The fourth quarter can be a stressful time for salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders. Whether you’re feeling the pressure of hitting your fourth quarter goal or making your yearly plan, we’re sharing 5 strategies to help you finish the year strong without jeopardizing the first quarter of 2019.
1. Plan your work and work your plan
The first step to finishing the year strong is to sit down and get very tactical about your plan for the quarter and how it will be your best one yet. There are two important questions you must ask yourself:
a. Focus – Who are the target accounts, customers and prospects that you believe can deliver revenue for you in the fourth quarter?
b. Activity – What level of activity do you need to make your revenue goal? If you need better results in the fourth quarter, think about the increased level of proactive calling and networking that will be necessary.
2. Build your pipeline as fast as possible
Often, salespeople will do a real push for the fourth quarter. They’ll see a large opportunity and start spending most of their time on it. Be careful not to put all your eggs in one basket. Finding a healthy pipeline on December 15th is going to be great for Q1 but not for Q4, so you have to build your pipeline fast and early in the quarter.
3. Move opportunities through the sales cycle
Once your pipeline is where it needs to be, shift your focus to moving opportunities through the pipeline. One thing that has helped our team is adopting the philosophy of doing something today that you could do tomorrow. Extra effort every day means increased success.
In our work helping organizations increase their sales performance, we often see a proposal take 1-2 weeks to be completed. If it’s April, this may not be of concern. In the fourth quarter, you must move fast and think about how you can speed up the time it takes to get answers to customers to shorten the sales cycle. Perhaps this means getting some of your internal partners to help you with proposal writing or pricing. Make sure you and your team aren’t slowing down the process and work closely with your prospect or client to do the same.
4. Close, close, close
Make sure you are asking for the business. Get clear on what is and what isn’t going to close. Due to an increased focus, salespeople may keep situations in the pipeline that don’t have a high likelihood of closing.
5. Leave gas in the tank for January
There is a well-known story that illustrates the importance of setting yourself up for a great fourth quarter without compromising sales in Q1.
Xerox used to do 40% of their annual sales in the last 6 weeks of the year. How is that? The company set itself up to have a big fourth quarter – running a lot of specials and discounts that drove a lot of revenue at the end of the year. The reality is that there isn’t a sudden need for photocopiers at year end. Xerox was creating a false market and their clients got used to waiting until the end of year to buy because they knew they would get the best price in November and December. Be careful not to create a sales cycle that encourages a lot of sales in the fourth quarter that in turn leads to a poor first quarter next year.
In summary, Q4 success requires a plan (focus and activity), a healthy pipeline, sales cycle time management and closing skills. As you make your push to finish the year strong, make sure to also set yourself up for success in Q1.