Sales cycles can vary considerably from company to company. For some companies, the sales cycle is three months, while for others, it may be more like six to nine months or more. If the numbers are not where they should be going into Q4, now is probably not the time to rely on new top-of-the-funnel strategies. To accelerate your sales before the end of the year, you need to consider a shift in focus, one that involves maximizing your conversion rates for deals already in the pipeline.
If you consider the length of your sales cycle, any top-of-the-funnel activity you begin now likely won’t yield results until next year. That doesn’t mean you should stop or slow down those efforts, but if you are looking for quick wins before the end of the year, it is critical that you put “all hands on deck” to close as many deals in the pipeline as possible. The pipeline conversion rate in Q4 should be higher than at any other time of year with increased focus, management participation, strategic account planning, customer visits and possible year-end incentives.
With the end of the year quickly approaching, now is the time to realign your focus and set yourself up for a successful year. Here are a few tips for moving deals in the pipeline along and closing the year out strong.
1. Unclog Stalled Prospects
As a salesperson, you probably receive a lot of polite, or sometimes not so polite, responses to your sales inquiries. Some of the responses may include, “I’m on vacation,” or “I’m not sold on the data,” or “I’m slammed and haven’t had a chance to review your offering.” A common mistake many salespeople make is to accept the prospect’s timing and let the conversation die.
Without being rude, it is perfectly normal, and in many cases necessary, to push back on some of those responses and find ways to start a more meaningful discussion with your prospects. With the end of the year in sight, it is important to regroup and find out which prospects are really still onboard and ready to buy.
One way to do this is to introduce a new player into the sales process. If the head of sales or someone from your management team reaches out, it gives you a new opportunity to connect with the prospect to confirm you are offering them the right solution and working on timing that is well understood by both sides.
Another technique is to find ways to continue the sales process by providing thought leadership pieces, additional information that they’ll find useful, or a discussion of some recent successes that might be relevant and re-energize the conversation. In these cases, you are not just educating the prospects and building trust, but you are also giving them a friendly reminder about the value that you and your company bring as part of the sale. Sometimes these ticklers will result in new conversations and increased validation that you understand their market and their pain points.
At times, you will discover that a pricing or value issue has caused a blackout in communications. In this case, you need to understand how you compare with the competition and how you have positioned your value to the customer. Reach back out to communicate your company’s value in comparison to other solutions. Share the ways in which your product provides the right solutions to their problems.
The important thing is to find an avenue to re-engage the prospect, really consider and appreciate their business problems, and look for the right way to prove your product or service is the most obvious solution.
Some people are very squeamish about upselling because they think that offering an additional product or service could upset the current deal. In reality, people are very used to it. Just go to a burger joint and listen to how often people are asked, “Do you want fries with that?” Do you ever see people walk out in a huff because all they wanted was a burger and the wait staff offered something extra? No, of course not. Your additional offering is no different if you are truly focused on adding value.
Think about it. If you are selling a laptop, you might want to offer helpful accessories like a mouse, speakers, or a second monitor. Why? Because your customers might find real value in those add-ons. As a salesperson, you should be exposing customers to the full portfolio of services that your company offers using true consultative selling skills.
In my experience, the best way to position your upsell is to put it in the perspective of similar clients. In general terms, what kind of services do your customer’s typically benefit from when paired? Use those customers and experience as evidence that the add-ons bring value.
To use our work at Mansfield Sales Partners as an example, when a startup is building its sales strategy with us from the ground up, in many cases it makes sense for them to use our Sales Acceleration and Lead Generation service to test and validate the strategy, messaging and enablement tools needed to connect with new prospects. In essence, one service will give them a growth strategy, and the other will rapidly fill their pipeline with quality leads based on that strategy.
The key is to pair the right services with the right client. Go back to that initial conversation where you talked about the client's needs and challenges, then check in with them to see if any pain points weren’t not covered by the first offering you presented. During your conversations, find an appropriate moment to share the value and the underlying business benefits an additional service may yield. If you genuinely want to help your client and have the right solution to offer, it won't feel like selling.
If you want to close the year out strong, your best bet is to focus on the deals that are already in the pipeline. Determine why some deals are stuck and increase the close rate of the deals you are already working. You should also look for possible cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Is there a chance to sell a broader range of services to the people who are already customers? Also, look for partners and channels to see if there is an opportunity to add services to a project already in the works.
Also, do not take your eye off the ball for new deals; otherwise, you will have another problem come Q1. Rather, you will find more success if you can bifurcate your efforts and spend time on both.