As a sales leader our ultimate accountability is to achieve the targets set out with the Board or our investors within our fiscal year (which may or may not match the calendar year); however, if we aren’t effectively managing our sales year, we’ll probably miss those targets and then must have an awkward conversation that we’d rather avoid.
Our sales year is based on our true sales cycle, which ends when we get paid by our client. For example, if our true sales cycle is six months (from the time one of our team says “hello” to a prospect to the time we get paid) and our fiscal year follows the calendar year our sales year is effectively July to June (sales originated in July of the previous calendar year will count toward our current fiscal year targets and sales originated in June will be paid in December). Even if we’re in a more transactional sales cycle the different between when our prospect or client says “let’s go” and when we get paid can be beyond when our targets are due.
To effectively manage our sales year, focus on the following four tips:
- Help sales team understand true sales cycle – when one of our salespeople asks for a discount to “get a deal in before the end of the month” we haven’t effectively coached them on our true sales cycle and effectively understanding their prospect’s timeline for implementing a solution
- Focus on proactive funnel building weekly – some of our salespeople might feel demotivated when they understand their true sales cycle, especially if their prospecting is mostly built on hope. My clients refer to weekly proactive funnel building as “planting seeds,” which they harvest at a later date. This is especially important in enterprise selling environments where deals aren’t necessarily closing daily or even weekly.
- Seek quick wins – especially in an enterprise sale (longer than three months) it’s the quick wins, whether that’s expanding a current client or doing a paid trial for a prospect, that both accelerate our sales and our revenue towards our current fiscal year targets. Coaching each of our salespeople to always have at least three quick wins, which will close in 45 days or less, makes them feel less pressured and us feel less like we need to “step in to help” (aka “micromanage and destroy their motivation).
- Proactively stay in touch with clients – proactively staying in touch with clients locks out our competition and helps our salespeople uncover expansion opportunities. It can also give us insight into issues that our clients plan to address “in the future,” which we could potentially support them in solving and our salespeople can raise their credibility by discovering news from government or industry that might affect their client’s business and asking their client about the potential effects of that news.
With an outlook of possibility, an understanding of our true sales cycle and a commitment to weekly proactive support activities with our salespeople we will keep our funnel full and consistently hit our fiscal year targets.
Until next time… go lead.