I have worked with many companies under their quarter and year-end pressure.
Here’s what I’ve found:
Successful teams apply five year-end sales strategies:
- Sort the wheat from the chaff.
- Adjust direction based on whether there is enough pipeline to hit quota.
- Prioritize time and energy on high impact deals.
- Create a close plan for each high priority opportunity.
- Protect themselves against margin-eating discounts.
The best bit?
These strategies are all working well right now, during Covid-hit 2020.
This guide explains how to implement these five end-of-year sales strategies in your company QUICKLY.
Q4 Sales Strategies
Let’s dive in.
1 – Sort the wheat from the chaff
They weed out deals that with the best will in the world will not close successfully in Q4. Doing this makes the other four sales strategies far quicker to implement.
For example, let’s go back to January 2020.
Sarah Jones is under pressure to boost the size of her sales pipeline.
The pressure is coming from the VP of Sales. “Come on, Sarah, you’ve got lots of potential in that territory. Let’s ramp up the pipeline.”
You can’t blame him.
The Board is setting aggressive growth targets for the year and expects the VP of Sales to deliver.
Sarah works through her Accounts.
She picks a prospect with whom she had a meeting three months ago. “I reckon there’s a decent chance with this one,” she thinks.
Sarah creates an opportunity in Salesforce.
“It’s bound to close sometime this year,” she says to herself, hopefully.
Naturally, Sarah doesn’t want to put herself under any undue pressure. That means she enters the Close Date as December 31, 2020.
The pipeline has increased. Everyone is happy, for now.
However, fast forward eleven months. Sarah is under pressure to hit her year-end quota.
On the face of it, there’s plenty of deals in the funnel. But even Sarah, ever the optimist, knows she’s drawing a blank on many of these deals.
Especially those forecast to close on December 31.
In other words, the pipeline is bloated with deals that no longer (if ever) had legs. However, the most successful sales executives remove these distractions from the funnel to get real visibility of the pipeline.
There are three ways to go about sorting the wheat from the chaff with Q4 deals in your company.
Review Opportunity Stages and Get Real
In Sarah’s company, here’s what the pipeline looks like by the time we reach Q4.
For example, if the sales cycle is typically three months, then are the deals in the prospecting and investigation stages of the sales pipeline realistically going to close in Q4?
In other words, the first step is to review deals by Stage and Close Date. Remove dormant opportunities from the pipeline. And move deals that still have legs, but realistically won’t close in Q4, to a later date.
It’s tough love, but vital.
Review Opportunities by Created Date
Here’s another way to assess the strength of the Q4 pipeline. Look at deals due to close in Q4, by Created Date.
Again, if the sales cycle is three months, carefully examine deals that have been open substantially longer.
Analyse Pipeline Quality Metrics
In addition to the age, two other deal metrics provide insight on sales pipeline quality.
- The number of Close Date month extensions.
- The number of days since the last Stage change.
We can see, for example, the Oxted Manufacturing opportunity has been open 237 days. The Opportunity Stage was last updated 100 days ago, and the Close Date has moved from one month to another four times.
Do those pipeline quality metrics give you confidence the deal will close successfully in Q4? They don’t work for me.
So that’s the first of the Q4 sales strategies: Sort the wheat from the chaff.
Doing this will help hugely with the remaining year-end strategies.
Of course, you want to get these pipeline quality metrics and reports quickly.
Here’s a blog helps you. It precisely explains how to use the reports and get the pipeline quality metrics and dashboard for free:
2 – Compare the pipeline to your sales target
You need to know whether the real pipeline is big enough to hit your remaining year-end sales quota.
If you have enough pipeline, you can focus on closing the deals you already have.
However, if the funnel is not big enough to hit your target, you need to increase your pipeline AND focus on closing the deals you already have.
That’s two very different approaches.
Do you see why it’s essential first to weed out the dormant deals and the no-chance opportunities?
So, you might be wondering:
How do I know if the pipeline is big enough for me to hit the target?
Of course, you can take the deals already won and add the full value of the pipeline.
Often, that will give you a positive feeling. After all, the two added together will likely exceed the quota.
Unfortunately, it’s divorced from reality. I doubt you are going to win 100% of your sales pipeline.
