As we approach the latter half of March and the end of the first quarter of the year, many sales managers and those in sales leadership are in a bit of a panic. Yes, the first quarter can start off somewhat slowly for many companies coming off the holiday season and the fact that many salespeople purged their pipeline in an effort to win the end of the year bonus and trip. But this is an unnecessary pitfall of all sales teams.
Outside of the causes I touched on, what causes a sales team to suffer in the first quarter, for that matter, at any point during the year?
There are three pivotal reasons for sales stagnation and lack of production and they can be corrected if you’re prepared to truly coach your reps out of these bad habits.
1. The Lack of Attention to Key Drivers. We all know what drives successful sales and what contributes to a strong sales pipeline: Prospecting, phone calls, appointments, proposals, etc. But in the busy-ness of a rep’s efforts to get things going, they fail to commit proper time to these critical elements. They get too busy because of a lot of appointments. Or they are crafting a lot of proposals which takes up important time. The bottom line is they aren’t blocking out time in their calendar to commit themselves to the daily basics that drives all of their sales success. If committing time to use the phone is important to setting up appointments (which it very certainly is!), then why isn’t it blocked out in their calendar? If writing proposals is important, then why not block out specific time in the day to commit to writing them. If you’re reps approach their week with a shotgun approach to their activity, their results will be just like the impact of a shotgun – a scattershot of success.
2. Inconsistent Levels of Activity. This point ties directly into the my previous point, but it’s worth mentioning. With everything a sales rep has to manage in the sales cycle, it can become overwhelming just trying to keep up. This week they commit to making a lot of calls and raise the level of their prospecting efforts. The next week they’re responding to the results of last week’s efforts. The third week they’re out of breathe and without much activity going on. Without a blocked out schedule committing the rep to consistently focus on all the elements that breed sales success, their activity will be inconsistent and poor. And their results will show for themselves.
3. To Much of a Focus on Me. When a sales reps gears up trying to accelerate their results, they often fall back on what they bring to the table. They focus on their speeds and feeds, their bells and whistles, what makes their company great, and, more importantly, why they’re the best. At the end of the day, the customer is left asking, “So what?” These items are all great, but when the message is focused on the client and, instead, is focused on the vendor, the client could care less. Your reps need to step back, take a deep breath, and begin to listen to the client. What are their challenges? What are their goals for the year? What potential issues stand behind their goals and the achievement of these goals? When clients feel you’re more interested in them and letting them talk about their company and their issues, they begin to trust that you have their best interest at heart. But the moment you shift to the conversation being all about you, they shut down. Focus on the client and what they want, not simply on what you as the sales rep want.
After this month, there’s still nine months left to go. Plenty of time to get the ship sailing in the right direction, but you must get your mindset right. You need to recognize that time blocking mixed with the right levels of consistent activity blended with a distinct and committed focus on what’s important to your clients will make all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between sitting on a beach somewhere next winter celebrating President’s Club and hunkering down at home enduring another cold winter.