I have a question for you: how long is your sales cycle?
If you’re like most companies with a complex product or service, your sales cycle is long (sometimes 12 to 18 months). To keep your pipeline full and hit year-end sales goals, planning has to start far in advance, even as far back as the year prior.
Instead of riding out the holidays, take some time to set yourself up for a strong year ahead. Opportunities developed in Q4 will be waiting for you when you get back to the office post-New Year's Day. There’s no better motivator than qualified prospects to shake off the holiday slump and start the year on the right foot.
How to Make the Most of Q4
It may go against conventional thinking, and the laid-back holiday spirit, but Q4 is an excellent time to expand the scope of your market.
We know because we’ve seen it within our own sales efforts.
October consistently has higher conversion metrics than other months. By October, teams at your target companies have already gone through planning sessions or have just finished up budgeting. Companies know how much they have to spend in the new year and are making decisions about where those dollars will go. If you’re getting in front of decision makers in Q4, you’re positioning yourself to be their top pick. It can take as many as 12 touchpoints to truly get a buyer’s attention, so the sooner you start talking to them, the better.
How do you get in front of those decision makers that are already thinking about next year? Your Q4 sales plan should focus on audience development.
Take a look at the scope of your market. Who are the key stakeholders? Are you reaching them all? Answering these questions pinpoints areas where you can expand.
Look at historical data to help unearth promising trends. Where were you getting the most traction in quarters prior? If a particular industry or segment was showing keen interest in your product, focus sales efforts on finding new decision makers within those spaces.
How does that look in practice? Take the profile of an ideal prospect and see who else matches those same criteria but, 1) isn’t already part of your customer base or, 2) you haven’t been actively marketing to.
If you’re looking for an example, check out this case study on how the MarketLauncher team ramped up sales for a SaaS manufacturing and distribution company.
Q4 is also an important time to reflect. What were your goals for the year? Did you accomplish everything you wanted to? Going into 2019, continue strategies that worked well, but also identify areas for improvement. You can step back from sales strategies that aren’t bringing in returns and spend more effort building new initiatives, or revisiting old ones that worked.
With the end of the year in sight, Q4 is also the time to think about how you can wisely spend any remaining budget. One strategy we recommend is a 90-day sprint campaign. It’s a smart tactic for audience development, and works well within the holiday-shortened time frame.
An Example of a Q4 Sales Plan
At MarketLauncher, we have a 12 month sales cycle. Our Q4 sales strategy is to work backward to figure out how many proposals we need to get to meet our year-end sales goals. (Yes, our 2019 end of year sales goals.)
Thinking backward to strategically plan your pipeline could go something like this:
- To meet your revenue goal of $1 million
- Based on a 12 month sales cycle
- You need to secure
- X number of proposals by August, and
- X number of booked meetings by May
A lot of people don’t think through their sales cycle in this way, but when you have a long one, it’s a helpful mindset. If you’re scrambling to meet your goals at the end of the year, it’s already far too late.
Planning ahead gives you a stake to plant in the sand so you can keep tabs on your progress throughout the year.
Closing advice, keep in mind the mantra: Audience development never sleeps. It’s easy to get caught in the rush of closing opportunities and forget to constantly fill the top and middle of your pipeline. You’ll feel that going into the new year as the number of fresh prospects dry up.
Now we have a proposal for you. Why not make a New Year’s resolution a little early (okay, a lot, but we’re all about planning ahead) and decide to use Q4 as your opportunity to make 2019 your best sales year yet? Let’s talk.