A more pragmatic way is to set a realistic probability of winning each deal. Then use this to calculate the Expected Revenue of the pipeline.
And of course, remember that in Salesforce, you do not have to accept the default probability associated with each Stage. Modify these probabilities on each opportunity, based on the likelihood of winning the deal.
Of course, if you have a shortfall, it may not be easy to find new deals that will close in Q4.
The circumstances will be different for every business.
However, are there existing customers to whom repeat sales are possible? What about upgrades? Can you make cross-sales to customers that bought certain products?
Only you know the answer to these questions.
However, ideally, you don’t leave it until Q4 to measure the pipeline against your target.
This blog post explains how to track won and pipeline deals versus your sales quotas in Salesforce:
3 – Prioritize high impact deals
Sounds obvious, right?
But how do we decide which opportunities are high impact?
Here are three questions to ask that help to identify the most critical opportunities.
- Can we win it?
- Is it worth winning?
- Do we want to win it?
You can answer the first two questions by creating a report that lists the opportunities by Stage, Amount, and Probability:
After all, new logos have more kudos. But existing customer deals are often easier to win.
Consider also whether there are Accounts with multiple opportunities.
In Chart 6 of the GSP Sales Dashboard, we include a table and report that shows the pipeline by Account.
You can also quickly identify the deals you and your team will focus on using a different field, “Q4 Focus”.
The deal may be significant, but if you need to discount heavily or other onerous terms, the opportunity may not be worth winning.
So ask yourself whether we want to win this deal in Q4. Is it better to wait until next quarter, when the commercial dynamics may be different?
With that, let’s talk about how to close the critical opportunities.
4 – Create a Close Plan for each opportunity
These plans are especially vital in Q4 when the pressure is most significant.
However, there’s no need to overdo it.
You can enter the Close Plan using a simple rich text field on the opportunity.
Often you do this by working backward. Identify the latest date you need to get the deal inked. Sometimes, holidays and other constraints mean the realistic latest date is circa December 20.
In other words, much earlier than December 31.
Then, work out the timeline for all the steps that must take place. Occasionally, you’ll find it just can’t be done. If the only way you can achieve the reference site visits, contract negotiations, and other actions is by starting in the past, remove the opportunity from your Q4 priority list.
Likewise, agree on the Go / No Go Date with your prospect.
This date is not the day you expect the deal to close. Nor is it a commitment by the customer that she will sign the contract.
Instead, it is the deadline by which you and the customer will aim to close the deal one way or the other.
For example, this date might be December 15.
We don’t know whether the outcome will be a won or lost deal. However, the Go / No Go date is the point at which you and the prospect both agree the opportunity can no longer be closed in Q4. Instead, you will revisit the deal in the New Year.
It’s a great way of focusing everyone’s mind and gaining commitment to the Close Plan.
In Salesforce, record these dates in a custom field. Track them through a report and the Q4 dashboard chart.
The final Q4 strategy is different.
5 – Protect against damaging discounts
That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Indeed, many companies have inadvertently trained their customers to leave purchases to the end of each quarter.
However, successful sales executives keep track of each discount and give-away rationale, especially those given in Q4.
For example, you give a discount or preferential terms because the customer agrees to buy 10,000 units over the next twelve months. Perhaps you arrange this in a framework agreement.
Keep a record of the rationale for the discount or special terms. That’s because, let’s say, it turns out the customer only ever orders 8,000 or 9,000 units.
You won’t always go back and negotiate a retrospective price increase.
However, this information is invaluable when negotiating future discounts. That’s especially true right now when the customer is putting you under pressure on a Q4 close.
Look back over historical deals. Did the customer fulfill their side of the bargain? If not, use this information to strengthen your negotiating hand.
The Chatter feed on each opportunity is an excellent place to record the rationale for discounts and other terms given away in return for customer commitments. That’s because the information is always right there, on the opportunity, not buried in your email box.
They keep track of the rationale behind the agreement and make this information easy to find when under pressure.
Our blog post, 10 Expert Tips For Improving Discount Control, has excellent advice on managing margin-busting discounts.
Over to you
Here’s one more step you can easily take.
Get in touch for a free consultation on implementing these strategies in your Salesforce system. Hundreds of companies have done this, and we guarantee to help you find quick-wins and benefits from Salesforce.
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