Monthly Archives: December 2015

Plan for 2016 with the End in Mind

Are you ready for 2016? image courtesy of noppasinw on freedigitalphotos.net

Are you ready for 2016? image courtesy of noppasinw on freedigitalphotos.net

Find out more about the training solutions AchieveGlobal Middle East offer and how we could help your organization with your business development issues at our website.

When you’re in the final weeks of the year, it’s normal to be immersed into implementing the strategy that’s going to put you at (or over) the top of your sales objectives by the end of 2015. But you also want to be looking at—and planning for—2016. It’s not too early to start planning your sales objectives for next year. Here are a few ways you can focus on the future and all its possibilities while still balancing this year’s pressing priorities:

1. Take stock of the health of your sales funnel. Do you really know what your sales funnel is telling you? Assess your funnel to discover areas of improvement that you can address now so that you enter 2016 in good shape. Savvy salespeople make it a priority to reexamine their sales funnel to reposition opportunities and realign activities based on changes at customers’ companies. This realignment is critical as deals can only close on the customer’s timeline for the new year—which may have changed with the calendar.

For accurate funnel positioning, ask yourself this question: Are my actions and expectations still appropriate to where my prospects are in their decision-making and buying process? Look at your funnel, then place an opportunity in the following funnel categories:

  • Universe – if there is a broad match between your product or service and potential customers
  • Above the funnel – if you have data indicating a general fit and information indicating the potential of an immediate need
  • In the funnel – if you have verified a potential match and a potential trigger event spurring a change, i.e., time to dig deeper
  • Best few – if there are only a few tasks left to close the deal

2. Establish a deal review process that looks at past, present, and future. A forward-looking deal review process will help you plan for meeting your end-of-year forecasts—and should also get you thinking about next fiscal year:

  • Look back and reflect on performance versus goals
  • Look at current activity levels from two perspectives:
    • Explore whether the amount of selling activity is sufficient to support your sales targets; and
    • Discover to what extent the activities are balanced across the different types of selling work being done (prospecting, qualifying, covering the bases, and closing).
    • Look at the sales funnel in terms of what’s coming down the pike

Set very specific professional goals for the year. Be specific about how much you hope to deliver; what companies you hope to work with; how much money you plan on making; what areas you hope to improve upon; and what advances you hope to make in your career.

Don’t let tunnel vision trip you up. Keeping one eye on the now with the other on the next (year) is a balancing act that the successful sales professional must master. If you let your planning slip well into the first part of 2016, you’ll find yourself at midyear with no idea of how you’ll make your numbers.

Effective Prospecting: Quality Over Quantity

Quality of prospects is far more important than the quantity of them

Quality of prospects is far more important than the quantity of them; image courtesy of Stuart Miles on freedigitalphotos.net

Find out more about the training solutions AchieveGlobal Middle East offer and how we could help your organization with your business development issues at our website.

Think about how many times since you began selling you heard someone say, “I wish I’d never closed that order.” And then consider how many times you’ve said it yourself.  Why does this happen? Because the sales professional allowed himself to believe that it’s quantity, not quality, that counts, and so ended up selling to a customer with a nonexistent match to their product or service. Learn how creating an “Ideal Customer Profile” will help you separate your best prospects from the ones who will prove to be liabilities.

The Ideal Customer Profile’s aim is really twofold: to anticipate problems in your current customer base, and as a sorting device that will help you cut down on those prospects you probably shouldn’t be working with in the first place—leaving you with a shorter but real prospects’ list. Your own personal Ideal Customer Profile will be based on your current and past accounts; you can then use that profile to test the real prospects of a winning sale with all of your current sales objectives.

    1. Create your Ideal Customer Profile. Make five columns with the following subheadings:
      1. Best Customers
      2. Characteristics of Best
      3. Ideal Customer Profile
      4. Characteristics of Worst
      5. Worst Customers
  1. Identify your best customers. List your best current and past customers, not prospects—be sure to limit yourself to accounts where you’ve already done business. Concentrate on those accounts that have given you the maximum number of wins and minimal trouble.
  2. Identify your worst customers. List your worst past and current customers. Concentrate on those accounts where either you or the customer—or both of you—have lost even though you’ve closed the order.
  3. List best customer characteristics. List those characteristics that are common or unique to the “best customers” you’ve just identified.
  4. List worst customer characteristics. List those characteristics that are common or unique to the “worst customers” you’ve just identified.
  5. Create your Ideal Customer Profile. Study the lists you’ve just made of “best customer” and “worst customer” characteristics and distill out of those items a new list of characteristics you consider the most significant to put in your Ideal Customer Profile column. (Note: When assessing “worst” characteristics list, your takeaway will be the opposite of the significant items listed there, i.e., if a common characteristic of your “worst customers” is that they’re “unable to make decisions,” write in the ICP column something like, “Has a process for making buying decisions quickly.”) Then zero in on the five most significant characteristics. These five characteristics will form your Ideal Customer Profile.
  6. Test your current accounts. Measure a current account you’re working on against each of your five ICP characteristics, asking yourself for each one, “How well does this particular customer match with this ideal characteristic”?

You now have a useful screening tool for both sorting your prospects and anticipating problems. Once you know how close (or not) a given account is to your Ideal Customer Profile, you’ll be in a better position to make a decision about how to improve your strategy for that account.