What Sales Leaders Must Do to End the Year Strong

What Sales Leaders Must Do to End the Year Strong

Are you a CEO, VP of Sales, or Chief Revenue Officer feeling pressured because your company missed its numbers last quarter? You are not alone. Early reports indicate that many companies fell short of their projections. If your company needs to find new sales this quarter, this article is for you. It explores the current sales environment and what companies can do to increase their win rates in the next 90 days.

There is more uncertainty in the market today than at the start of the year. Back in January, it was full speed ahead and growth at all costs. That seems like such a long time ago. Now, enterprises are focused on efficiencies, unit economics, and profitability. As sales leaders, we can’t control the economy, but we can control our sales activity for the next 90 days. Let’s go.

Why Companies Aren’t Hitting Their Numbers

Recently I wrote about selling in a downturn. This month, the plot thickens because companies are entering the fourth quarter, during an economic downturn, after missing their numbers in the third quarter. Most organizations missed their numbers because their buyers feel pressure to cut costs. Every dollar and every purchase is scrutinized, and sales cycles have extended. This won’t change. The volume of buyers you saw last quarter will be equal to the volume of buyers you see this quarter. Remember, if buyers are scrutinizing every dollar, then sellers must scrutinize every opportunity.

Remove All Friction

As a sales training company, we see a common mistake among companies missing their sales numbers. Often, there’s too much friction early in the sales process. When I say friction, I’m referring to anything that might hinder the buying experience. As an example, let’s analyze a typical B2B sales process:

  1. Buyer wants to learn more and submits a contact form.
  2. Buyer and SDR play phone tag to schedule the initial call.
  3. Buyer is asked generic qualifying questions by SDR that could have been uncovered with basic research.
  4. Buyer asks for pricing and is informed that requires another call.
  5. Buyer no-shows on the Account Executive call, even though the SDR felt it was a strong opportunity.

If you want to figure out what is causing you to miss your sales numbers, the first place to look is your no-shows. A high no-show rate indicates an issue with the handoff. The good news is that Q4 is a great time to focus on no-shows and reschedules. However, simply calling prospects who missed your first appointment likely won’t dramatically change the outcome.

A better solution is to review your sales team’s numbers. They likely fall into three categories:

  • The high achievers who already hit their numbers
  • The middle performers who are close to hitting their number
  • Finally, sales reps with no chance of hitting their numbers

Utilizing high achievers to help the remaining sales team hit their numbers is a strategy not levered enough. Pairing high-performers with the rest of the team can build confidence and help capture lost deals.

But having your best reps call the no-shows won’t fix the root issues that are causing the no-show problem to begin with. That is something that should be fixed this quarter. Unneeded friction and excessive qualification early in the sales process is an outdated sales strategy that needs to change. If a buyer requests a demo or asks for pricing, making them wait days is a deal killer.

Sales leaders, consider this from your buyer’s perspective: The buyer did their own research and shortlisted a few providers based on the information they found online. Buyers are saying to you, “Yes, I’m interested. Your website was informative and provided everything but pricing. Can you help with that?” At this point, you start your outdated follow-up process, add unnecessary friction, and wonder why the missed appointment rate is high.

Maybe the buyer didn’t just sit by the phone waiting for your team to follow-up. Instead, they contacted the next provider on their shortlist and had a better experience. Maybe the buyer is thinking, “I’m not trying to find the hardest company to work with for this solution,” and removed you from their shortlist. That may sound harsh, but the truth is time kills deals and fast beats free.

Removing friction is why auditing your wins and losses is critical. Failures teach you how to find friction. Wins teach you what drives urgency with buyers to buy now rather than later. When you figure out what is driving both, you can double down on strategies that improve outcomes. Selling in the fourth quarter during a downturn is less about the product your team sells and more about HOW your team sells.

Fourth Quarter Basics

Desperation is a common denominator in all bad sales decisions. It can force us to change processes, damage relationships, and turn big deals into small deals. For example, suppose one of your middle performing reps is close to reaching their quota. They, in turn, offer a deep discount and turn what would have been a big deal next quarter into a small deal this quarter.

A consistent trend we see with top-performing companies is that they avoid drastic decisions in the fourth quarter. They make small incremental changes based on previous results and learn from their recent wins and losses. The best sales reps can teach themselves what adjustments they need to make. Underperforming reps won’t. In the fourth quarter, it’s about evolution, not revolution.

Areas that may benefit from simple adjustments include:

  • How you prioritize leads
  • How you follow-up
  • Your sales message

What must be avoided is allowing your team to start chasing huge opportunities with a low probability of success. This type of desperation will make bad sales numbers worse. It’s like the football team that is down by a score in the fourth quarter and throwing an interception on first down. Don’t chase whales in the fourth quarter unless the confidence is high that they will close.

Remember, your fourth quarter results are a cumulation of the first three quarters. Playing catchup for three quarters and trying to throw a hail mail in the fourth is not the solution. Instead, help your team avoid the vague discovery calls that create friction. Focus their time and attention on how you won your biggest deals this year. Reminding the sales team of the big wins creates a heightened sense of what works and re-focuses the sales team away from doom and gloom.

Sales Training Dilemma

When companies find themselves missing sales projections, we receive more inquiries. The request is, “Can you provide a sales training workshop to help our team improve their closing rate?” Closing is the result of a system. Keynote sales talks or single-day skills workshops rarely fix systemic sales problems.

For any sales training program to be effective, it should be customized, train specific behaviors, and re-enforce new skills. Quick-fix sales solutions are a very big deal because too many companies are misled to believe sales training can save their year.

Instead of searching for the sales guru to save the year, sales leaders can have outcomes-focused discussions with their teams. Sales reps need to know precisely what sales activities they should focus on to increase overall revenue. Pressure can cause reps to behave erratically. As sales leaders, we want to remove options and provide clarity, not add more to a process that is not working.

In Conclusion

There is no secret sales methodology for finding new business in the fourth quarter during an economic downturn. If you missed your numbers last quarter, it’s time to analyze your win/lose record year-to-date.

Missed appointments and no-shows are the low-hanging fruit. Finding creative ways to get your best reps involved is a technique many companies fail to leverage. You want to avoid turning big deals in Q1 into small deals in Q4. Remember, there is still a lot of sales opportunity before the year ends.

Did your team exceed quota in Q3? We’d love to hear any ideas we missed. Post a comment below. We will include you in the conversation.