September 24, 2018

Ready for Your Best Q4 Ever?

By Kevin F. Davis

The start of the 4th sales quarter is near, and you need to make it your best ever. Here are four sales management strategies to maximize sales success during October-December.

#1: Focus your coaching now on mid-cycle deals.
How do you know now that a salesperson will probably not achieve their Q4 sales quota? Answer: They lack quality information about a customer’s needs and priorities for a sales opportunity the salesperson has positioned in the middle stages of your company’s sales funnel.

Here are a few of my favorite sales coaching questions to ask a salesperson:

  • What are the prospect’s buying criteria – from most to least important?
  • Which criteria represent a competitive edge for us?
  • Which criteria represent a competitive disadvantage for us?
  • What are three strategies you can implement to improve positioning and win the deal?

#2: Stop salespeople from giving demos too soon.
One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is giving a selling demo before they understand the customer’s needs, priorities, and solution vision.

Delaying the demo is important for a few reasons:

  • Salespeople are often too quick to jump into the solution, hoping that whatever features they throw out will strike a chord with the prospect. Your salespeople can’t deliver a winning demo if they don’t understand the customer’s needs and link your differentiators to those needs in a meaningful way.
  • Consider the buying process: After prospects get a demo from your company, their next likely step is to get a demo from your competitor. The trouble is that your salesperson has, by now, lost all communication with the customer because we already gave them our demo. We have just arrived at the end of our sales process – but the customer is still in the middle of their buying process. Not good.

I recently offered this sales management strategy to a group of managers, and one said, “Hey, wait a minute. We offer our Website visitors an option to “Schedule a demo,” so how can we postpone the demo to a later phase in the decision-making process when we already offer it at the beginning?”

Answer: Make sure your salespeople have two different demos – one that is extremely generic and another that is highly targeted and customizable.

One purpose of the generic demo is to give the prospect the big-picture idea and a few key capabilities without disclosing too many specifics about your solution. Another purpose is to conduct a thorough needs analysis and schedule another conversation to collaborate on more specific components the customer would value in a solution.

#3: Inject some reality now into each salesperson’s Q4 sales forecast.
Ask each salesperson to create a second sales forecast for Q4: one that removes any sales opportunities that have not moved forward in a tangible way in the past X number of days/weeks. Also ask, “Which prospects have postponed their next step – and why?”

The sales leader’s job now is to help salespeople set appropriate priorities for the type of selling activities that need to be done. That means 1) helping opportunities that are moving forward to continue moving forward, and 2) developing re-start strategies for stalled opportunities.

#4: Resist the temptation that you should close more deals.
Recently a sales manager told me he that the previous month he had held a forecasting call with his team, after which he had submitted his updated sales forecast to upper management. The next day his boss called him and said, “Other business units are underperforming, so we need your team to contribute more. Identify each rep’s five or six biggest opportunities, and get out there now and close those deals!”

While, admittedly, there may be a time (like December) when this Q4 “fire drill” to close deals needs to happen, it is not helpful to your sales team if this fire drill becomes a way of life.

When you chase big deals, you end up spending most of your time with your top salespeople, because they are working the biggest deals. Meanwhile, the salespeople who could improve the most from your sales coaching are left alone. This leads to turnover.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb for effective sales management: “Every time you do something that someone else can do, you prevent the accomplishment of something only you can do.” In other words, every time you try to personally close a deal, you prevent yourself from coaching salespeople to do it.

Most sales leaders know that the single most effective way to improve the performance of a team is to improve sales coaching.

Implement these four sales management strategies to maximize sales success and you’ll put your team in a great position to achieve your best Q4 ever!

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness, which has been named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster! Visit TopLine Leadership, Inc. for information on Kevin’s speaking and training services.