The fourth quarter. Whether sports or sales is your arena of choice, the mere mention implies that final push for the win. Pressure, heightened sense of awareness and clutch play are commonplace during this crucial time. But what many of us lose sight of during this time is that we’ve been building for this all year long.
When the final quarter of the year hits, our organization and our leadership may deliver a completely different tone. We may look at our year and we fall in one of three buckets: we’re having an awesome year and we’ve got to put an exclamation point on it, we’re having a so-so year and need to get over the top or we’re having a subpar season and it’s time to close some serious business!
All year long, we are setting the foundation for future business. We are planting the seeds for success every day. So, in reality, the fourth quarter should absolutely not take a different tone and its arrival should absolutely not result in us drastically changing our approach. Building a pipeline means developing the relationships that will sustain you in famine and culminate in feast – and hopefully, with diligence and consistency, that feast will not end.
During this time of year, we’ll hear some, “Yeah, my budget is tapped out and we’re just budgeting for next year.” Great – make it a point to ensure you’re on their outlook for next year. However, you’ll also come across your customers who have money left to spend before the year wraps – know your customers well enough to know their cycles. Find ways to stay top of mind – post industry articles on your social media so your contacts see them, send newsletters, make regular calibration calls. Furthermore, many customers you work with operate on different fiscal cycles so don’t naturally assume it’s their fourth quarter too.
Prioritize your leads! Regularly calibrate with your top spenders. Ensure their needs are being met, ensure they are pleased with results and that you are revisiting the relationship regularly. It’s kind of like your top reps, if you are a sales manager – reward and recognize and let your prized stallions lead you in the race.
That said, don’t make the mistake many salespeople make and solely chase whales! Diversification of your portfolio is of the utmost importance; those who only chase whales get swallowed whole. The temptation is real; sure, these customers can make your whole year or two. But I have seen far too many people live and die by chasing their Moby Dick. Your story could have the same unhappy ending.
When you diversify, prioritization of your leads means ranking them when you are scheduling your time. Certainly sell and sell more to your top accounts; make sure they are in the know on what they need to know to make informed decisions and get the most for their money. When you have new offerings, go to them first. From there, focus on additional leads as follows:
Previous customers: Realization of who no longer does business with you and why, even if you cannot immediately solve why they left, goes a long way. Specifically, when you are trying to rekindle the flame and re-earn their business – you can’t just do it with chocolates and flowers, you’ve got to SHOW them why things will be different this time. But, at one point they believed, so if you are able to overcome the hurdles that cost you their relationship before, you may earn them back. If they come back, often they are here to stay.
If you have company generated leads that perhaps are not yet spending money but are qualified in some way, absolutely perform outreach and get them into your pipeline. Figure out what their timelines could look like and size up potential needs. Get into a rhythm with following up and engaging them.
Finally, the cold outreach. This could be door to door, it could be utilizing social media (like LinkedIn) to meet decision makers and set appointments to qualify opportunities. As long as it is strategic and targeted based on your target audience and who needs what you’ve got to offer, it’s got value.
There is no silver bullet from which your top leads will originate from. If you effectively follow this process each day, week, month, quarter and year, frankly, the fourth quarter will be like any other. If you obsess over process and people, the numbers will always be there, and you will never have to worry about where your next sale comes from. Where we get off track is when we allow any outside factor, whether internal or external to our company or work group, to take us away from our process and the focus on our customers.
Have a strategy for your pipeline management, around new products and services, educating and communicating around changes in your industry, social media and each individual type of lead (from spending to pending), and simply execute on it daily. Customers will buy from you because of communication, transparency and response.
Don’t solely focus on what is going to close this quarter! We must continue to plant seeds for next quarter and year so we never find ourselves in the predicament of desperately flailing to hit numbers. That’s when we make mistakes. Frankly, the goal is to get to the point you really don’t have to think about what quarter it is; you need only think about which customer is next to engage, why, and what your message is. Don’t react, just rely on your resources and regimen.
Consistency around your process, whether you’re a sales professional or leader, will ensure your fourth quarter and every quarter are as profitable as you want them to be.
Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” that has a unique spin that shows you proven sales principles designed to birth in you the top producer you were born to be. If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICRVMI2/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_yGXKtb0G
Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership. You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving. You will also be directly contributing to his third book, “A Salesman Forever.”
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