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While most "how to finish the year right" articles usually appear in Q4, high-performing sales professionals are thinking about this now, while they can still directly impact the outcome. The rest of the pack is just ramping up their sales year, mostly by replenishing pipelines depleted last quarter. High performers are focused on the end now, mapping the steps needed to help them exceed quota. This is one of the key differentiators between the high-performing sales people's willingness and ability to be proactive versus reactive pack.

Let's look at three specific things anyone can do, but seem to be limited to proactive sellers.

  • Prospecting
  • Segmenting and Prioritizing
  • Aligning Metrics – Process and Desired Results

Not only do the above drive other activities, but they are ongoing and evolving throughout the sales year and, as such, there is no particular order; they are parallel rather than linear.

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Prospecting

It is a simple yet often overlooked looked fact that prospecting consistently throughout your sales cycle and sales year is fundamental to success. This includes prospecting for new accounts, or prospecting that leads to greater penetration of existing accounts. Successful reps bring a prospecting viewpoint to even the most established accounts. Rather than risking taking an account for granted, the best sellers want to fortify the account, ensuring the client is always as happy as the rep was the day they closed the deal.

As well, there are few reps or even companies that I am aware of that are either immune to attrition, be that due to mergers, closures and so forth, or can make quota without bringing on new revenue streams. Some of these streams will be from new companies, which take time to identify, engage and close. These cycles are often much longer than most sellers and buyers anticipate, often pushing deals into "next year."

This is why high performers are always prospecting, avoiding the peaks and valleys suffered by the pack. But there is also a prospecting effort in penetrating and maximizing existing accounts. High performers bring their prospecting view to even their most established accounts, continuously helping clients identify and meet their objectives – and earning business and new revenues in the process.

Lack of prospecting is why many tenured reps who rely on their base of accounts for growth always come up just short.

Segmenting and Prioritizing

To ensure efficient use of time and other sales resources, sales people need to focus on pursuing the right opportunities for the right reasons. Not all opportunities/accounts are equal. Segmenting based on specific attributes allows you to rank those opportunities/accounts as good, better and best. This helps reps allocate the right amount of time and resources to maximize their yield per call, yield per opportunity and so forth. There are a number of ways and systems to do this. The key is to pick one and do it, not to wait idly for the perfect one.

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Aligning Metrics – Process and Desired Results

Tying it together are metrics linked to your goal. On the simplest level – what will it take to get you to your goal? What is the average deal size (or spend per account, or similar measure)? How many deals will you need to exceed your quota? What is your conversion rate from proposal to close? How many real prospects will you need to generate the sufficient number of proposals?

And, finally, how many people will you have to engage with in order to sell to that number of real prospects?

Sounds basic or fundamental, but I am often surprised by the answers I hear when I ask sales people for their metrics, and how they will help them exceed quota. I find it amusing (alarming) that when you ask reps in the pack what their favourite hockey player's sweater number is, or how many goals until their bonus kicks in, and they immediately know the answer. Ask them about their own numbers and they're not so confident.

What's most interesting is that the amount of effort it takes to apply the above and be a proactive seller is not more than the effort many of the also-rans put into the Q4 mad dash. What is different is the return on effort – and the level of rewards.

Tibor Shanto is a principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. He can be reached at tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca. His column appears once a month on the Report on Small Business website.

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