As we work through the haze of celebrating the new year, sales people we can count on two things; first our new goals or quotas; second a barrage of posts and articles telling us how 2016 will be different, or trends that will impact us this year. I was always confused by this notion, are there smart people who come up with something good or new in September, then say, “Hang on, I am not gonna share this till after January 1.” Or do some people just blessed with a burst of creativity between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Of course not, it is more the fact that New Year is the start of cycle, a universally accepted cycle, but most importantly a calendar cycle. But a calendar cycle is very different than a sales or buying cycle, and if you are in sales you need to manage your buy/sale cycle, not a general calendars cycle.
There is no denying the importance of the calendar in sales success, but the importance is in the form of setting and achieving certain milestones. Month end, quarter end, campaign start and end, and more. New Year not only brings new quotas and targets, but also budgets are replenished, and the system is fueled for action. Having said that, let’s remember that not everyone’s fiscal cycle aligns to the calendar cycle.
But success in sales is about activity, consistent execution of high-value activities executed at the right points across the buy/sales cycle, not according not secular milestones or calendar. This is why successful sellers focus on their process, not the calendar as their roadmap for success.
Process: Sequence of interdependent and linked procedures which, at every stage, consume one or more resources (employee time, energy, machines, money) to convert inputs (data, material, parts, etc.) into outputs (Read sales). These outputs then serve as inputs for the next stage until a known goal or end result is reached. businessdictionary.com
You are much more likely to succeed if you focus on what activities you need to do today in order to succeed at a given point in the future, and that point is not tied to a calendar, it is much more tied to your process and cycle. If you do what you need to do every day, based on the stages of your process and activities required to close off the stage with each prospect, you will deliver sales on a consistent and fairly predictable fashion. Conversely, if you don’t do what you have to do across the cycle, you won’t. There is no ifs ands or buts, just excuses as to why not. As a mentor of mine once impressed on me, “Today is the last day you can influence your sales cycle.” Let’s say I have a 120-day cycle, If I don’t put an opportunity in my pipeline today, I the only thing I can be certain of is that 120 days from today, I will not be closing that deal. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday, Columbus Day, Lag B’Omer or any other day on any calendar.
What you can do now:
Nail down the average length of a sales, it is often different than many think, check your CRM, and nail the number. If you sell multiple products to different buyers, you may need to do this for each.
Inventory those high value activities you have to do throughout the cycle. Prospecting, selling, managing existing accounts, research, planning, etc., then allocate the percentage of time you need to allocate to each activity across the cycle. This will allow you to manage your activities, easy to do, rather than trying to manage time, not doable, therefore stupid. Use this to block time to execute these high-value activities.
Make sure your team is adhering to your process, not interpreting it to suit their results, or cherry picking things the like. This where metrics come in real handy.
If you currently don’t have a process or it is not documented, create one, or hire a professional to do it for you. Map your process, including specific stages, objectives within those stages, (good to focus on the buyer’s objectives, as you need to help them complete the journey), activities and tools required, and desired outcomes. Make sure there is a clear exit for each stage, and clear next steps. Take advantage of your CRM to action this in a way that takes the subjectivity out of execution.
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