Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Marching Orders.

So, the third month of the first quarter is already underway.  Just nineteen selling days left in Q1.

How are you doing?

How are you doing against your quota?   How healthy is your funnel for the rest of the year?  Tired of winter?   Tired of digging out from all that snow?  Wish you could go on vacation and just get away from it all?  Or have you just got back from vacation and just can't get back into all this cold, grey weather again?

I've got news for you.   The clock is still ticking.

For those of you involved in enterprise software sales, where the average sales cycle can be as long as eighteen months, you've already talked with the prospects that will be buying from you before the end of 2014.  So, if you have any hopes of making it to President's Club this year, you've probably got some work to do.

Here are some helpful hints, or marching orders, to help you get back on track if your sales so far this year, are not on pace to get to your quota.

First, review your sales funnel.   Cut out the dead wood now.   The placeholders, the hail Marys, and the perpetual tire-kickers, should all be pruned from your tree of opportunity.   This allows you to focus more time on just those opportunities that have a real chance of bearing fruit within your shortened growing season.

Still falling short?

Chances are your sales manager will tell you to make more calls!   Set up more appointments!   Always be closing!!!    Yeah right.   This is where reality kicks in.   Remember your average sales cycle.  If it usually takes more than 12 months, and now that we are in March, just more than 10 months, to take a prospect from the point of first contact to contract; you are not going to close that prospect before the end of the year.  Sure, you have to prospect and follow up on new leads, but it's a loser's bet if you spend all your time there.  

To beat the house, and get to quota before the end of the year, when you've started Q1 badly and your funnel is weak, you've got to go back to your base and re-engage your current customers.   Customers who have already invested serious money in your firm's technology, represent low hanging fruit.  Whether you are selling them upgrades, additional seats, or new products entirely, the sales cycle will often be shorter.  Because they have already had a good experience with your firm, pilot projects may not be needed, and full deployment sales can be negotiated right away.

While the marketing department is where to go if you want to generate new leads for next year's funnel, you will need to go to the accounting, finance, or product management department to secure the information you'll need to blaze an old trail this year.    Tell them that you simply want to pull a list of the top customers in your territory for the last 5 years.

Why five years?

To execute a proper back fill funnel strategy, you will need at least three years of historic customer sales data, but preferably five, to give you a high enough volume of potential business, to turn the odds of success in your favor.   The rule of thumb for desired funnel going forward in the software business is generally a three to one ratio.  Which means for every dollar of quota you need to sell in a given period, you will need approximately three dollars in opportunities to cover it.     If back filling from a customer base, you will need at least five dollars worth of historic business to generate one dollar of business in the current calendar year.   When you get your list, simply rank them in order of sales revenue, start at the top and work your way down.   If you run into dissatisfied customers, that's great!   More often than not, they represent a great opportunity for a services sale and an upgrade sale if they want to try and recover any value from their original technology investment.

When calling into historic accounts keep three areas of potential additional business in mind.  One, acquisition business.  Has your customer acquired additional employees through an acquisition, that may require licenses of your firm's software?  Second, transition business.  Would your customer be interested in transitioning from on premise to cloud for example?   Would they like to see any of their desktop applications made available on mobile devices?   Third, scale.  Has your customer outgrown older software or hardware that can no longer handle the increased volume of data the business now generates?

Targeted seminars to showcase new versions or new products to existing customers are ideal.   In this environment if you can get just a few in the room enthused about upgrading to the latest features or new technology, their word of mouth during breaks or intermissions can work wonders on others in the crowd.   Always remember to use leverage to work for you instead of against you.

Last, don't get stuck in the doldrums of winter.  It's time to spring into action.

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