Happy New Year everyone! Don’t worry, I’m well aware it’s only August and we still have another four months or so before the “official” new year arrives. But with the winding down of summer and the commencement of the school year, I tend to view September as a type of New Year as well.
September has always been my favorite month of the year. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the great memories made during the summer, but it’s also a time to reflect and regroup—to get that to-do list back out and start prioritizing what you still need to complete by year’s end.
When I was in sales, September was always the time I would plan out my sales activities for the rest of the year so I could end the year strong, in the hopes of securing a coveted spot at Sales Club the following April. There is nothing like an all-expense paid trip to somewhere hot and sunny to get you motivated. (And as someone who lives in Canada, a warm tropical trip in the early spring is much appreciated!)
But I’m a planner by nature and very task oriented. I get a special thrill out of setting goals for myself and then creating my to-do lists so that I can be successful in achieving those goals. But I know many people don’t get a kick out of stuff like this like I do. So, if you are looking to make a big impact on your numbers during the remaining months of the year, here are my top tactics that worked well for me that I hope you find beneficial:
3 Sales tips to ending the year strong
1. Clean up your opportunity pipeline so you know what you’re working with
Having hundreds of open opportunities in your pipeline doesn’t necessarily demonstrate how productive or successful you are. I always made it my mission to work within a leaner pipeline, so I had a truer, more accurate picture of what the real sales opportunities were in front of me. It allowed me to focus on those key customers who had actual product needs and provide better forecasting numbers to upper management. So, it’s a good idea to go through your pipeline every September and do a hard cleanup.
Take some time to itemize the older opportunities you may have been pushing along, and those where you haven’t had any real customer uptake or engagement in the past several months. Send them a quick email to gauge their continued interest. Here’s a quick, four-line email template I use to send:
Hey! Just doing some pipeline cleanup. I know we spoke about X to solve that problem you were having, but I haven’t heard from you lately. Is this something that’s still on your radar? I would love to connect if you want to discuss further. But, if things have changed, just let me know and I’ll remove you from my pipeline list.
This approach worked wonders in helping me get organized and create a more accurate pipeline picture for the remaining two quarters. Yes, I would have customers who would get back to me and tell me they didn’t need anything or were no longer interested, but that was the point. It forced me to close out that open opportunity and get it out of my pipeline. I would then make a note in their file and schedule a reminder to reach back out in three to four months’ time to check in.
And while that did happen, I would also get emails back from customers saying, “Hey! Thanks for the outreach! Yes! This is still something we need. When can we chat and catch up?” And that would work to reinvigorate the opportunity and reprioritize it for me to pursue further.
2. Review existing customer contracts and create a gap list of missing services for each
Here I would review my entire territory base and rank customers based on the number of products they purchased from us. I would then review the customers with the fewest number of products and, based on this, I would create a gap list and reach out to schedule a meeting. During this meeting, we would review what products they were using from us today, how they were using them within their customer base, what new revenue streams they were interested in pursuing, and how we could help them achieve those goals. Inevitably, this discovery and curiosity into their business strategy and sales objectives would naturally uncover new sales opportunities for me to pursue.
3. Create a list of customers you haven’t spoken with in a while and schedule a business review
We all have that segment of customers we don’t hear from very often. But just because they aren’t very demanding doesn’t mean we should take it for granted everything is OK and that they don’t need anything from us. As part of my sales planning, I would review the last activity date for all customers in my territory, and for any customer that I may not have spoken with in the past six months or so. I would then dedicate time to reach out and request a time to meet. I prefaced it as a “what’s new” call to find out what was going on in their business and how their customers were doing. Then I would bring them up to speed on what was currently happening at N-able and what we were working on.
The goal was to see if there were any issues their customers were experiencing that we could help resolve for them. It was also to see if there were any areas where they weren’t seeing their desired revenue growth, to determine areas where I could possibly help from a consulting standpoint. Our industry is incredibly dynamic and changes quickly. Oftentimes these updates would jumpstart conversations that ultimately uncovered new sales opportunities I could add to my pipeline.
These are the top three strategies I utilized when I was in sales to help power up my pipeline and finish my year strong. I encourage you, when you are back from your summer holidays, to make a point to dedicate September as your own version of a “Sales New Year” and spend some time doing your own pipeline cleanup and sales planning—it will be well worth the exercise.
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