Need to fix a weak Q1?

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If you are coming into this year with a weaker than expected Q1, it could have happened for a variety of reasons.

Here are a few:

1. You may have proposals stuck in the pipeline due to decision makers who are holding off making decisions.

2. You may have spent too much time on closing deals at the expense of adding new opportunities into the pipeline.

3. You may have spent time pursuing new opportunities, but it was either not enough time or you may not have focused on the right prospects.

You may know exactly what led you to be in this situation and you may even vow not to let it happen again next year, but the question is what to do about it now. One mistake many make, which I recommend avoiding, is chasing whatever sales can be found, which often produces undesirable, smaller, lower profit deals and often comes at the expense of the health of the next quarter (and so on and so on, you get the idea).

Many years ago, we worked with a software system client introducing them to Executive Level Prospects. Theirs was a long sales cycle (they told us 12- 18 months from first conversation to closed sale) due to the number of decision makers from different departments which needed to approve the decision, the necessary unwinding of the incumbent’s system and the implementation and training of their system. It was a large, complex sale. After we made many introductions for our client, we noticed their sellers weren’t following up in a timely or effective manner (which we all know builds trust and moves relationships forward). When we brought this to management’s attention, we were stunned to learn that due to a weaker than expected quarter, sellers were told to only focus on prospects who could close within that quarter. Let’s think about the timing of this for a second. If the sales cycle is 12-18 months and sellers can only work on sales which will close within 3 months, sellers have no choice but to IGNORE prospects in the top of the funnel, as well as nurture those in the middle of the funnel. While this MIGHT solve the short-term problem of a weak quarter, it won’t break the cycle and it could jeopardize many quarters to come.

Let’s take a lesson from the original Top Gun movie. In one memorable scene, Maverick was hyper-focused on chasing Viper to achieve what he thought was an easy shot. In doing so, he didn’t see the Lieutenant Commander, Jester, behind him. The strategy he thought would lead him to success, actually prevented him from being successful. He wasn’t looking at the big picture.

If your Q1 is weaker than you expected it would be, what can you do to break the cycle and still be successful?

Short term solve: Here’s a radical idea. Forget about Q1! Yes, you read that right. Depending on how long your sales cycle takes, focusing on Q1 during Q1 may be too late. Instead, consider combining Q1 and Q2 so you focus on a healthy, successful first half instead. Same numbers, different timing.

A longer runway may be exactly what you need to break the cycle and focus on the right kinds of deals and clients. It also gives you permission to avoid hyper-focusing on short term closes which may not be right for your business. Have you ever seen my list of Sales Effectiveness Metrics™? One important measure most don’t monitor is % of deals & new clients which are the right deals & new clients. The more you focus on the short term, the lower the percent (which is the inverse of what you want for healthy, profitable growth).

Long term solve: critical is implementing a permanent way to always, always, always, protect the top of the sales funnel. You will never be a prisoner to deals which take too long to close if you always have new opportunities coming in. Do it. And, do it well. That is the key to breaking the cycle of the unnecessary peaks and valleys in revenue creation.

If someone on your team is great at opening doors, consider having that person focus on this aspect of sales, feeding the rest of the team with a continual flow of the right opportunities and the right decision makers to meet. If that talent doesn’t exist on your team or those on your team would rather put a stick in their eye than do this part of sales, get some expert outside help. Or, if your team’s time is better spent closing sales than opening doors, get some expert outside help opening more doors.

The issue of a weaker than expected quarter is not going to solve itself. Hoping that sales will magically close and leads will magically appear is not going to fix it either. Hope is not a strategy. Consider a radical solution to break the cycle and create ongoing revenue growth you can count on quarter after quarter. This is the kind of growth you deserve.

Happy Hunting!


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