As we move past the 4th of July, into the “summer era” of kids being out of school, family vacations, and long summer nights, several salespeople people will start to “check-out” a little more as they enjoy summer.
It is also a time of potential challenge for sales leaders. As our people recharge and rejuvenate, we run the risk of having revenue take a vacation too. We may lose some of our first-half gains or fall behind altogether. Here are signs that this may be happening:
While this is important, you will start to see a dip in activities such as prospecting meetings, new opportunities, and orders. According to Grasshopper, the virtual phone system for entrepreneurs, 25% of office workers feel unproductive during the summer.
Salespeople are confident, and you want them to be that way. However, selling time is getting shorter, depending on your sales cycle. There are precious few selling days left to identify new opportunities, and still, find time to close them before the end of the year. Many sales cycles are three to six months or longer. That means at this time, new opportunities are likely to be next year’s business.
You may have open territories, new hires that are not ramping up as fast as you had hoped, or underperformers that you haven’t addressed. As you reflect on your team, ask yourself: is it going to get you where you need to go, and is it improving in a way that positions you for success in 2020?
Top performers tend to drive more than 50% of the revenue for many sales organizations. According to Marc Wayshak, “Fifty-one percent of top performers report being seen as “an expert in their field.” They are also asking for time and resources - always seem to be generating “what’s happening” in the company. If they seem a little quiet, be cautious not to set it aside as summer rest. Many sales teams are looking for talent, and this is the time of the year recruiters are actively seeking new talent. Regular communication can help demonstrate appreciation to keep them close.
So, what’s a successful leader to do to ensure that vacation is taken by their staff, not by their revenue? Below are five things you can do right now to keep things moving and position yourself to achieve your goals.
Take time, a few hours or half a day, to think about what has worked well and what has not. As you drive your people, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and not recognize the progress you’ve made, as well as make any necessary adjustments. Over the years, we’ve written, collaborated, and reviewed hundreds of sales plans. Every one of them seems plausible, and the spreadsheet always adds up. With that said, there’s never been one that didn’t require adjustments. Things seldom go as planned. Products come out late, people quit, markets shift, and competitors do unexpected things. Now is the time to test your assumptions, recast your plan, make your best guesses, and implement changes immediately. If you need more help, check out our blog, “Strategic Planning – Many Companies Do It Wrong.”
As true prospecting days diminish, it’s critical to know what’s in your pipeline. At the same time, sales teams can tend to get a little lazy updating the CRM and thinking about what their pipeline is likely to produce.
The most successful teams spend time carefully reviewing the pipeline to understand if there are enough opportunities identified to make the numbers. According to SuperOffice, “Sixty-three percent of respondents say that their companies do a bad job of managing their sales pipelines.”
If there are not enough opportunities, which is very common at this point in the year, then Q3 should be an all-out prospecting effort, so there is still time to guide prospects through the buying/selling cycles before the end of the year.
A tip for managers: Conduct these reviews without judgment. Salespeople are very aware of where they stand, and criticism can lead to exaggerating the pipeline or the progress of specific opportunities. The goal is to gain a brutally honest and clear picture. Then you can make the necessary changes to activities to ensure people are focusing on the right things.
If you have open territories, fill them. Every day you go without someone calling on your customers and prospects, your competition is gaining ground. Make it a priority to get people in place. While you may get a little lift yet this year, you’ll be even more surely positioned for the increases next year will bring.
When you have new team members who are not making progress promised at hiring, develop a specific set of expectations and timing for what they need to learn, do, and deliver between now and the end of the year. These milestones will serve as a gauge for them and you to determine if they’re going to be successful.
If you have underperformers, address them directly. There are usually reasons for poor performance, and they rarely go away on their own. Investigate what is getting in the way and remove the barrier. If they’re not going to be effective, make the change now. A new player still has time to make an impact this year — any waiting will affect next year.
Whether it’s a product, sales process, or methodology, now is the time to brush up on relevant skills. When salespeople are in their stride, they sometimes feel they’re doing what’s necessary, but in reality, are losing track of the subtleties that separate them from their competitors. Mid-year training can be helpful to sharpen the ax and enter the second half of the year with new confidence.
The sales management system is the drumbeat you create as a leader. What are the weekly expectations (sales meetings, one-on-ones, activity reports, CRM entries, etc.)? How do you collect and report on those expectations? What meetings do you have, and what do you talk about and reinforce?
When you have a sales management system in place, be sure to keep it going. If you’ve loosened up the cadence, re-establish the rigor. It will genuinely keep people on track. Also, pay extra attention to your superstars. Let them know their impact on the company and how much you value them. Provide them an opportunity to be involved in a strategic discussion or have access to executives. These people want to be involved, and we don’t want that to be with a recruiter.
The second half of the year brings great opportunity to make adjustments, although time is precious. Some of these ideas will help ensure that your salespeople are taking off time this summer — not your sales. If you have any mid-year ideas that have worked for you, let us know.