Sales cycles can vary considerably from company to company. For some companies, the sales cycle is three months, while for others, it may be more like six to nine months or more. If the numbers are not where they should be going into Q4, now is probably not the time to rely on new top-of-the-funnel strategies. To accelerate your sales before the end of the year, you need to consider a shift in focus, one that involves maximizing your conversion rates for deals already in the pipeline.
If you consider the length of your sales cycle, any top-of-the-funnel activity you begin now likely won’t yield results until next year. That doesn’t mean you should stop or slow down those efforts, but if you are looking for quick wins before the end of the year, it is critical that you put “all hands on deck” to close as many deals in the pipeline as possible. The pipeline conversion rate in Q4 should be higher than at any other time of year with increased focus, management participation, strategic account planning, customer visits and possible year-end incentives.
With the end of the year quickly approaching, now is the time to realign your focus and set yourself up for a successful year. Here are a few tips for moving deals in the pipeline along and closing the year out strong.
Unclog Stalled Prospects
As a salesperson, you probably receive a lot of polite, or sometimes not so polite, responses to your sales inquiries. Some of the responses may include, “I’m on vacation,” or “I’m not sold on the data,” or “I’m slammed and haven’t had a chance to review your offering.” A common mistake many salespeople make is to accept the prospect’s timing and let the conversation die.
Without being rude, it is perfectly normal, and in many cases necessary, to push back on some of those responses and find ways to start a more meaningful discussion with your prospects. With the end of the year in sight, it is important to regroup and find out which prospects are really still on-board and ready to buy.
One way to do this is to introduce a new player into the sales process. If the head of sales or someone from your management team reaches out, it gives you a new opportunity to connect with the prospect to confirm you are offering them the right solution and working on timing that is well understood by both sides.
Another technique is to find ways to continue the sales process by providing thought leadership pieces, additional information that they’ll find useful, or a discussion of some recent successes that might be relevant and re-energize the conversation. In these cases, you are not just educating the prospects and building trust, but you are also giving them a friendly reminder about the value that you and your company bring as part of the sale. Sometimes these ticklers will result in new conversations and increased validation that you understand their market and their pain points.
At times, you will discover that a pricing or value issue has caused a blackout in communications. In this case, you need to understand how you compare with the competition and how you have positioned your value to the customer. Reach back out to communicate your company’s value in comparison to other solutions. Share the ways in which your product provides the right solutions to their problems.
The important thing is to find an avenue to re-engage the prospect, really consider and appreciate their business problems, and look for the right way to prove your product or service is the most obvious solution.
Some people are very squeamish about up-selling because they think that offering an additional product or service could upset the current deal. In reality, people are very used to it. Just go to a burger joint and listen to how often people are asked, “Do you want fries with that?” Do you ever see people walk out in a huff because all they wanted was a burger and the wait staff offered something extra? No, of course not. Your additional offering is no different if you are truly focused on adding value.
Think about it. If you are selling a laptop, you might want to offer helpful accessories like a mouse, speakers, or a second monitor. Why? Because your customers might find real value in those add-ons. As a salesperson, you should be exposing customers to the full portfolio of services that your company offers using true consultative selling skills.
In my experience, the best way to position your up-sell is to put it in the perspective of similar clients. In general terms, what kind of services do your customer’s typically benefit from when paired? Use those customers and experience as evidence that the add-ons bring value.
To use our work at Mansfield Sales Partners as an example, when a startup is building its sales strategy with us from the ground up, in many cases it makes sense for them to use our Sales Acceleration and Lead Generation service to test and validate the strategy, messaging and enablement tools needed to connect with new prospects. In essence, one service will give them a growth strategy, and the other will rapidly fill their pipeline with quality leads based on that strategy.
The key is to pair the right services with the right client. Go back to that initial conversation where you talked about the client's needs and challenges, then check in with them to see if any pain points weren’t not covered by the first offering you presented. During your conversations, find an appropriate moment to share the value and the underlying business benefits an additional service may yield. If you genuinely want to help your client and have the right solution to offer, it won't feel like selling.
