There isn’t a salesperson alive who isn’t thinking about making their year-end quota right now. For those of you who are on a calendar-year sales cycle, you’re either resigned to the fact that you are not going to make quota, still hoping and praying for that one more deal to close, or you’ve already made it. Regardless of your situation, you should still be planning for a successful upcoming year.
As a sales professional, your job is to stay focused and manage your time wisely. The last thing you want to do is waste your time working deals to close this year when there is little to no chance that they will. If you are freaking out about not making your quota, then take that energy and put it into something positive. Here are my top 10 tips to set you on the right track for the New Year.
1. Be Realistic
If you are oh-so-close to making quota right now, you may not know exactly how you’ll do it. Be realistic and careful about spending all your time looking for deals to close by December 31. Otherwise, you’ll risk ignoring next year’s pipeline. Only focus on deals where the buyer is truly engaged with validated timing and priority goals so you can realistically ascertain whether or not the deal could close this year (or next).
2. Get in the Right Mindset
Take the focus off of you, your products, services, and company, and shift it firmly to your potential buyer – their needs, priorities and objectives. With that fundamental change in perspective, you’ll be able to align next year’s pipeline based on your buyer’s engagement level.
3. Ask Questions
Talk to your prospects and customers to identify their goals, priorities and timelines for next year so your pipeline is in lock-step with their timelines. Asking the right questions now will ensure that you avoid making incorrect assumptions that will come back to haunt you. Understand their industry and be prepared to share information that may be new to them or helps to validate their business decisions.
4. Validate Your Knowledge
Executives are the ones who typically have the budget so it’s critical to understand how your products and services will specifically help their business make money, save money or minimize their business risk. Validate everything you know with different people in the organization before presenting or discussing it with the executive buyer.
5. Collaborate on Timelines
Tools like a Sequence of Events document are great for collaborating on specific executive-level activities, timelines, responsibilities and the target date to get your product and/or service implemented and begin showing business results. Look at your pipeline with the long game in mind. Although the deal may not close this year, you may add it to a future year pipeline.
6. Test the Buyer
Test the buyer’s level of engagement in order to align your pipeline to each stage of your sales process. Most formal sales processes now include verifiable outcomes which show the buyer’s engagement level at each sales stage. Your own executive team can coach you on how to best align with the buyer’s perspective and ensure you’re on a good path to predictable sales growth.
7. Ask for Help
You may have known for some time that you were not going to make quota this year. Your pipeline for next year also may be looking a bit anemic. Ask your manager or others for help. We can all use some objective third-party from time to time to help get us out of the weeds. And sometimes, a little tweak can make a big difference.
8. Get Management Involved
You can also ask your management to connect with your customer’s or prospect’s management team early on in a deal. This ensures that gaps in your knowledge about executive priorities, compelling events, and critical timelines can be shored up and confirmed.
9. Look Beyond Your Quota Year
You should always look to build your pipeline for future years based on buyer priorities and timelines. Proactively plan how you’re going to strategically spend your time on your accounts or territories by looking about three years down the road. A strategic sales planning approach can go a long way towards maximizing your time and building a high-quality pipeline.
10. Stay Focused
Hopefully, by now, you’re finishing up your holiday shopping, spending quality time with family and friends, planning a vacation, playing golf and taking some time to relax. Whether you’ve made quota or not this year, proactively and strategically planning for next year will ensure you get to quota and well beyond. Staying focused on your customers and identifying key areas for own improvement will help you build a quality pipeline and protect your short-term and long-term deals – and everything in between.
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Janice Mars, Principal, and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership.