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Q4 – Question Your Motives
Blog / For Sales Pros / Sep 17, 2023 / Posted by Brian Sullivan / 55

Q4 – Question Your Motives


As we cruise towards the end of Q3 in our 2023 selling year, many of us are staring at a Dec. 31 number that will end up south of 100%. We’ve had some promising deals this year that, if won, would have insured a great end to the year. But we came up short on all of them. And unlike the Olympics, silver medals don’t get you on the podium. Sure, you’ve had some nice wins but the whale has eluded you. As a result, your numbers and your commissions have suffered.

So, the prospect of winning a big Q4 deal is alluring, isn’t it? It’s our selling human nature at play. The scarcity of major victories in 2023 makes a big Q4 win even more attractive. Our competitive yearning to make up for an average-at-best year is understandable. Hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth and walking off at the top of the charts……what a feeling! But as you squint to see that elusive game-changer in the light at the end of the tunnel, pay attention to the flashing lights in the overhead sign. Proceed with caution.

The big win – tons of revenue, profit and potential. But now with the selling sand running low in the 2023 hourglass, shifting your focus to a large pursuit brings huge opportunity costs. For certain, other things will be neglected. Things like your clients, who depend on you as the year wanes. Of course, Dec. 31 matters to your clients as well. As such, you must make sensible decisions about which opportunities to pursue as you head for the finish line. Remember, pursuing and winning Q4 deals can tee up Q1 whales. And if you’re not focused on that, you certainly have competitors who are. Smart opportunity decision-making is huge. It’s the very definition of competitive advantage – being intelligent in taking actions to maximize your chances of success, at any point in the year.

I spent my early selling days at Xerox, where we classified deals as breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’re all needed for nourishment. And you can’t skip breakfast and lunch to gorge at dinner. But most importantly, at any time of year, your clients need the value you deliver regardless of deal size. And deal size, like meal size, does not dictate value. It’s determined by the client. What may be a small opportunity for you may deliver tremendous value to your customer. Always remember the four most important words in selling. It’s not about you.

End-of-year obsession with big opportunities can also cause you to neglect deals where you already have an advantage and where you’ve identified a very high probability of winning – often as high as 90%. Maybe it’s an opportunity with a account where you have awesome relationships and high confidence. Or a pursuit with a prospect account where your solution perfectly aligns with their pains. Or a deal where you’ve been heartily recommended by a delighted current client. Your optimism is so compelling that you fill your pipeline with lofty probabilities, assured of successful outcomes. Yours to lose?

In working with salespeople globally, I see that true strategizing is often neglected for high probability deals, especially when you’re spending more time concerned with commissions than client satisfaction. Opportunities with 90% win probabilities are often considered “done deals”, while focus, time and effort are diverted to bigger opportunities, like Q4 whales. Whether your confidence in a high-percentage deal is based on a great relationship, a perfect solution, or a strong client recommendation, you’re betting that deploying your assets elsewhere won’t affect your chances of winning. Losing “done deals” would simply never happen. Or would it?

High percentage deals are treasures. Truthfully, they’re not about probabilities at all, but about hard-earned goodwill that can be squandered in a flash. While you’re diverting attention and resources to closing your year with a huge win, real people are on the other side of your high probabilities – clients who depend on you but are still weigh their options. Your percentages mean nothing to them. If they sense that they don’t have your attention or that you’re taking them for granted, your real probabilities are much lower than you forecast. If you’re not giving your best, it’ll be evident. And those worthy competitors are more than happy to step up. Count on it.

So, how do you strike a balance regarding opportunity sizes and high percentage deals to maximize your selling effectiveness, even in Q4? First, remember those four words – “It’s not about you”. Then, follow your Go/No-Go qualification process to be certain you’re pursuing the right deals. Without a practical Go/No-Go process, you’re flying blind. And while win probability is important, so are other considerations. Regarding high probability deals, many effective selling organizations closely track their three highest percentage opportunities, regardless of size and regardless of time of year. For each, they craft customized four-step value propositions – the solution proposed, what it does, how it benefits and how the benefit will be measured. And they identify the critical actions to maximize the chances of winning, utilizing RACI to insure accountability. And the three opportunities are continuously refreshed. Win one and replace it with the next highest probability deal, continually working a trio. Lather, rinse, repeat. Logical focus, not risky neglect.

So, especially in Q4, question your motives. You’ll likely get some help with that from your sales manager. And always follow your Go/No-Go process. Never assuming wins, treat your highest probability opportunities as the treasures they are, never, ever taking them for granted. Achieving those high probabilities took time and effort. Don’t do your client a disservice by looking the other way. Focus on client value and then earn the right to deliver it. Yes, even in Q4.

About Author

Brian Sullivan is a best-selling author, consultant, and enterprise selling expert. He spent eight years at Sandler Training, developing and growing the Sandler Enterprise Selling Program on a worldwide basis. Prior to Sandler, Brian was in sales, sales management, and P&L management positions with The Capgemini Group for thirty years.

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The comprehensive 6-stage selling program from Sandler Training-- "Top 20 Sales Training Company" by Selling Power Magazine Competitively pursuing large, complex accounts is perhaps the greatest challenge for selling teams. To keep treasured clients and gain new ones, you need a system to win business…
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