By Shelley Cernel
Believe it or not, Q4 is already here, and it will probably fly by faster than you would like. Hopefully your organization is on or ahead of target, but that’s not always the case.
Q4 can be a critical time of year for sales, where it’s the reps’ last chance to hit quota. It’s also a precarious time of year for productivity. The impending holidays mean more chaos, increased stress, competing priorities for employees, and plenty of opportunities for performance to slip. In fact, a study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that 2/3 of companies experience a dip in sales productivity during the holiday season.
Fortunately, it’s still early enough in the quarter to make an impact on the bottom line. Use these tips to maximize your year-end and guide your reps to a winning performance.
Check Your Progress
Take a look at sales activities so far in 2017. Consider the deals you have closed already, particularly those that closed quickly. Are there any commonalities? These insights can help you narrow down which prospects to target in the remaining months.
Also review activities during the year prior and previous Q4s – what worked, what didn’t, and what could have been done differently? Data points such as call rate, win rate, sales cycle length, pipeline conversion rate, and average numbers of touches until conversion can help you understand what factors will impact rep successes, how to deliver the right content at the right time, and what changes will improve performance.
A sales enablement tool uses data science and predictive analytics to create dashboards that visualize these trends and offer guidance on next steps. Use those insights to boost momentum for the end-of-year push.
Make a Plan
Break down the quarter by month, week, and even day if you have to. What numbers do reps need to hit to make the year-end goal? What are the most important milestones and critical tasks that absolutely must be achieved? Remember – be realistic about what your team can actually accomplish.
Now, what activities will help your reps get to that goal? Work backwards to calculate the number of demos, discovery calls, and leads you need to make it happen. Also use these numbers to track progress.
Understand the Q4 Customer
B2B buyers exhibit different purchase behaviors towards the end of the year. While they will certainly be distracted by social happenings, upcoming vacations, and holiday events, they may also be even more ready to buy. There are a few reasons why:
1) Many companies have a “use it or lose it” budget policy, meaning that any money not spent will be returned back to the company, and that department will likely receive a smaller budget the following year.
2) Departments will underspend in the first half of the year to build a cushion of money for later in the year. But by Q4, that money must be spent.
3) Organizations are already looking ahead to the next year, and many are eager to start the new quarter off strong. With the complicated purchase process many companies have, end of year is the time to already be acquiring new tools and technologies for Q1.
For these reasons, the industry typically sees a 5x increase in expenditure in the final week of the fiscal year versus the average weekly expenditure. These are the prospects reps should be prioritizing, particularly early in the quarter. The money has to be spent, and if it’s not with you, it could be with a competitor. Which brings us to our next point…
Help Reps Prioritize
This time of year, it’s important to focus on quality over quantity – this will be a much more effective approach to closing those critical Q4 deals. Take a look at each reps’ sales funnel – where is the low hanging fruit? For example, which prospects are closest to the bottom of the funnel? Consider too who else has already journeyed through a majority of the sales funnel, such as past customers or lost opportunities. And don’t forget about upselling and cross-selling to existing customers.
Use Content to Add Value
Amidst the chaos, don’t let reps forget to continue adding value. At the bottom of the funnel, it is important to have content that educates the prospects while building trust and reinforcing the need. Prospects may be ready to buy but might need information that will help them make a decision and then feel confident that they made the right one.
A sales enablement tool can recommend the most relevant content to share based on the sales situation. Consider pieces such as data sheets, testimonials, case studies, product reviews, and ROI business cases.
Don’t Rush It
Despite the time crunch, it’s even more important during Q4 to remember the customer experience and take the time to build trusting relationships. Prospects will be able to tell if reps are trying to rush the sales process in order to just close a deal quickly. Make sure sellers fully understand each prospect’s pain points and come up with a fitting solution. And remind them to make it personal – customize content, messaging, and strategy for each specific sales situation.
Finally, don’t get overwhelmed by stress. Remember, more than 80% of Q4 business can occur during the last two weeks in December! Good luck!
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