On Friday, I dropped a tongue in cheek, some might say sarcastic (or cynical) thought/comment on LinkedIn, observing how the last day of the quarter, month, and the week, made for B2B sales version of “Triple Witching Hour”. The icing on the cake (or thought) came around 4:00 PM ET, when I was prospecting a VP of sales on the east coast, she asked I call her back Monday (scheduled time, none of this call me back stuff), because she wanted to keep her line open in case she needs to approve some deals.
But it is easy sniping from the sidelines, that was last quarter, the question is what you do with the quarter starting today?
Time To Reduce
The question of quality vs. quantity plays itself out in many elements of sales, and while it is always a god idea to have a deep pool of opportunities to look to, narrowing your efforts can lead to more of the desired results, and in a shorter timeframe. By narrowing I mean the number of opportunities you focus on, not the level of effort in your execution. Too many sales people try to juggle too many opportunities at the same time, leading to a diluted effort across all their opportunities, and by extension watered down results.
First steps should be rather simple:
How long is your average sales cycle; subtract that number from nine (the number of selling months assuming a Dec. 31 yearend), and you will get a sense of how many new (real) opportunities you will need at the top of the funnel. From there you can drill down to understand that for all the stages of your cycle.
If you have multiple offerings with varying cycles, you will need to ensure that you strive for a blended pipeline, both in terms of deal size and time to close. You need to get the longer deals started sooner than shorter, etc.
Calculate how much quota is left to retire in the remaining nine months of the year, and adjust that to reflect your new quarterly and monthly quotas.
Since it is rare that these numbers will unfold in a linear fashion, we are going to need to factor in seasonality and other fluctuating trends that will require you to make correlating adjustments to your activity as a counterbalance.
With the above in hand you will have a real idea of how many opportunities you will need to generate and take through the cycle. This in turn allows you to be much more in control and not be distracted by things that don’t contribute to your success.
One of the biggest and avoidable distractions comes from having too many opportunities in your active pipeline, and looking at all prospects as being equal or worthwhile. Being selective and reducing the number of opportunities you pursue in the first instance, and decide to continue to sell to, will improve your results. Fewer opportunities, especially a reduction in “Spaghetti Opportunities”, frees up your time while allowing you to use less resources in a more effective way.
If you are routinely and methodically reviewing the outcome of all opportunities that go into your pipeline, you will begin to gain an understanding of specific reasons and actions that lead to Wins, Losses, and No Decisions. You can then use these factors and trends to triage and prioritize opportunities and activities required to win.
One simple way to tier your efforts is to look at two basic criteria. One is:
A. The total potential value of an opportunity
B. The probability of closing them either in a given quarter, or fiscal year.
You will need data and info for this, this is not finger in the air stuff, this why the deal review is key.
Then plot the specific opportunities by name, on a chart where the A from above is one axis, and B the other. Then draw the usual quadrant lines, and you will see your opportunities fall into three groups worth pursuing.
Top right quadrant, your best opportunities, high value, and high probability of closing. In terms of prospecting, 50% of your time and effort.
The next best quadrant is something you will need to decide. If you have a product line that allows you to “land and expand”, you may want to look at the bottom right, where the initial value may be smaller than others, but your probability of close is strong, and once you have landed, you can expand, but you’re now “in”.
For others, for a number of reasons, (low turnover, few potential prospects, etc.) you may see the top left as being your second-best group to target.
In either case, whichever your number 2 is, spend 30% of your prospecting efforts there, and the remaining 20% on the third group.
There are a number of other filters you can use, we do with our clients, but the goal is to achieve a selling environment featuring reduced clutter in your pipeline. That will allow you better leverage your most important resources, time. Slowly gaining back control of the things that will allow you to drive and deliver quota, not chase in the hopes of.