At this time of year, a lot of sales professionals shift into summer mode, the down time before the sprint to the finish line between Labour Day and the end of the year. There’s a reduced level of activity in some circles, making it a period of low productivity, but there are steps you can take to get the most out of your selling time.
While July 1 marks the start of the second half of the calendar year, your sales year crossed the halfway mark some time ago. If you have a sales cycle that is 90 days, your year end is Oct. 2, and anything new in your pipeline beyond that will close after Dec. 31. If you’re on an eight week cycle, it is Nov. 5. Summer can help you finish the year strong, ahead of target.
Here are three simple things you can do now, to make sure you play to win:
Process and plan
Markets and conditions change and evolve, so your sales process must evolve as well. Sellers tend to implement their process, then work it throughout the year with no regard for market realities. Mid-year is a good time to step back to ensure that your “selling process” continues to fit the “buying process” of your customers. If it doesn’t, make the adjustment now, not after you review your year. The same holds true for your sales plans, collectively and individually, at the rep and key account level.
The goal is not wholesale changes, but proper adjustments to win sales. Many salespeople see planning as a strategic annual activity rather than a tactical, continuing activity. They spend time and energy trying to make their processes work rather than stepping back and reviewing and adjusting their plans through the year. Start by doing this now.
Studies have found that as many as 40 per cent of business-to-business sales cycles that are started never conclude. They are neither lost nor won, they just die. The bad news? Not getting the customer or revenue. The good news? You’re aware of their situation and requirements, and you can build on some common ground that led to the engagement in the first place.
Summer is a good time to go back, look at no-decisions over a period of, say, nine months and see if or how things have changed from your perspective and your clients. It sounds like something that should be a continuous activity, but salespeople and small-business owners are so focused on the next opportunity, they examine few, if any, no-decision deals through the year.
I’m not suggesting you reach out to every past prospect, but specific opportunities where factors merit. The upside is you know the players, their objectives and their criteria. It is easier to get in touch, to do a quick re-qualification, and to act accordingly. If you do re-engage, cycles are relatively shorter, with potentially fewer competitors.
If someone you call is not yet ready, you score points for being proactive, and you set yourself up as the emotional favourite, if and when they are ready in the future. Follow-up is always important, but this type of targeted follow-through is a great way to fill the summer doldrums.
Read a book
Given the slower pace of summer, with more long weekends, pick up and read a sales or business book. I find it odd that many salespeople don't read them on a regular basis, even one a year, and this includes front-line managers. Many companies make sales books available, some VPs diligently share them with their front-line managers and encourage them to share with their teams, but still the uptake is low.
If you’re a sales professional who regularly reads sales book and blogs, go beyond: read a book your target buyers read or a general business book. It will expand your peripheral vision, and your ability to better engage in areas of interest to your prospects and to communicate in a way they understand.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
General: The Ten-Day MBA, fourth edition, by Steven A Silbiger.
Sales: The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.
Sales management: 52 Sales Management Tips – The Sales Manager's Success Guide, by Steven Rosen.