get there.

How many leads are you getting from your company? How many are you personally generating? Take a look at which are qualified and closing, and which are not. If your company is giving you bad leads, this is something you may want to take up with management.

If you are producing poor quality leads, start looking at how many calls you've made to get a qualified lead. If you're making too many calls, you need to working on your messaging. If you're able to engage but are having trouble qualifying, work with your manager and other reps to define the profile of what a qualified lead in your organization is. If your leads are qualified but not closing, take a look at your demonstration and closing processes.

4. Find an Office Mentor

Once you've identified the problem in your metrics, you can find those in your office who can help balance these weaknesses. This should be a person in the office consistently crushing their numbers, and someone you trust. If you're able to sit next to them and listen to them on calls, demonstrations, and proposal reviews, ask your manager if you can move and sit next to this person. Ask them questions as well as break down analytically what they're doing to excel. Mimicking the process of how they are reaching their quota every month could be the fastest way to achievement.

5. Make Time For Learning

If you truly evaluate yourself and have identified competencies that are holding your performance back, set aside an extra hour a day outside of your 8 hour commitment to sales activities to developing your professional skills. Now that you're more self aware of areas of improvement, dedicate yourself to skilling up. Spend an hour with a product manager and learn the product inside and out, create an RSS feed that gives you industry knowledge that will be valuable to your prospects and read it once a day, or take one of the many courses online offered by consummate sales professionals.