The year 2020 has been a year of unprecedented turmoil on so many fronts. Faced with uncertainty, businesses put the brakes on as deals stalled or vanished. Many companies have reorganized and/or instituted layoffs as priorities have shifted to maintaining revenue and/or just surviving. Others have faced incredible manufacturing and supply chain pressures.

The way people are now allowed to interact has fundamentally changed as well. Most direct sales reps have been sidelined from visiting their clients, and video calls have become the norm. For most, offices are now in unique spaces within homes, and the line between work and personal life is blurred.

The one constant that has not changed, is the need to still drive numbers.

During this pandemic, we have seen and heard a lot of concern about adjusting how to sell when selling must be done virtually. There are some things that are irrevocably changed by the need to conduct business virtually. Lead generation may look very different for those relying on large assemblies of people. Social interaction with clients and prospects is more limited and direct face-to-face time to discuss business needs and strategize is and will be very limited for an extended period of time. But the last few months have made something glaringly apparent: the basics of performance may be executed differently, but those things that drive excellence in performance have not changed.

As we move through the third quarter, it’s time to re-mobilize and push hard to drive to the year-end and be positioned for a fast start next year. Re-committing your teams and self to the basics of sales efficiency and effectiveness will help you realize your current milestones and better position for a fast start next year.

Step 1. Identify and prioritize your best opportunities…first.

Too many sales executives make the mistake of giving in to their sense of urgency as the year-end approaches, pushing their teams to try to close as many deals as possible. Always ineffective, this approach becomes even more unproductive as we consider the impact of selling in a virtual environment. Sellers, as well as their customers, are dealing with constraints on their time and competing priorities, many of them personal in nature. We need to respect our customers’ time and ask insightful questions that ensure our solutions align to their needs. Following a codified pursuit strategy and a more formal qualification process will yield a better outcome for all.

What should be considered in developing an approach to prioritizing opportunities? Whichever scorecard you use, it should focus on these universal qualifying categories:

 

 

Strategic opportunity quality scorecard

The strategic opportunity quality scorecard evaluates lead quality based on two categories: desirability and winnability. Some opportunities are highly desirable but completely unwinnable, yet sellers continue to chase them; other opportunities are winnable but not high on the desirability scale. Adopt an analytical approach to qualifying opportunities versus gut feel and you will see better results. We have provided a strategic opportunity quality scorecard to help you qualify opportunities in today’s virtual environment

 

 

Key Fact: Decision-making process

Putting the customer at the center of decision-making effects sales performance as well as salesperson turnover. Organizations who do this effectively not only have 18.1% higher quota attainment and 12.6% win rates, but 23.8% lower voluntary and 24.8% lower involuntary attrition rates. Source: 2020 sales performance study.

If you are truly committed to helping customers solve problems and capitalize on opportunities, then even if you do not win, you need to hope that the client has success moving forward.

Step 2. Know the business issues that key customers want to address.

Examine each deal not only from your own perspective, but from your customer’s point of view. Figure out how urgent their issue is to them. You can’t prioritize an existing opportunity if you don’t know the client’s concept—what they are trying to fix, accomplish or avoid.

Trying to move ahead without this knowledge is a common mistake, especially during the year-end push. Salespeople sometimes push too hard too early, trying to close the deal while the customer is still trying to figure out the problem. You must address that issue first. You need to understand what exactly they are trying to do and why. If you can’t quickly articulate the business issue they’re trying to address, you aren’t ready to close the deal.

If you are trying to close customers when they still don’t know exactly what their problem is, it creates a sense of dissonance. You might get the short-term gain of a quick sale, but possibly at the expense of future opportunities and that customer.

Step 3. Align your sales process with your client’s buying processes.

Trying to “rush” through a deal won’t benefit you or the customer. Don’t short-cut the sales process in attempts to expedite things. The sales process and the client’s buying process must stay in alignment. If you lose the deal today, it also falls out of the future funnel. The strategic opportunity quality scorecard will highlight progress against this alignment.

Process alignment

Having a dynamic sales process that relates to the customer’s journey results in 15.6% more sellers making quota, 16.3% higher win rates and 7.0% higher revenue attainment than those sales organizations who report a random approach. Source: 2020 sales performance study.

Step 4. Always be creating new opportunities.

It’s important to prospect for and develop new business throughout the second half as opposed to pushing through existing opportunities in hopes of hitting great year-end numbers. Pipeline health must always be understood and actioned, regardless of the time of year.

Sellers should consistently spend time working on new opportunities, relationships and develop programs to keep prospects growing.

Opportunity management

66% of organizations say their opportunity management needs improvement, and 60% say their account management process needs improvement. Source: 2018-2019 sales performance study.

Such initiatives aren’t necessarily formal, complex or time-consuming. Sellers should schedule time into their calendar for opportunity management and business development and sales leaders should have a good system in place for talking about those efforts. Don’t let the time of year distract from the basics that yield good performance.

Step 5. Remember your existing customers. 

Sales organizations should constantly assess the value they are providing to their best clients. As products and services are introduced and updated, existing customers should be analyzed for application. Suggesting additional solutions to solve client problems or help them achieve their goals is the path to becoming a trusted advisor rather than just a vendor.

One way to gain deeper knowledge about your best clients: collaborate with other departments that also deal with them. They can help you develop comprehensive profiles of those accounts that will, in turn, let you get a better handle on what those customers need—perhaps even before the customers know themselves.

 

In our virtual selling environment, much may seem different. Execution may have changed, but the things that drive excellence in performance have not. In fact, they are more critical than ever.

Utilize these five essential steps and you will improve the opportunity to reach your year-end goals and kick off a great 2021.

About the authors: Joseph F. DiMisa is Korn Ferry’s Global Sales Force Effectiveness & Rewards Advisory Leader. Cindy Campbell is a Senior Director for Korn Ferry Digital. For more information, please contact Joseph DiMisa at +1.770.403.8006, joe.dimisa@kornferry.com or Cindy Campbell at +1.404.583-5402, cindy.campbell2@kornferry.com.

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