This post is from our guest contributor Shelley Cernel.
Shelley Cernel is the Senior Marketing Manager at KnowledgeTree, a sales enablement tool that uses data science to get marketing’s content used by sales. She frequently writes on a variety of B2B sales and marketing topics, including social selling, sales productivity, and about the B2B buyer.
The end of the year is approaching fast, and for sales reps, that often means that the excitement of the holidays is eclipsed by the pressure of impending deadlines and goals. With competing work and holiday priorities, it’s no wonder that performance often slips during this critical time of the year. As Fast Company says, “The season is rife with distractions in and outside work, where everyone is twice as busy and half as focused.”
Regardless of the chaos, December is a critical time to drive revenue and really your last opportunity to meet sales goals for the year. Whether you are falling into a Q4 slump or whether you need a way to keep your successes rolling through the end of the month, follow these tips to drive productivity, finish 2016 strong, and start January right!
1. Make a plan
Before you know it Q4 will be over, and the new year will already be here. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed this time of year, so fight the panic by setting reasonable and obtainable expectations and making a plan to help prioritize your efforts.
Start by reviewing your goals. Where does your current progress track against your end objective? Are the expectations realistic? If not, what projects can be delayed until next year? Identify the most critical milestones that must be achieved by January 1 and then prioritize accordingly. Now, create a timeline for the rest of the year that will help you meet those goals, outlining daily and weekly tasks and making sure to build in enough time for unexpected events to come up. And don’t forget to accommodate for holidays and your own vacation time. Lastly, clear all that you can from your schedule – this is not the time of year for attending pointless meetings, introducing new sales process experiments, or launching brand-new initiatives (unless they are seasonal).
2. Don’t assume
Don’t make guesses and assumptions about what your prospects may or may not be doing. Many sellers think that their buyers will be out of the office or too busy with their own end-of-year rush to handle any purchase decisions at this time of year. But on the contrary, it’s possible that many of your prospects are feeling the urgency to buy, with the pressure to spend their remaining 2016 budget or to get their sales stack ready for the new year. Many organizations operate under a use-it-or-lose-it budgeting policy, where any money not spent is forfeited to the company instead of rolling over to the next year and the following year’s budget is reduced. Additionally, many organizations underspend at the beginning of the year, resulting in a “cushion” of money that must now be spent.
So in Q4, your buyers are likely under a time crunch and have the propensity to spend – it’s your job to encourage them to spend their money on what you have to sell. And should your prospects indeed be out of the office or too busy, take the opportunity to fill your calendar for January, ensuring that you will be top-of-mind after the holidays.
3. Take the time to re-evaluate
Be proactive and take the time to conduct an audit of your activities and efforts throughout the year, look at the data, and review your sales processes. Evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what could have been done differently in the previous year and during prior Q4s. Where did things fall apart in the past? What roadblocks should you be anticipating this year? What should you continue to do and what processes need to change? Use those successes and learnings to boost momentum for the end-of-year push.
Also don’t be afraid to ask your peers and colleagues for their input on what sales strategies have worked for them. And perhaps they may have valuable insights to contribute about your prospects that could help advance or close a deal.
4. Optimize your efforts
In Q4, it’s important to work smarter, with a focus on quality over quantity. Now is not the time to start prospecting and cold-calling. Spend your time working those deals most likely to close by targeting the so-called “low hanging fruit”. Reach out to past customers, lost opportunities, and inbound prospects that didn’t convert into meetings. These people have already expressed an interest in what you have to sell, are already aware of the products or services you have to offer and are thus much closer to the bottom of the funnel.
Struggling to make new sales? Consider the status of your current customers – are there opportunities for upsells or cross-sells? After all, studies show that it’s 7x easier to sell to an existing customer than to make a new sale.
5. Leverage sales technology
Less than 1/3 of a sales rep’s time is focused on core selling activities, and the distractions of the holiday season will reduce this even further. Tis the season for giving, so give your sales teams the right tools to help them do their job efficiently and effectively. A sales enablement technology, for example, arms sales teams with the tools and content to improve sales execution, drive more effective engagements, and boost revenue. Sales enablement, by nature, empowers and enables sales reps to work more efficiently.
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