The end of a quarter is a scary time for salespeople and sales teams struggling to hit their quota.
They may start it off with excitement at an ambitious goal (“We can do this!”). Then a new campaign or new product release is looked to that will push sales into the stratosphere. There might be a rallying cry to beat the odds and succeed. If that didn’t turn the tide, then it just gets scarier. It’s the, “Oh no, will I lose my job?” kind of scary.
Even some of the best salespeople will get caught at the end of quarter trying nearly anything to close a sale. Here are four bad practices to avoid and what to do instead.
Bad Practice #1: Lowering price to close the sale
Jim asks, “What does it need to look like for us to get this deal done today?” He’s all too familiar with that feeling – going in for the hard close. Pure confidence, calculating his odds of lowering the prices a few points to make it happen. The prospect gives him the final number, he “runs the numbers” and gives the old, “Don’t tell anyone I did this – my boss is going to kill me!”
And the deal is won – time to close that opportunity in Salesforce!
This is a low-grade sales tactic commonly leveraged at the eleventh hour to hit quota. It takes typically decent salespeople and turns them into hungry vampires. They start out wanting to help the prospect solve a problem, but as the last day of the month/quarter/year approaches, they start growing fangs and thirsting for the deal.
Unfortunately, this hurts the buyer and the seller (or at least the company paying that commission check to the seller).
Xant (formerly InsideSales.com) put out research in 2017 suggesting that last ditch price lowering and similar tactics meant to close last minute deals actually cost companies a lot in terms of profitability, perceived value, and more.
I can remember back when I sold alarms door to door that if you didn’t charge the “activation fee,” the likelihood of the customer using the alarm went down dramatically. Because they didn’t put any money down up front and simply committed to monthly payments, they saw less value in their investment and cared less about getting a return.
The same is true for even complex sales; if the price was X yesterday and it’s Y today, the product was never worth X.
What’s the solution?
A fatter pipeline, pure and simple. No fairy dust here – just more conversations leading to more deals opened, ultimately leading to more deals closed. When you are straining to get that one deal over the finish line, you can’t afford not to. That’s risky for you, your quota, and your company.
I’ll break down a few suggestions for how to earn those conversations leading to more deals in the next three sections.
Bad Practice #2: Scraping the bottom of the leads barrel for opportunity
The fundamental formula of sales is Target + Message + Channel + Timing. If a seller gets all of those right, magic happens. It’s when we start to get desperate that we commonly throw the Target component out the window and start to “shake the trees” to get any possible extra opportunities.
You’re familiar with the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, that teaches how inefficient most (sales) activity is. If, before scraping the bottom of the barrel, we are already wasting the majority of our effort, imagine how much worse it gets when we stop caring who we call.
The best practice is always the best practice, not just when we are having a good month/quarter/year. When we get desperate, it’s noticeable in the way we talk, in the message we send, and in the deals we structure.
What’s the solution?
You’re going to hate me for this, but it’s also more pipeline. Not more deals in the pipeline, but more quality, well-researched leads in the pipeline. (Yes, that’s still your pipeline, it’s just at an earlier stage.)
Despite all the specialization of sales roles, a lot of us are still identifying, contacting, and closing our own customers. If we’re smart, we build campaigns that allow us to do a lot of focused prospecting activity at once (batching our work) or even outsource the tedious, non-expert parts of our prospecting. No matter your path, prospecting campaigns that barely get you through the end of month or quarter put you at risk of the aforementioned desperation.
If you don’t know how many leads, here’s how you figure it out:
- Determine how many sales you need to hit your target based on average deal size (pro tip: decrease your estimated deal size by 20% to make sure you’re not cutting it close).
- E.g. 5 sales to hit a $250k target at $50k average deal size
- Work backward along every step of the sales journey. We will use simple math below (yours will differ):
- 5 sales = 15 sales opportunities @ 33% closing rate
- 15 opportunities = 20 meetings held @ 75% sales accepted rate
- 20 meetings held = 25 meetings set @ ~80% show rate
- 25 meetings = 100 conversations @ 25% success rate
- 100 conversations = 250 leads @ 40% list reach (assuming you work every lead to conversation or exhaustion – most don’t)
Don’t get caught with fewer leads than you need. They need to be well-researched and fit your ideal client profile, not just anyone who vaguely resemble your ICP.
