We’re coming up to the end of June - the half-way point for many annual plans and company financial years. You undoubtedly started out with clear ambitions for the year. What progress have you made - and are the assumptions you started the year with still valid? Here are 5 questions you might want to ask yourself as your organisation enters the second half of the year...
I’ll try and avoid any statements of the obvious when it comes to evaluating your financial performance against plan. I hope that it’s safe to assume that you’re paying close attention to those key metrics. Instead, I’d like to suggest that you look at the progress you’ve made from a slightly different perspective - and to propose some initiatives you might want to consider to help you boost your performance for the second half of the year.
1. What Have You Done That is Remarkable?
The dictionary defines remarkable as being “worthy of note or attention, unusual, striking, or extraordinary”. And in today’s increasingly cluttered and complex media, trotting out the same old messages using the same language as your competitors isn’t going to get you noticed. What have you done or said in the first half of the year that made your organisation stand out from the crowd? What have you done to offer a fresh perspective or bring a new way of thinking to your potential customers - and what have you done to make them stop and think and want to learn more?
2: What Have You Learned About Your Customers?
Your customer’s attitudes, priorities and buying behaviours are evolving all the time. What have you done in the past six months to refine your ideal prospect profile? What have you learned about their environmental or behavioural characteristics? How have their situations changed? How much do you understand about the latest industry trends and key trigger events that might cause them to recognise the need for change and start searching for new solutions?
3: What Have You Done to Improve Opportunity Qualification?
There’s nothing more wasteful than pursuing poorly qualified opportunities that are never likely to close. Yet when times are tough there’s a natural tendency for sales people to want to hold on to every potential prospect. What have you done to help your sales people to recognise when they are wasting their time or to encourage them to focus their energies on finding and winning more of the right sort of prospects? When was the last time you reviewed your sales qualification criteria, or checked to ensure that your entire sales team was applying them consistently?
4: What Have You Done to Shorten Sales Cycles?
Research from the TAS Group has proved what many sales managers understand instinctively: the longer a sales cycle goes on, the lower your chances of winning. What have you done to diagnose and deal with the bottlenecks that may be slowing the progress of your sales opportunities? How much do you understand about your prospect’s decision making process, and what you might be able to do to help facilitate it? What have you done to identify and eliminate the roadblocks that are causing deals to take longer than they ought to close?
5: What Have You Done to Improve Sales Forecast Accuracy?
There’s nothing more frustrating (or damaging to sales and profit growth) than having deals you were depending on fall out of the forecast in the last few days of the quarter. CSO Insights latest research concluded that less than 50% of deals were closing as forecast - but that there were simple ways of significantly improving that performance. What are you doing to measure and monitor your sales forecast accuracy? What have you done to identify the root cause of poor forecasting? What steps are you taking to eliminate the most common errors?
Pause for Reflection
I’m suggesting you ask these five questions because my experience proves that the organisations that are able to answer them - and to put initiatives in place to deal with them - are doing measurably better in their performance against plan than their less aware competitors. I hope that they give you some food for thought as to where your energies might be best applied to help boost your chances of exceeding your goals for the second half of the year.
But I’m also very aware that organisations can sometimes get so close to the problem that they struggle to see the wood for the trees. If you feel that could be the case in your own situation why not drop me a line and I’d be happy to share my experiences of helping organisations cope with similar environments and see if they could be of any help to you.