Fifty-five days. That’s how long your team has until it’s 2019. When you account for holidays and weekends, that number drops to just 37. Factor in time for prospects’ holiday travel and time with family, and you’re looking at around just 30 days until 2018 is history. You’ve got some work to do—and fast.
For revenue teams, Q4 can easily devolve into a “Boiler Room”-style scenario, with reps being urged to bang the phones from dawn to dark. Your prospects, meanwhile, have other things on their minds, like hitting their own goals, budgeting for 2019, and dreading having to make nice with the in-laws over holiday dinners. Your team’s competing with some mighty big priorities there, so “call them again” isn’t a viable strategy.
With so little time left to finish the year strong, it’s time to put aside the standard playbook and leverage every asset at your disposal. Here’s how.
Bring in your execs
Your team isn’t the only one trying to sell to your prospects before the year ends. The number of B2B sales teams hitting their quota is falling every year, meaning it’s a safe bet that every other provider in your space is also frantically trying to get attention and get deals in contract, so you’ve got to find a way to cut through the noise. One of the best ways to do that is to leverage your own executive team during the sales process.
If you’re selling to CTOs, offer to bring your own CTO to meetings. The same goes for CMOs, VPs of engineering, and the like. Bringing your exec team to sales meetings goes a long way toward demonstrating commitment and the value your organization places on this potential commercial relationship. Plus, you’ll earn instant credibility by giving your prospect a peer with whom they can talk shop and provide specific insight into how they use your solution day to day.
Teeing these meetings up via simple emails with subjects like: “Do you have 30 minutes to meet with our VP of Marketing?” is going to be an instant open for your marketing exec prospects and will be way more effective than the standard “Just checking in” language your reps are probably using today.
Of course, you’ll need to brief your execs before each meeting, and you’ll have to do so effectively and efficiently. They’re just as busy closing out the year as you are, so reward their generosity by giving them quick summaries of each prospects’ key pain points, concerns, and priorities.
Create financial incentives
Pricing is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal. Use it wisely, transparently, and with flexibility, and you’re primed for success. Stick to a rigid, difficult-to-understand pricing model that doesn’t account for clients’ differing needs and you’re destined for failure. In fact, a survey by Bain & Company of more than 1,700 sales leaders, CEOs, CMOs, and other execs found that the top-performing companies were those that, among other things, tailored their pricing at both the customer and product levels.
If you don’t employ this approach all year round, Q4 is the time to start. Understanding your prospect’s needs and creating financial incentives that reward them for signing by EOY gives you a powerful edge over the competition. Let’s say, for example, you sell SaaS on a per-seat model. Your prospect wants to make the deal happen, but there’s a hitch: she’s not certain just how many people will need to be on the platform. It could just be her team of six, but another group may need to be involved. She’s not sure, and she’s having a hard time gaining clarity, meaning the deal’s stalled. If you can be flexible on the price, you can un-stall that deal with one simple question:
“What if I could give you the platform for the cost of six seats and no additional charge for up to four more if you sign by December 1?”
That’s almost certainly a done deal. But be careful not to be so cavalier with pricing that you a) lower the perceived value of your offering and b) have a negative impact on your team’s ability to hit quota and receive their appropriate commissions. This is a fine line to walk, but taking the time to find the sweet spot is well worth it, as doing so can deliver new business at a fair price by year’s end.
Look behind the scenes
Not all prospects will be as forthcoming about what’s happening in the background as the one above. Some may go radio silent for weeks, despite showing initial interest and proactively helping your deal move into a contract. When this happens, it means something’s changed within your prospect’s team or department—and you may not be privy to what it is.
Now’s the time to try to get a look behind the curtain. A former decision-maker within that department can help shed light on the likely source of the hold-up.
Perhaps your deal fell prey to a common problem with procurement or a naysayer in data security. Maybe you need to involve your primary contact’s boss in order to use their clout to get the deal out of the ditch. And don’t just ask about common obstacles, either. Give your insider a clear, thorough picture of the deal to date, including any concerns, pain points, and budgetary worries that were mentioned along the way. There’s never just one reason a contract can stall, so painting the full picture will help them diagnose your malady much more accurately.
Ideally, you’d have leveraged this insight from the outset—meaning you likely wouldn’t be staring down New Year’s Eve with the punchbowl full of stalled contracts—but it’s never too late to benefit from inside expertise.
If you’re not already well along the contracting process at this point, let’s be frank: an enterprise deal is unlikely to happen before the ball drops in Times Square. But these things do happen, so if you haven’t already, look for referral opportunities to penetrate your key accounts.
Just as an insider can give you key insight into an account’s challenges, politics, and pain points, a warm referral from a trusted friend or colleague can give you the opening you need to actually use that insight effectively. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review: “84 percent of B2B buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral, and peer recommendations are influencing more than 90 percent of all B2B buying decisions.”
Start by making a list of key decision-makers at your top accounts. Use LinkedIn and other social networks to look for current or former clients who are connected, and ask them for referrals. A study found that 83 percent of customers would gladly provide a referral following a positive experience, so don’t be hesitant about making the ask, either.
Light a fire
Sellers are competitive by nature, and there’s no time to tap into that competitive spirit like Q4. Consider holding Q4-specific competitions that incentivize your team to go above and beyond through cash bonuses and public recognition. You know your team better than anyone, so use that knowledge to avoid cheesy, patronizing contests and focus on competitions designed to motivate mature enterprise sellers.
Sales Hacker has some great ideas for contests and rewards here, like elimination brackets and creative SPIFFS. Our favorite comes from QuotaFactory’s Chris Snell:
One SPIFF that my team really resonated with was a really posh dinner with some members from the executive team (or as close to). The reps had to hit 125% of whatever the quota was for the month, and whomever hit it got to attend. The key is that you can’t go with them. You need to give them time to rub elbows with the executive team on their own. The reps on my team saw it as a chance to further their career by getting advice from the VIPs of the company, and the management team had a great time because they got to spend some time with our top performers.
Here’s the bottom line: if you’re not tracking toward your quota for Q4—or for 2018 as a whole—you don’t have much time left to right the ship. Business as usual clearly hasn’t been working, so it’s time to shake things up. With the right insight, some help from referrals, flexible pricing, help from your fellow execs, and a fired-up team, you may just pull of a fourth-quarter turnaround worthy of Tom Brady.