Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Post by: George Ludwig

Three Quick Strategies to Save the Game.

Less than four minutes were left on the clock. Down 20-10 in the RCA Dome, things looked grim for the New England Patriots in the most-hyped game of the 2007 regular season as they took on rival Indianapolis Colts. But Coach Bill Belichick and his team managed to turn around a losing game in those final minutes by scoring two touchdowns and winning 24-20. Their fans went wild.

If you're a sales manager, the fourth quarter has arrived for you too. Chances are that the tumbling economy is causing your numbers to look like the Patriots' and creating a serious case of year-end anxiety. But don't throw in the towel just yet—good sales leaders can adapt to the economic downturn and retool to score big, score fast, and win the sales revenue game.

How to pull off this comeback? Sales managers must focus, drill, and deliver in three fundamental areas. First, they must make sure that their sales team has a positive psychological mindset. Next, they must make sure that their team spends its precious selling time as effectively as possible. Finally, they must coach their team to skillfully execute the critical "best practices" necessary to win the game.

Q4 Quick Save Strategy #1: Make Believers Out of Them

· Give salespeople the best "I have a dream" speech. Sales leaders must pull everyone together (in person is best, but use the phone if necessary) and talk from the heart. Let them know that the game can still be won. Convince the team that you can lead them to victory. Your speech must highlight all the specific company and marketplace beliefs that are necessary for success. This speech doesn't need to be more than ten minutes long, but it must speak to the emotions and values of the team in a way that fosters commitment.

· Reinforce the message with some one-on-one coaching. Sales managers must encourage individual salespeople to kick some serious booty and take no prisoners in their pursuit of business. Look for the good in salespeople, catch and reward them for doing things right, and keep the fourth quarter a period when people feel absolutely superb about themselves.

· Fire them up-but don't fire them. If you have a salesperson whose performance is dismal, don't get rid of him or her just yet. Plan to take the issue up in the first quarter of 2009, but don't discuss it at all during the fourth quarter. Right now you must keep the positive energy at a peak level—firing salespeople, even if they're poor performers, can demoralize the whole team.

Q4 Quick Save Strategy #2: Be a Time Management Master

· Sort out their selling funnels and create a short list. The management team, along with all of the salespeople, must evaluate each individual's sales funnel at the beginning of Q4 to determine which opportunities he or she should pursue. Come up with a short list by looking at factors like:

1. What's the size or profitability of the sale?
2. What's a realistic evaluation of where the potential sale is in the sales process and the probability of closing it by year-end?
3. What resources and actions are necessary to close the sale by year-end?
4. Are there any specific adverse customer behaviors as a result of economic conditions that may preclude them from being a hot-targeted prospect?
5. Are there any previous buying patterns the target has demonstrated as it relates to price, value, and purchasing urgency that might affect the opportunity?

Every seller must then prepare a brief strategy position (an assessment of where the sales process is and what should come next) for each opportunity on his or her short list.

· Aim for the fruit closest to the ground. Consider a Q4 selling promotion targeted toward your current customers. In hard economic times, customers want to make safe choices with their limited funds, so they look to companies and products they know and trust. This is a good time for the sales department and marketing to team up and offer specific price promotions targeted to hit the sweet spot of current customers who are in the best position to purchase by year's end.

· Grease the skids with quick communiqu├ęs. One way to save precious time in Q4 is to reach out to your customer and prospect database, especially your identified targets, using a variety of time-saving communication tactics. Email, snail mail, faxes, and telephone all complement direct sales efforts and keep you in mind, which helps close sales quickly.

Q4 Quick Save Strategy #3: Coach 'Em Relentlessly

· Stick to your salespeople like glue. Now is not the time to let salespeople fly free. Instead, the entire sales management team (C-Level too) should be co- traveling and coaching salespeople right up until year- end. They should be there not only to encourage salespeople, but to also make sure that the company's specific sales "best practices" are being executed with the customer at every interaction. They can coach salespeople to improve key skill sets and help advance a sale that would otherwise be stalled.

· Help them cut reluctant prospects loose. If a salesperson is courting someone who probably isn't going to sign on the dotted line this year, it's up to you to help him or her disqualify the target. Salespeople are naturally optimistic—it often takes a gentle, caring coach to nudge them to move on to another target with a greater probability of closing in Q4.

· Keep the "best practices" checklist in front of your salespeople. The "best practices" that sales managers should focus on when they co-travel and coach salespeople vary from one company to the next. However, the following list of questions can accelerate an individual sales opportunity as rapidly as possible toward closure:

1. Is this really an ideal target for Q4 closure?
2. Has the salesperson done the pre-call "due diligence" to advance this target to closure including identifying the pain or desire for gain that the target is experiencing to a degree that closure can be facilitated within 90 days?
3. Has the salesperson identified all key buying influences, and in complex selling environments, cultivated a customer "coach" or "champion"?
4. Is the salesperson prepared to open every sales call in a customized manner for each target to generate curiosity and create a desire to advance the sales process toward closure?
5. Does the salesperson have a list of well thought out questions designed to expand the relationship, establish credibility, diagnose the pain, and advance the sales process leading toward a Q4 closure?
6. Does the salesperson present and prescribe the product or service benefits in a way that leads to a mental and emotional buy-in and creates a sense of urgency by the target to proceed?
7. Does the salesperson repel and overcome objections in a way that doesn't delay the sales process?
8. Does the salesperson always seek commitment and closure to advance the sale to the next logical step?

The fourth quarter is about to begin, but sales revenue touchdowns and a come-from-behind victory are within grasp, even in this recessionary economy. In fact, there's something about having a tight deadline that energizes people and helps them focus. Good salespeople love a challenge. Harness their competitive spirit and channel it in the right way, and you'll be amazed by what your team can accomplish.