2011 Sales Leaders Checklist Revisited

At the end of Q1 we strongly urged B2B sales leaders to assess their year-to-date performance against quarterly and annual sales goals. Hopefully you were able to evaluate your situation and begin a mid-course correction if you were falling short of your revenue plan.

Sales Leaders, Where Do You Stand at the Halfway Point in the Year?

Scenario A – On Track

Ahead of plan on year-to-date closed business and a full, healthy pipeline to make the full year goal.

Scenario B – Good Start

Made plan in Q2 and doing OK year to date, but pipeline not quite as strong for the rest of the year.

Scenario C – Gut Check Time

REALLY missed the Q1 and Q2 plan, a weak pipeline for the rest of the year.

For companies with long selling cycles the end of June can be the defining moment between a successful year and a disappointing one, where do you fall?  For those of you in Scenario A, congratulations to you making your number so far and having a healthy pipeline for the finish.  If you are in Scenario B or C what steps should you take to finish the year as strongly as possible while also positioning your sales team for a strong beginning to 2012?

2011 – Second Half Sales Plan

First it's crucial that you keep a close eye on your pipeline, look at your opportunity aging report weekly and focus heavily on those opportunities that appear to be aging. Deals that age much past the average sales cycle length for your wins are usually dead opportunities.  Question your reps closely when these forecasted wins begin to slip.  Below are key activities to consider when evaluating the health of your sales pipeline.

Seven-Point Sales Pipeline Checkup

  1. Total values by each probability/sales stage (is the curve healthy?)
  2. Velocity of opportunities through the sales cycle – compare total length of time for wins vs. losses.  Rule of thumb: Losses take twice as long to reach decision stage as wins.
  3. Benchmark current closing rates to previous periods and expected averages. (Even slight changes from targeted win rates can significantly impact the year)
  4. Calculate average deal values for both annual billable revenue and total contract value. (Are you tracking to the goal for average deal size?)
  5. Measure the percentage of pipeline from existing vs. target accounts. (How successful are sales efforts on new logos?)
  6. Subtotal pipeline values by region, division, service / product line, team leader and account executive. (Helps isolate the strong vs. weak performers)
  7. Graph pipeline values based on projected close dates.  (Are your wins projected to occur evenly throughout the year or are you hoping for that famous 'hockey stick fourth quarter?)

Reloading the Sales Funnel – Marketing Automation Can Help!

It's also critical to keep a health new opportunity flow coming into your pipeline. One common mistake we see sales leaders make is to spend all their available time trying to close late stage deals.  They can be successful in making the current year plan only to be faced with an empty pipeline at the end of the year.

Keeping new opportunities flowing is especially difficult if the sales team is responsible for prospect identification and qualification.  If that describes your situation now is the time to begin dialog with your marketing team on how you can work together in designing a new Lead Management process that can create enough sales ready leads to keep your pipeline full.  It takes time to design and implement new lead generation programs so don't wait until year-end.

Scenario C – Taking Steps to Recover / Prepare for 2012

If Scenario C best describes your current situation you need to be honest with yourself about the factors that have contributed to the current situation.  It's likely that one or more issues are affecting your ability to identify and close business. Until those causes are identified you will likely continue current behaviors and outcomes. The first step is a complete review of every significant opportunity in the pipeline – removing any suspect deals.  With this complete you know have a better picture of your true sales gap.

The next step is painful but it's critical that you inform the executive leadership of the situation. Continuing to believe that low probability deals may somehow close can put the financial health of your company at risk. It also shows that you are taking the responsibility to improve your future performance by diagnosing and correcting the issues that are keeping you from being successful.  As in Scenario B, meet with your marketing team to begin discussing how both organizations can work to build a better lead creation process.  Establishing this process now is the best way to ensure you start 2012 with a quality pipeline of qualified prospects.

Now is also the time to completely assess the skills and motivation level of your sales teams.  Bottom producers can rarely be salvaged and many mangers spend excessive time trying to improve their performance, replacing the bottom 10% is usually a good best practice.  Read Getting More Rain From Your Rain Makers for a B2B Sales Leaders strategy.

Looking for more help on creating a winning B2B sales plan for the second half of 2011?  Contact us to for a complimentary one hour 3FORWARD Sales Readiness Review.

It's not too late to take the actions that can improve your 2011 performance and position you for strong entry into 2012, let's talk!

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