This time of year brings thoughts of Thanksgiving, Christmas and scary costumes for Halloween. For some sales organizations it brings a number of scary thoughts and concerns as well. Will we hit quota, is the pipeline as strong as it needs to be, and do we have the right players in place? Are our buyers as committed to us as the information reflected in our recent correspondence? Or have they slowed the communication down?
For some, the pressure is mounting to close the year out in a strong capacity and it seems like requests are coming from every direction – senior management, buyers and the sales team. Don’t panic. There is time to assess the situation and make some course corrections. Here are some solid steps you can take to bring in the 4th Quarter business:
- Grade your Pipeline. Do it early in the quarter (aka NOW) and often if the opportunities don’t seem as solid as desired. Lower probability opportunities should be re-qualified and moved to 2012 if a Q4 close doesn’t seem to be realistic.
- Manage your Buyers. Some buyers will let the clock tick to the end of the year for concessions. If a buyer senses that a seller is too desperate, too needy or tips his hand that he is behind budget, prepare to have your margin eroded. Seek to establish milestones early in the quarter so buyers don’t feel like they are being pressured at Quarter’s end. Negotiate from a position of strength. If a seller reviews milestones with a buyer and offers Quarter 1 target dates, the buyer will believe that you have a full pipeline and may communicate a commitment to close earlier. The seller must be strategic about allocation of time and resources. If a buyer is not ready to move, adding them to the 2012 pipeline may be the smartest move.
- Maintain Business Development Activities. Start to identify opportunities for 2012. Too often sales teams have moved from crisis to crisis and fail to understand that insufficient business development activities are the cause of the reoccurring nightmare. Don’t buy the argument that sales staff can only step up their game under pressure. Every major league coach knows that games are won on the practice fields and that good behaviors and performance are exhibited on game day only after detailed preparation. Early business development activities insure that sufficient time is available for the lead to be nurtured.
- Assess your bench. Do you have the right people on the team? What resources do you need to deploy to close the deals you need to hit quota? Are additional skills and practice needed to increase your close rate? What approaches are going to be the most effective with your buyers? Is there an opportunity to improve the skill set of the sales team? Can you role play the critical opportunities to maximize the potential for a successful outcome? Is there a development plan for 2012 that you should be budgeting for now based on the assessments and opportunities for improved performance?