So whether or not you achieve your Q1 sales targets is likely to be of pivotal importance. Are you on track? I’m going to suggest 5 things that you should already be doing if you are to maximise your chances of starting 2011 as you mean to continue.
1: Focus on Winnable Deals
It's an obvious suggestion, but it requires discipline. You need to qualify your pipeline ruthlessly. For each opportunity, what’s the evidence that they need to do something this quarter? What problem are they trying to solve, and would they describe it as irritating, important or business-critical?
Where’s their compelling event? Exactly where are they in their decision making process? Have you managed to establish your compelling advantages - and have they accepted your superior ability to solve their problem?
If you cannot answer “yes”, with complete confidence, to every one of these questions, the chances of your prospect making a decision, and your chances of winning their business, may be remote. You need to establish an action plan, starting today, to fill in the gaps. Or you ought to recognise that the opportunity is unlikely to close and focus your energies on the remaining winnable deals.
2: Address the Decision Making Team’s Concerns and Motivations
Any complex buying decision is driven by powerful and sometimes conflicting factors. Members of the decision making team - in various ways, and for differing reasons - will be motivated to make things happen, or be concerned about the consequences of change. They may be driven forward and held back at the same time.
Until and unless you have identified and explored each key player’s concerns and motivations, and found ways of reinforcing their motivations and addressing their concerns, your chances of them reaching a consensus and deciding to move forward with you are going to be dramatically reduced.
3: Understand Your Prospect’s Approval Process
Even a decision in your favour does not guarantee an order - now, or at any stage in the future. Most high-value purchases are subject to a ratification and approval process that may involve people you have no direct relationship with. It’s a primary reason why so many apparently promising opportunities now end in a decision to “do nothing”.
These approval processes typically involve more people, and are taking longer, than ever before. Even your champion within the prospect may be unaware of all the steps involved, or the considerations that will be applied. Work with them to make sure they are not making blind assumptions, and help them to ensure that they have taken all these factors into account.
4: Elevate the Consequences of Inaction
Having a strong Return on Investment (ROI) case is often a necessary, but rarely a sufficient, reason for your prospect to take action. If you are to avoid a decision to “do nothing”, you have to help your prospect understand and acknowledge that allowing the status quo to continue would be increasingly harmful to their business. You need to help them identify, quantify and elevate the costs and potentially painful consequences of inaction.
5: Equip Your Champion to Succeed
Last, but by no means least, you must equip your champion to carry the day when the project is submitted for final approval. You need to help them to make a business case that will stand up to rigorous scrutiny.
Remember that by the time the project reaches this stage, your competition isn’t other similar vendors - it embraces everything else your prospect could choose to invest these funds in, including simply keeping the money in the bank.
Looking Beyond Q1
I hope that you find these five prescriptions helpful. I apologise if they all seem so obvious that they appear hardly worth stating. But my experience has been that many companies who believe that they have them under control aren't always executing as well as they might think.
I'd like to suggest that it's also worth looking beyond Q1 to consider what else you could be doing to establish a scalable, repeatable and reliable B2B sales and marketing machine.
I’ve captured the consolidated best practices of some of today’s consistent top-performers in a 20-point self assessment checklist. You can download it here. Please take a few moments to complete it. I think you’ll find at least one idea that will help you create an even stronger foundation for the future.