I love quarter end. Having spent many years selling myself, I remember the rush of the countdown and closing everything you can to hit your quota and get into accelerated commissions. I also enjoyed the competition amongst all the reps hustling hard and getting super creative to not only hit their own numbers, but to earn first place on the team. It is a very exciting time.
When I was managing sales, it was slightly different, but always exciting just the sames. For many companies, particularly those that are publicly traded, performance at quarter end is critical for many reasons – keeping budgets, maintaining stock price and investor confidence and perhaps even for earning an investment traunch. While sales performance should be brilliant every day of the year, the truth is that success is a marathon, not a sprint and sales leaders need to push the team hard to ensure there is a strong surge to the finish at each quarter end.
Here are my favorite ways to make sure your team charges hard to close out the quarter:
- Communicate the Importance of the Target – all the reasons for hitting the targets may be patently obvious to every senior manager in the company, but may not be obvious at the rep level – they are more focused on their own day to day work and deals. Even if the team has heard the message fifty times, it never hurts to say it again and like a coach cheering their team on in the fourth quarter when fatigue may be setting in, you need a rallying cry (or several) to keep the team pushing hard to the finish.
- Extra Focus on Major Deals – review the best deals with each rep (and not just what is in sales tracking system which doesn’t always give the whole picture) – determine which are the most important deals and make yourself available 24/7 to help close whatever needs to close – often reps can’t get the attention of senior management – now is the time to make sure they can.
- Don’t Forget the Big Picture – there are four quarters in a year and the highest performing teams maintain momentum throughout the year. Many teams expend an enormous amount of energy closing the quarter and then spend weeks afterwards, picking up the pieces. The team cannot stop prospecting for four weeks while they close the quarter without creating a problem entering the next quarter– a spiff for new qualified leads can help incent the team to do all the things that matter throughout the year.
- Keep the focus on the revenue target, not the doom and gloom in the news – the news just brings you down – it doesn’t put you in the right frame of mind to be positive in front of customers, and instill their confidence and trust. Focus on the customer and the sale.
- Don’t let anyone quit – often there are reps who feel like they won’t make their number with only a few weeks left in the quarter – you can’t afford for them to them give up and try to sandbag next quarter…..watch for defeatism on your team and work with them to stay motivated to keep pushing to close deals.
- Make sure everyone is practicing good discipline and work habits – as the mad dash builds up, reps might be skipping paperwork and saying they will get to it later (sure!) or staying later at the office and then coming in later missing key selling hours. You can’t afford to let them do this.
- Reach out to all existing customers – customers are often not aware of your targets, so now is a good time to let them know you are prepared to offer the best deals for repeat business and timely purchases.
- Watch out for Excuses – top performers don’t make excuses, they keep fighting to succeed all the time.
- Monitor Activity Volumes – are calls, meetings, proposals, etc. in line with typical ratios required to hit targets? This can be your clue to deteriorating effort.
- Monitor Forecast to Actual – is week to week accuracy improving or deteriorating?
- Track Deal Slide – what percentage of forecasted deals are sliding into the next quarter? Jump on these and work to keep them in the quarter.
- Have fun – nurture the friendly competition, the bonding that occurs across the team, and smile as much as possible knowing that you are doing everything you can to win. Your customers will appreciate it and reward you.
To your success!
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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