For 20 years, I had a monthly sales quota. Even when I was leading a $400 million global accounts organization. Rather than start the year 20 times, I actually started the “year” 240 times. Each and every month, I learned there are some critical actions every sales leader should be taking as we head towards the end of the first quarter.
Start with the numbers. Here’s an example:
If you have a 6+ month sales cycle, you have just 18 weeks (or 90 business days) to fill your pipeline for 2022!
Here are five critical actions you need to take:
1. Scrub the Pipeline
Statistically, sales organizations lose about 25% productivity by focusing on deals they will never win. Undoubtedly, there will be opportunities in your target pipeline right now that will never close for a variety of reasons. Get rid of them now so you and your team can focus on the deals you can actually compete for and win. More importantly, with inflated, poor quality pipelines, you have no idea what the real targets should be… which is action number two.
2. Identify your Pipeline Target and Demand Creation Gap
Once you have a realistic view of your target pipeline, work with your team to do the math, both individually and at an organizational level. In your pipeline targets and demand creation gap, identify the new opportunities and revenue that needs to be created and qualified (after accounting) for opportunities already identified and expected to close. From my experience, many sellers and sales leaders do not have a clear view on their required numbers, especially after the impact of the pandemic.
Here is an example for a strategic account manager:
- Sales Plan: $2,000,000
- Average Deal Size: $250,000
- Average Sales Cycle: 6 months
- Average Win Rate: 40%
- Sales Required to Hit Plan: 8
- Pipeline Requirement by July 1: $5,000,000 / 20 opportunities
The averages will likely be different for each individual. Improving those averages will lower the pipeline requirements for 2022 sales success – for example, increasing average deal size or average win rate.
3. Set Your Activity Plan
There is a universal truth that applies to every sales organization: Activity drives results! The selling activities your team engages in now, before July 1, will determine whether or not you are successful this year. Of course, it must be the right activity, and the most important activity now is creating demand with new functional leaders.
Here is a sample activity plan for a strategic account manager:
- Five Clients
- Typical decision-makers in each client where you can deliver value or create Partner Allies: IT, Finance, Marketing, Sales, Operations, Engineering, Regulatory, Strategy, HR
- That provides 45 potential sales targets across five accounts
- Activity Goal: One meeting with a new decision-maker each week
While that might sound ambitious, it will create momentum and pace. In doing so, coach your team to tailor their value propositions to different organizations and people, which is guaranteed to create a slew of new opportunities to fill the pipeline…whether they reach the one meeting per week target or not!
A word about Human Resources – Every company on the planet’s success is tied to their people. As we enter year three of the pandemic, their ability to execute and perform is the greatest risk. Find a way to connect your value to supporting the people in your client accounts and take it to the Chief Human Resources Officer.
4. Place Your Bets and Qualify Them Well
As you enter the second quarter, you are going to have to make decisions on the new opportunities and sales pursuits you personally will focus on to ensure 2022 success. We call them the “most wanted” opportunities and the “must win” sales pursuits. This is where you should invest the majority of your coaching time, resources, and deal budgets as you progress through the remainder of the year. It is important you qualify these more vigorously than normal and be prepared to re-qualify them throughout the year… and even replace them, especially if you see a lack of momentum.
5. Inspect and Coach
There is a second universal truth that applies to leadership: “People perfect what you inspect.” Once you have established your pipeline targets, activity plans, most wanted opportunities, and must win pursuits, inspect individual and team progress regularly. Weekly is preferable, especially in the critical first half of the year. Inspection alone though is not enough. You must also coach your team to develop their Value Visions, create and leverage their Partner Allies, and execute their Win Plans.
Just as the first half of the sales cycle is the most critical (see my article: Strategic Sales Are Won in the First Half), what you and your team focus on and execute in the first six months of 2022 will help determine your success this year (and how much fun you have in the second half).
Wishing you and your team great success and the very best in 2022!
Work with each seller to scrub their pipeline, then determine their pipeline target and demand creation gap. Set an activity plan to fill the pipeline over the next 90 business days. Review individual and team progress weekly.