Don’t Fall Behind! – 3 Sales Tips to Get Ahead in 2014

(We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog programming for your weekly sales management lesson from a professional Boston sports team.)

The New England Patriots, with a sparkling 10-3 record and three straight victories, appear to be on a smooth ride toward the National Football League playoffs.

Yet, a closer look reveals some disturbing patterns. The last three games – again, all wins – have provided the most worrying trend of all; in games against the Cleveland Browns, the Houston Texans and the Denver Broncos, the team started out in 12-0, 10-0 and 24-0 deficits respectively. This habit of starting slow put them in the tough position of having to spend the second half furiously rallying to catch up. Just because they were able to do so each time and get the W doesn’t mean that this isn’t a nasty habit that needs to be shirked immediately.

Chances are you’ve experienced the same thing as a sales manager. A slow starting quarter with two underperforming months results in you and your team having to stress and really put the pedal to the metal over the last month just to make your quota. This is a difficult spot for anyone to deal with and is best avoided.

Check out these tips – not just from the New England Patriots, but from our sales experts as well! – on how to avoid falling behind and ensure you start out ahead in Q1 of 2014.

The sales pipeline isn’t going to fill itself

The temptation is there for the Sales VP to help their reps close as many deals as possible in December, but really his or her focus should be on growing the pipeline in Q1. Start by looking at your bookings goal for the upcoming year and quarter, and then looking at your historical conversion rates to determine your pipeline coverage ratio, i.e. the amount of pipeline needed to hit your quota.

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Once you have this pipeline coverage goal, you can then work backwards and figure out how you’re going to hit that pipeline goal. Look at your pipeline generating efforts over the past year – marketing campaigns, the yeoman’s work of the outbound prospecting team, all the conferences you personally attended. What worked, in terms of generating leads that converted well into opportunities? Which source produced the best conversion rate from opportunities to deals? Meet with the Marketing VP to determine what the marketing team is doing in terms of contributing to pipeline, as per your service-level agreement.

Ensure that top-of-the-funnel behavior stays consistent

At the end of the year, as mentioned above, Sales VPs will be eager to get on the phones and help their reps close deals. Meanwhile, prospecting reps might be less diligent about filling the top of the funnel, making excuses like “Everyone’s on vacation, offices are closed and nobody is picking up the phone.” The lesson is the same for both parties:

Be consistent with your top-of-the-funnel behavior.

Don’t ignore your pipeline generation responsibilities just to try and close more at the end of the year. Don’t let your reps eschew their prospecting tasks at the behest of flimsy excuses (although they should be allowed to take vacations themselves!). Consistency with your sales process is ultimately what will carry you through down times.

Be smart about your sales activities

That said, being consistent with your top-of-the-funnel behavior doesn’t necessarily mean doing things willy-nilly. Changing environments should produce different actions, especially from your prospecting team. Some of their excuses are likely to be true – many offices are typically less active during the holiday period.

Instead of simply throwing their hands up and quitting, instruct your reps to adapt to the time of the season. Nobody is picking up phones? Try working on an extensive email campaign instead!

 

Just because the New England Patriots are able to consistently come back and win after falling into a big hole first doesn’t mean that you and your sales team can too! Get 2014 off on the right foot by following these sales tips, and you too could be a winning quarterback.

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