In early August I wrote an article titled the Dog Days of Summer where I focused on how difficult it is to reach people during the summer months. We discussed how important it is to increase your activity so that you can be ready for when everyone begins to focus on year-end activities.
Well, we’ve reached that time of year. Summer is over and it is time to begin the final push as we head into the fourth quarter and the year-end sales push. I’ve highlighted three things that I would like you and your sales teams to focus on as you get ready to have a strong finish to 2016 and set yourself up for success in 2017.
1. Focus on closing the deals that are closeable in your pipeline right now. If you have a longer sales cycle and it’s not in your pipeline by now, the chances of adding a new opportunity and closing it in 2016 are very small. There may be a bluebird sale that comes in at the last minute, but typically with the longer sales cycle our clients tend to have, you need to have stuff in your pipeline already or it’s not going to close by the end of the year.
From a leadership perspective, make sure that your sales managers and your salespeople are focused on doing everything they can to close the business that’s available in their pipeline right now. What does this mean? It means making sure they’re not taking anything for granted. Making sure that they really understand the decision process of the people they are dealing with. Are they meeting with the right people? Have they talked to everyone in the decision process? Do they know how the company they're talking to made the decision last time they bought a service like yours? Is there anyone that they need to get to that they haven't gotten to that may be key to their decision process?
Make sure they are asking questions about the competitive context as well. Do they know the timeline the customer is looking for? When will they need this problem solved? Then back up from there to nail down the decision time frame. Most importantly, make sure that your salespeople have an agreement with the prospect that the prospect will make a decision in the agreed upon time frame. To close things before the end of 2016 you really need to be focused. Shorten the calendar, try and get things closed by mid-November. What that means is, you've got another 8 weeks to get things closed. If you start to slip past Thanksgiving the level of difficulty increases significantly.
2. If your clients or prospects are on calendar year, they're just now getting busy with 2017 budget planning. Focusing on what they can close right now, how can your sales team use this time between now and the end of the year to set themselves up for success in 2017? Often that means making sure that investing in your product or service is part of your target prospects’ budget planning process. Make sure they are having the right kind of conversations with the people who can control and influence budgeting. It's not too early to start those conversations. Typically, first budget drafts are due sometime in late September and then there's a budget review process. They are often not finalized until after Thanksgiving, but get your salespeople in those conversations now if they’re not already.
3. Lastly, chances are you have some clients or past clients who budgeted money in 2016 for products or services like the ones you sell, but may have not spent that money. Ask your sales leaders to organize a focused calling effort to have salespeople contact clients and prospects around re-orders, re-stocking, ordering spare parts and making other investments so prospects don’t lose their budget. Many companies have a “use it or lose it” policy, so make sure that your salespeople are having conversations with the right people. A focused effort in this area can really make the difference. Not only will your salespeople pick up additional revenue, they will also reconnect with your client base and build momentum going into 2017.
Make sure your salespeople are focusing on these types of activities as the year ends. Are currently asking these types of questions to engage their client? Are your sales managers coaching your salespeople through these types of conversations? If they are, you’ll have no problem making sales and will finish the year strong in 2016 and set yourself up for success in 2017.