Remember: the math of sales never lies and it doesn’t accept excuses. Lack of conversations means lack of pipeline. No matter what you tell your boss at the end of the month, the math is the math.
Bad Practice #3: Trolling for deals with lazy automation
Imagine you’re going fishing and you have two choices. (A) You stand on the shore, cast your lure into the water, reel it back in, and repeat that cycle until something bites (B) You sit in a nice comfortable boat, drag a net behind you, and stop occasionally to see what you’ve caught.
Only the most avid fishing fanatics would choose Option A! If the goal is to catch the most fish, we are all choosing Option B!
Unfortunately a lot of salespeople have used sales acceleration technology to do the same. They set up an email sequence, throw a thousand leads in it, and occasionally check their inboxes in the hopes of positive replies.
That’s lazy selling! Will your net catch something? Probably, but it will be fish, rocks, and whatever trash is sitting at the bottom of the water. Your loud boat will probably scare most of the fish off anyway!
Now, I say this as someone who has built a career in top of funnel sales and technology. I fully support automation to improve efficiencies. I just can’t abide lazy selling practices.
Here’s the difference:
- Lazy sellers only care about positive replies.
- Great sellers take time to answer questions, respond to objections, and do the extra leg work to turn a no into a maybe and a maybe into a yes.
- Lazy sellers pat themselves on the back for good open rates.
- Great sellers look for people opening multiple times and then give them a call, connect with them on LinkedIn, and/or follow up with a highly personalized email (or better yet, video email).
- Lazy sellers use the basic merge fields in their templates like First Name and Company Name and tell themselves they’ve personalized the copy.
- Great sellers know that personalization is way less valuable than relevance. They use precise targeting and problem-centric language to show how they can help a specific persona and then personalize the message to the individual when engagement justifies it.
No, great sales efforts aren’t as sexy as the pitch from your favorite automation tool promising that you’ll create pipeline at the touch of a button. But be honest – has it worked out that way for you so far?
Bad Practice #4: Scrambling to “do more activities”
Sales is largely a game of inputs. You can’t make one call to set four meetings. So the logic follows that more input leads to more output. Right?
Well, it depends.
Not all sales activity is created equal. In fact, a first cold call attempt to a net new prospect is significantly less valuable than a follow up attempt to a prospect with whom you’ve already spoken, regardless of the previous outcome (yes/no/not me/not now).
BUCKET 1 – UNCONTACTED
These are people you’ve never spoken with, including both cold outbound leads and new inbound leads who have yet to be researched.
BUCKET 2 – WORKING
These leads were researched in Bucket 1 and already have at least one outbound call attempt with a verified dial. A verified dial is when you can confirm that the number associated with that person actually reaches them.
BUCKET 3 – PRIORITY
These are the prospects who meet any of the following criteria:
- You spoke with them but couldn’t schedule a meeting.
- They engaged heavily with your email outreach in Bucket 2, but never replied.
- They’re an inbound lead and are in your swimlane.
- They were once in your deal pipeline but failed to close over the last 6-9 months.
BUCKET 4 – SCHEDULED
This bucket consists of all upcoming appointments you have scheduled. These prospects are where the money comes from, so you have to watch this bucket like a hawk to ensure that they show up for the meeting.
In order to optimize your effectiveness, you work the bucket system in reverse.
Here’s a typical workflow:
- Bucket 4: Call to confirm any appointments due in the next 2–3 hours not yet confirmed via email.
- Bucket 4: Confirm any appointments due in the next 24 hours via email.
- Bucket 4: Confirm any appointments set more than 1 week out that are due this week.
- Bucket 3: Contact anyone you’ve already spoken with who’s asked to be contacted today.
- Bucket 3: Call through the remaining leads in this bucket.
- Bucket 2: Call through the entire list in this bucket.
- Bucket 1: Call through any leads you’ve already researched.
- Bucket 1: Research all brand-new leads to ensure they’re in your swimlane.
If the only prospecting you do today is confirming tomorrow’s appointments, you’re much better off than if you had started by sending cold emails to brand-new leads in Bucket 1 and let those same meetings go unconfirmed.
Don’t fall for these common traps at the end of your month/quarter/year. The best salespeople are not those who hit a big number one time but those who consistently commit to the process and make incremental improvements. I’ll take a daily base hitter over a rare home run hitter every time.
If you’d like additional help hitting your sales quota, contact us today to see how we can fill your team’s calendar with meetings.