Summer is essentially over. Some don’t want to think about it, while others embrace it. The fall can be an exciting time of year. School is back in session and football season is about to kick off. For sales leaders, the end of summer likely brings a variety of emotions. One thing for certain is coming: 2019 sales targets.
Somewhere in the bowels of corporate ‘cube-land’, finance and other analysts are busy finalizing next year's budget models. Suddenly, your inbox lights up and that all-to-familiar feeling sinks in. You’ve been assigned next year’s targets. You begin reading the details and your stress rises:
- How am I going to achieve these targets?
- Where did they get these numbers from?
- Can my team even handle this? What am I going to do?
While this situation can be frustrating for sales leaders and reps, there is a solution. The key to achieving your 2019 targets is the work you begin in 2018. When faced with intimidating sales targets, too many sales pros “act out”, get defensive, and waste too much energy pushing back.
Early in my sales career, I was often frustrated when I received my targets for the upcoming year. I’d then spend much of the fall trying to pick apart what was “wrong” with them. Where can I find immediate “exceptions” that won’t count against me? How can I remove “decliners” from my portfolio? The truth is, I lacked the confidence to drive results. I also forgot one of the most crucial sales productivity strategies: proactive pipeline management.
Proactively managing a pipeline requires 12-month, full-time focus. And that’s true if you’re an individual contributor or a sales leader. High-performing sales organizations expect leaders to proactively manage the pipeline for their entire team. When done correctly, opening the annual target email becomes just another day-in-the-life.
There are three distinct pipeline management actions you must take now to ensure you hit your 2019 targets:
1. Assess Your Net New Logos: New business opportunities are critical to achieving your sales targets. That’s obvious. But our research shows deal cycles are lengthening. For many sales models, getting a new logo in 2019 means selling actions start now. Evaluate your pipeline to determine which conversion opportunities to prioritize. Do you have an honest and accurate view of deal stages and probabilities? Science says reps are overly confident (and largely inaccurate) in their deal assessments. Develop clear criteria for understanding where your prospect is in their deciding journey. What’s the next pivot point? Map out the next sales play. Do it today.
Take Action: Be a broken record: Relentlessly channel your team's focus to working net new account opportunities in Q3 and Q4. Moving these deals forward in the days and weeks ahead will increase the odds that you’ll gain the new logo revenue you need in 2019.
2. Build the Plan for Cross-Sell/Upsell: We see a lot of sales leaders coach their reps to focus solely on driving more revenue from underperforming accounts. It’s a missed opportunity to forget about your best customers: those doing well and exceeding their year-over-year growth targets. These accounts are excellent prospects for cross-sell and/or upsell. Something is working. Why not proactively inquire about where the business is heading and how your solutions might help further? What better time than now? Yes, bad can become good, but good can also become great.
Take Action: Conduct a formal account-by-account review of your largest customers. Engage your customer champions or key contacts in a business review exercise. Do your reps know the business priorities of their accounts going into 2019? After all, your customers are also in the midst of budget planning themselves. Build account-specific plans to cross-sell or upsell in 2019. Provide the content and ROI messages to help your champions get those plans budgeted.
3. Proactively Address Retention Risks: Effective account management is key to successful customer retention. Dealing with an issue after the fact is often too late. Reflect on the market and customer visits you made. What accounts do you think could be “at-risk”? Which accounts are you certain are “at-risk”? Does your team have a strategy in place for each of these? If things go south, what would happen to your performance? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, it’s time to get to work.
Take Action: Schedule internal account review sessions for your potential at-risk relationships. These should be completed by the end of Q3 with clear retention plans in place heading into Q4. Don’t hide from account issues or concerns. Embrace these "moments of truth" as a great way to get back in front of key influencers. Honest dialogue now will strengthen your results later in 2019.
For many sales leaders, these actions might seem simple or even obvious. But they may not be for your reps. While you’re assessing your account portfolio, also assess the skills of your reps. Can they conduct the above activities? Do they have the skills to start strong in 2019? Ride-alongs and other face-time coaching interactions will help you better evaluate their skills. Get out of the home office and in front of your team members.
Now is also the time to think about the sales tools and processes your team might need in 2019. Make sure your sales methodology is still relevant to how your buyers buy. Also, coach your reps to view CRM as an enhancement to their selling activities, not a “to-do” item. Ensure sales enablement understands your priorities for next year.
Your results in 2019 are a direct result of your actions in Q3 and Q4 of 2018. Make sure your reps are thinking and working toward 2019 results starting next week. Contact us to learn more proactive strategies and ideas for helping you hit next year’s targets. If you don't start now, don't blame us for next year's miss.
About The Author
Senior consultant with significant expertise in sales strategy, training, enablement, and transformations. Peter combines his background as a sales practitioner with practical consulting experience to drive successful client engagements.