Got Those Q4 Blues?

Lord Kitchener wants to know...

How YOU doin?

Believe me, this isn’t a pick-up line but, in the immortal words of Joey Tribbiani from Friends, “How YOU doin’?”

Just so you know, I’m enquiring about the health of your sales figures. After all, we are now into the final quarter of the year – a busy time for many sales professionals.

If you’re lucky*, you’re on track to hit your targets by year end. If you’re super-lucky, you’ve already hit them! That’s a great position to be in but it does bring its own challenges.

* Remember Samuel Goldwyn’s quote “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” We truly appreciate that luck has very little to do with you reaching your quota although we might change ‘harder’ to ‘smarter’!

If you are not going to reach your targets, the key thing is not to panic about it. Yes, easy for us to say but, believe me, I’ve been in that position more times than I would have liked!

It’s possible that your boss is putting pressure on you to ‘pull out all of the stops’ to bring in as much business as possible.

The best way to do this is to try and convert every prospect in the final stages of your pipeline. However, this can be the worst thing to do! The problem is that you are draining your pipeline of orders in the first quarter of next year.

So you spend Q1 refilling the latter stages, Q2 and Q3 doing ‘business as usual’ and Q4 pulling out all the stops to hit target again! And so it continues…

A better way

Take a deep breath, sit down and, as objectively as possible, review what prospects you have at each stage of your pipeline. (By the way, this should be a constant process, not just when you are up against it.)

How long does it take a prospect to move from stage to stage in your normal sales cycle? Theoretically, you have a three month window of opportunity. In reality, you are looking at 10 or 11 weeks left before the Christmas break so any prospect sitting further back in your pipeline is not likely to become a customer this year.

However, don’t ignore them. You need to follow your normal processes in order to move them through the cycle so that there are orders to be placed after the Christmas break.

At the same time, don’t try to hurry these prospects so that they will order from you this year. Putting pressure on people to place orders before they are ready to buy will encourage them to push you for discounts and other concessions. You might win the extra business but at what cost? You have set a precedent showing that you can be pushed – what effect will this have on your future business with them?

With regard to those prospects sitting in the 3-month window, start working on those that are furthest away from ordering to move them forward, then on the next furthest away and so on.

If you start with the ‘nearest to order’ prospects, you are just decreasing the time available to move the ‘furthest back’ all the way through to order.

It is also vitally important that you follow your sales process strictly. If you try to shorten the cycle by missing steps you run the risk of losing business as a result. You’ve spent valuable time but for no reward.

Finally, ask yourself what you are going to do differently next year. Albert Einstein defined insanity as

“…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

If you don’t change things now, you’re going to be in exactly the same position next year – chasing orders. Consider our Sales Pipeline Health Check as a first step in improving flow through your pipeline and hitting your targets next year.

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