With only two months left in the year, sales representatives across the world are under enormous pressure to close straggling deals quickly for fear of missing annual quotas. With jobs and the welfare of families on the line — including for some in the Sales Hacker and Pipedrive audiences — this is where quotas start to get very real.
Unfortunately, many salespeople won’t make their marks. Only 54.6% of sales reps achieve their quotas each year, according to research from CSO Insights. If you’re one of the people not on track to hit your quotas, you’re probably asking yourself: “What can I do?”
In sales, you can always look at the four sales Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to determine how well you’re doing and how to improve: the number of deals you open, deal size, sales velocity, and conversion rate.
But with six weeks to go and a chance of missing your annual quota, focus only on opportunities that have a higher than 75% probability of being closed and won by December 31st. In other words, spend these weeks on deals you can actually win, and declare all others ‘lost efforts’ for now to free up more of your time to do so.
By focusing on two of your four KPIs — sales velocity and conversion rate — you can turn things around, or at least do enough to make your quotas.
Combining hard work with smart work
It’s possible to improve in sales with just hard work… if time is on your side. If you start regularly adding more deals into your pipeline and keep up the new standard, you’ll see an uplift in results in some time. It’s easier to do this if you have ongoing capacity to work with more deals.
Similarly, you can increase your average deal size over time with some mental effort. Eventually you will start closing larger deals consistently and even set a minimum deal size for yourself. But it won’t happen overnight, and sometimes it requires a complete reset and restart of your approach to sales.
So, even though it could be a great long term idea and growth opportunity, now is not the time to focus on getting more deals into your pipeline, or forcing larger deals without your mind fully behind it. Even if you work through to the final day of the year, many of your prospects are already six weeks away from closing budgets and sipping Christmas cocktails.
The key is to work smarter.
First, find one or two deals to start with that you can realistically close before year-end, and believe you have a strong chance of winning them. Decide to give them your best attention and care before finding two more, and so on.
No doubt, many of you have plenty of deals in your pipelines ten months into the year. The critical question to ask now is: “Which of these can I actually win?” Again, if you feel you have lower than a 75% chance to win, declare the deal a lost effort (you can always pick it back up in January).
Here’s my take on how to improve the two sales KPIs that matter most in November and December:
Close deals faster
Easier said than done, right? The good thing is that closing faster does not mean start running instead of walking, or talking faster on calls. The speed has to come from spending no time on deals you can’t win during the last two months of the year.
Some sales reps avoid nudging potential deals through the pipeline out of fear they’ll turn off prospects by seeming too aggressive.
It’s not that simple.
I’ve learned it is up to both the prospect and me to determine how long a decision to buy should take. If a prospect tells you certain people need to sign off on a purchase, offer to do a demonstration with a Q&A for this group — within a fixed time frame that leaves room to maneuver — or offer to call again the next day after they’ve had a chance to consult.
Also, I’ve learned that asking people the very general question of whether they’ve made a decision actually slows things down. Instead, I ask them whether they expect to make a decision within the next two weeks, for example. Or, at this point in the year, whether they are serious about getting the deal wrapped up before we all close for the holidays.
Sometimes such appropriate sales tactics even make them comfortable enough to decide there and then, but at the very least, you avoid making the prospect feel pressured, have a follow-up target, and know if they’ll contribute to you hitting your annual sales quota.
And if you discover a certain deal will ultimately fail, it’s better to have reached “no” quickly and get that dud deal out of your pipeline and away from your KPIs. Getting deals done or finding out a deal won’t happen lets you put your time and energy into those leads with 75% or better chance of converting.
Convert more deals
Again, it’s far easier to want to see a higher conversion rate than actually achieve it. But, it starts with believing you should convert more than 30, 40 or 50% of the deals you work on.
As you start your interaction with a prospect, the goal should be to find out as early as possible whether the buying intent is there, and whether you and your solution might have an edge over the competition, or not.
Take time to write down some characteristics of the prospects that became your customers.
- What business problem and pain did they express, or respond best to?
- How urgent were they about solving it?
- What type of action did they agree to as next steps?
- Which roles in the company were immediately involved in the process?
- Which objections haven’t you heard from them (but have heard from many of the prospects that didn’t convert to customers)?
- What reasons did they base their decision to buy your solution on, and why did they decide to buy from you? (Maybe you never asked but you will now.)
Now, use this description of your ‘ideal customer’ to assess whether you’re about to detect another one of them early on in the process, or spend your valuable time with those who will probably never end up as your customers.
In addition, pay attention to what happens to conversions as you move forward in your pipeline. Sometimes, it’s not a wrong prospect but a slightly undeveloped skill, or wrong mindset that makes the difference.
See if you spot a fault or weakness in the way you:
- Approach people in the beginning of the process
- Ask for a more in-depth meeting
- Discover the needs of the prospect, or help them realize the magnitude of their situation
- Demo your solution, or put together a proposal
- Elicit real objections, and how you handle them
It may be helpful to discuss with a teammate who is particularly strong in one of these aspects. Ask them about the specific way they do it, or shadow them for a short period of time to observe their method yourself.
The need to sell can make people anxious, especially with quotas looming, but anxiety-based selling doesn’t work. Prospects sense desperation and are less likely to buy.
Don’t be that salesperson.
Instead, drill down on the sales activities that are most likely to help you succeed, and attend to the two sales KPIs that give you the best shot of hitting your quota.