Three Keys for Closing the Year Strong: Focus on What You Can Control

By Julie Thomas, President and CEO, ValueSelling Associates
A man meets with a woman virtually through a video meeting.

Does it seem like every year we’re suddenly barreling toward the holiday season, and those of us in sales are scrambling to make quota?

As you plan for year-end, the key to success is focusing on what you can control. From my experience training thousands of sales professionals around the world, I’ve learned that focusing on these three priorities is essential: the quality of your conversations, your level of planning and preparation, and how you execute.

1. Have Authentic, Quality Conversations

Have you ever been in a situation where the salesperson drones on and on about why their product or solution is the best? Of course you have. It’s one reason sales reps get a bad rap!

Instead, focus on actively listening to understand your prospect’s challenges. Have a conversation rather than delivering a pitch. Ask lots of authentic questions with an empathetic approach. You can start with these high-value questions, which focus on engagement with your potential buyer.

It can be hard to resist the urge to jump in and immediately offer a demo or explain why your solution beats the competition’s, but your buyer needs to feel heard, and you need to gain their trust. When you focus on exploring the personal and professional value of your solution with your prospect, you’ll be able to come to an honest assessment about whether it will meet their needs.

2. Plan and Prepare: Develop a Mutual Plan

Do you think about closing a deal as a big event where the prospect signs on the dotted line? In my view, this way of thinking needs to be reframed – the time to start planning for closing the deal is early in the sales cycle, not at the end.

Closing a deal should be the logical outcome of a well-executed sales cycle. Once the buyer agrees your solution is the best fit and there’s enough value to motivate them to act, you can work together on a timeline – a mutual plan – to realize that value, and the close is merely the next step.

A foundation of the ValueSelling Framework® and a topic I cover at length in my latest book, The Power of Value Selling: The Gold Standard to Drive Revenue and Create Customers for Life, is the creation of a mutual plan: an agreed-upon timeline between the buyer and seller with defined milestones. The beauty of a mutual plan is that it’s a customer-facing communication that confirms what the buyer agrees to at this point in time, combined with time-bound, measurable outcomes to document the process every step of the way.

3. Expert Execution Avoids the “Gotchas” 

Are you dreading the holiday season because of all the unexpected speedbumps that can crop up to derail your deals? Avoid every pothole with proper planning and expert execution.

Acknowledge the fact that people will take more time off around the holidays. Kids are home from school, families gather, and therefore – even when your buyer is working – they may be putting in shorter days and their regular turnaround time may take longer. Sometimes entire departments may become roadblocks – maybe the procurement department or legal department becomes focused on other projects at year-end – and pushing through your deal is not their priority.

To prevent these situations, ensure that you fully understand the process and anticipate the obstacles. Ask questions early in the sales cycle about the steps in the closing procedure and who will be in the office when, and factor in extra time to avoid closing the deal at the final hour before year-end – no one needs the extra stress.

Embracing a sense of urgency at the end of the year is a good thing for sellers, but we can only control so many variables, and it is never a good idea to put undue pressure on your prospect. Set yourself up for success by selling with value – a focus on enabling authentic conversations, developing a mutual plan, and executing against that plan.

Julie Thomas is the president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates. She is a noted speaker, consultant, and author of The Power of Value Selling: The Gold Standard to Drive Revenue and Create Customers for Life.