It’s the first week of January. In your rearview mirror, you had a great sales year in 2017. Ahead of you is a brand-new chapter, full of possibility and promise. While it’s important to celebrate your recent successes and create a plan to be even better this year, don’t get ahead of yourself. All too often, salespeople get complacent after having a great fourth quarter, and take their foot off the gas as the new year rolls in. Starting small and avoiding common missteps is the best way to ensure success for yourself and your team.
Below I’ve identified four pitfalls to avoid in the first quarter to make sure you get off to a positive start.
Pitfall #1: Slowing your momentum and starting over.
If you’re coming off of a great fourth quarter, it’s a natural reaction to ease up and coast on your successes. However, this is the quickest way to set yourself back in the pursuit of having an even better sales year. Instead, use your momentum to your advantage and act with the same urgency in the new quarter that you did in the previous quarter. You’ll be ahead of schedule before you know it if you set yourself up for a positive start. As a leader, maintaining this level of passion and drive will motivate others to operate to the best of their ability, breeding a culture of determination and hard work to begin the year. One great way to keep up the momentum is to have a new year kickoff meeting in the first couple of weeks in January. Schedule a meeting in your office to get your sales team excited, by reviewing the goals you’ve set for the year and how you all will work together to accomplish them.
Pitfall #2: Emptying your pipeline.
Typically, the mindset in the waning months of the previous year is to close as much business as possible. This is an important step in the process, but as the calendar shifts, your priorities should too. To start the year, you need to fill your pipeline with as many qualified suspects as possible. The majority of your time should be filled with prospecting. By focusing on prospecting and driving leads early in the year, you’re arming yourself and your team with the tools to be successful all year long.
Pitfall #3: Setting overly conservative or aggressive goals.
Another way to prime yourself for greatness is to set higher expectations based on what you achieved in the previous year. Whether that’s a new revenue number for your business or an increased number of qualified leads in the first quarter, make sure your business goals are challenging, but not too lofty. It’s important that your goals are still realistic, but you don’t want them to be too conservative or you and your team may not be as motivated to achieve them. If you’ve set challenging business goals, one way to keep your team motivated is to incentivize each individual salesperson based on their individual goals. That way, everyone will be equally motivated and off to a strong start in reaching the goals you’ve set for the year.
Pitfall #4: Disregarding industry shifts.
Don’t overlook industry shifts or trends. Successful sellers and business owners are constantly staying up to date on the current happenings in the industry, but the best are looking past that to “what’s next.” Those that can anticipate events in the industry based on existing trends can prepare themselves to adapt accordingly. To blindly progress through the year and only react to changes as they occur is risky, and can ultimately hinder your sales numbers and achieving your overall goals. Staying in tune with what’s relevant in the industry will help to shift your business goals so you can still achieve success. Remember, what you did last year, may or may not achieve the same results this year, but either way, if you want to do better, you will have to grow, change and adapt in 2018.
It’s common to fall prey to common pitfalls in the beginning of the year. By learning those pitfalls and how to overcome them, you can set yourself and your team up for a successful year. Keeping your foot on that gas, replenishing your prospects, setting realistic expectations, and looking ahead are four ways to prepare yourself for success and eliminate unnecessary obstacles.
For more tips on avoiding common management mistakes, check out this blog post.