The end of the year is an important time for business. Some businesses will have hit or surpassed their sales goals while others still work to close in on their targets. As the calendar year winds down, there are a few end-of-year sales traps you’ll want to avoid. Here are some common mistakes companies make year-end and how your business can circumvent them.
There’s a misconception among executives and sales professionals about prospects they’ve worked with during the year. Many believe that clients, who didn’t buy all year long, are going to suddenly buy because of a deal. The reality is, if you discount without knowing whether price is the defining factor for a person making a purchase decision, then you might actually get them to question the quality of whatever it is you’re selling. The prospect might think, “Wow, I was set to pay $30,000 and now they’re willing to accept $15,000. I wonder if the price is going to go down to $5,000?” The prospect might question the integrity of the price — or, for that matter, the product or service. They may think, “Maybe there is something wrong with their product. Is a new version coming out? I don’t want to get ripped off.”
The irony, of course, is that price may have never been a primary consideration, until you brought it up.
Sometimes, when you see how things are done in the business to consumer world, some businesses might think, “Discounting is a good idea, we should do that too.” After all, end of year or end of season sales tend to work well for retailers. But the difference is that most B2B businesses don’t have a 2018 model that’s going to be a year old come January, as is the case, say, with car dealerships. Dealers know that on Jan. 3, they are selling a year old model and the client knows that too. So now, it’s almost like a used car even though it’s new. Same holds true in retail. Generally, fashion stores know this particular line is going to go out of fashion and if they don’t sell it this season, it’s an old style.
But it’s different for business to business companies. In such cases, discounting becomes a bad thing.
Creating False Urgency
Another mistake companies make when wrapping up end-of-year business is to create a false sense of urgency. A sales person might say to a potential client, “If you don’t buy by Dec. 15, the price is going up.” Well, does the client really believe that if they call you on the 16th you’re not going to honor the same price? What about the 17th? What’s the real date?
If you pretend as if you’re going to extend it, then it looks like you’re someone selling snake oil. Don’t do that. As tough as it might be, maintain integrity on your pricing.
Finding Better Solutions
Instead of discounting or creating a false sense of urgency, you want to be very straightforward. If nothing materially changes between now and the end of the year, you might want to say to your prospective client, “Look, sometimes clients have end-of-year dollars they don’t want to lose. Would it help you if we did this deal this year, and you can use the solution whenever you want? This way you can get into this year’s budget.” (More on Businesses Year End Purchasing next week!)
Now, you’re doing the client a service. You don’t have to discount it in order for that to happen. If you think the only reason you’re making the sale is because of discounting, then you’re not selling value, you’re selling price and that’s not a sustainable business model.
If you want to provide an incentive, offer an additional service as an added-value. A salesperson could say, “Many of our clients also value this additional service. Though it is normally an additional $7,500, if you are able to purchase this month, we are able to include it at no additional cost. "
It's not free, it's included at no additional cost. As Phil M. Jones writes in his latest book, Exactly What To Say, "Free implies no value. Instead, you’re going to provide this additional value and it’s included."
It's Your Turn
If your product or service is simply not worth what you charge, then adjust your pricing. But, using a pricing ploy to push a sale is not a long-term business strategy.
How does your business handle end-of-year transactions? What elements do you think are needed to close out the year successfully? Share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or in the comments.
If you want to close the year out strong, your best bet is to focus on the deals that are already in the pipeline. Determine why some deals are stuck and increase the close rate of the deals you are already working. You should also look for possible cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Is there a chance to sell a broader range of services to the people who are already customers? Also, look for partners and channels to see if there is an opportunity to add services to a project already in the works.
Also, do not take your eye off the ball for new deals; otherwise, you will have another problem come Q1. Rather, you will find more success if you can maximize your efforts and spend time on both.