October is here. And for many companies whose fiscal year follows the calendar year it means its… QUARTER FOUR. The ultimate quarter. The last chance to make goals. The final push.

Many sports have four quarters – American football, basketball, field hockey, netball, etc. In these sports right before the fourth quarter, or often at the half for many other sports, the coach often gives a motivational speech. Some sales orgs rally the troops with some alcohol, maybe some slides and some graphs showing the gap, before the final push. However, once a quarter coaching isn’t going to get things over the line.

People often say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.

Zig Zigler

With limited time, its key for sales management to laser focus your regular coaching on a few key deals. If there’s no chance it will close in the quarter, move it OUT of this quarter’s pipeline. This is more important than ever.

What to Look At

Sales ops, through analysis and predictive analytics can identify key deals for closer inspection. Below is a list of those deals that should be heavily questioned, especially in the last quarter:

Anything with a close date of the last day of the quarter (or month)

  • This is a guess. No solid close plan would plan on closing in the last day. Question the closing plan. Is this a closing plan the customer has committed to? I worked with a sales manager who used to have excellent relationship with his prospects. He would send over a sample closing timeline with a couple obviously unrealistic timelines. It often pushed customers to action and point out and modify it. That second his prospect modified his draft, they took ownership of it, and could be held accountable to it.

Any deal that has slipped multiple months or quarter ends

  • There’s a good chance it will slip again and may not be a real deal at all. This is a great stat to track and can be a great way to clean your pipeline. One job there was a deal I spotted that had been moved forward consistently 5 quarter in a row. This is a somewhat noddy analysis to do (as it involves snapshots) but well worth it!

Any stalled deals

  • You can spot these three ways. First, deals that have been in the pipeline for a long time – the ‘Age’ field in SFDC. At one job with a 30-60 day sales cycle I spotted deals that had been there 500 or 600 days – eek! Second, deals that have been sitting at a particular stage far beyond the average – the ‘Stage Duration’ field in SFDC. These deals have lost velocity and will likely not make it up. Third, you can also look for next steps in the past. Having a ‘Next Steps’ and ‘Next Steps Last Updated’ (time stamp) in your CRM are great ways to identify these.

Anything with a stage early in the sales cycle

  • These deals simply don’t have enough runway. Use your sales cycle averages to spot these and work backwards on the time scale. Note that upsells deals often have a different sales cycle so consider that in your analysis.

New customers

  • New customer deals often take longer as there are new contracts, new paperwork. More so, many buyers may not often purchase what you are selling. This means the buying process is new to them. Educate them on what they need internally to get you the order in time. I always throw a bit of caution to these deals as delays always crop up.

Low value, non-strategic deals

  • Time is limited. Focus your team on the must win, large deals. Ensure management at all levels (especially exec management) are focused on the large deals and the strategic must win deals. These should always be at the top of the list in reviews.

Sales operations should be providing a regular list of at risk deals (ideally through live a dashboard where possible) and sales management should be providing their sales team with even more frequent coaching. As Tyronn Lue, a basketball coach who was one of the few rookie coaches to lead his team to a title said, get everyone involved in the fourth quarter – that’s how you win. Use your presales, your consultants, your executives, inside sales, marketing, sales operations, use everyone. And don’t use them too late.

Best wishes for a strong year end finish!

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