You probably don’t need me to tell you that 2020 has been a year like no other. Let’s be honest: there were (and are) no playbooks for magically reversing what’s happened in the marketplace during this historically tumultuous period. There have been some major bumps in the road this year. The question is, what are we doing in response?
As we enter Q4, the teams and salespeople we are working with most closely have all taken on the twin goals of finishing the current year as strongly as possible…and, at the same time, positioning themselves for a much stronger 2021. What follows are three simple, powerful ideas that can help on both fronts.
- Identify and segregate your accounts. All accounts are not created equal, as Sandler’s KARE tool reminds us. KARE, of course, is an acronym: its letters stand for the four critical objectives that drive our interactions with established and prospective buyers. Do we want to KEEP, ATTAIN, RECAPTURE, or EXPAND a given opportunity? These are four very different strategic priorities. The one universally applicable lesson here is: sales leaders and the salespeople who report to them need to consciously set and pursue these priorities, based on the unique circumstances of the organization, the market, and the salesperson’s goals and existing book of business.Many salespeople make the mistake of pursuing only one of these priorities, because it’s the one they feel most comfortable pursuing and/or the one they feel most excited about. Salespeople must learn to ask: which of these four groups makes the most strategic sense for me to focus on right now – and why? (For an in-depth breakdown on how you can use the KARE tool to set priorities and sustain momentum in your pipeline during this critical quarter, and lay the foundation for a great 2021, see Damon Jones’s article elsewhere in this issue.)
- Create more aggressive behavioral plans. Here’s a sales leader’s rule of thumb for a year that none of us expected: in today’s world, we want our salesforce executing the behaviors that support business development at a level that is at least 30% higher than what they were doing prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. That’s what we are seeing among teams that are bouncing back – and note that this higher level of behavior is what’s necessary just to break even. A truly aggressive behavioral plan needs to be the starting point for each salesperson in Q4, and it needs to be set up in two different categories: behaviors that drive revenue into your organization over the next ninety days; and prospecting behaviors designed to set up the salesperson for a strong 2021. Don’t leave it to the individual members of the team to set these benchmarks on their own. Work with them one-on-one to create the right cookbook, making sure that there is a breadth and depth of different focus areas of behaviors.
- Look beyond the big deal. The sales teams we are working with who are turning the corner on this year’s challenges are the ones planting lots and lots of seeds. They are setting up large numbers of low-budget trial programs and pilot programs, also known as “monkey’s paws,” that can expand over time. A monkey’s paw is a smaller-sized deal that a buyer can say yes to quickly. Everybody wants the big sell, and the farther behind we are in our targets, the more likely we are to be tempted to go looking for those big sells. But remember the saying from the world of golf: you drive for show, and you putt for dough. You can enjoy a very successful year if you initiate lots of relationships and start a wave of smaller sales. It makes much more sense for your team to pile up monkey’s paws than it does for them to keep swinging and missing at big deals. Remember: The larger the dollar number, the more people need to be involved on the buyer’s side. By focusing on monkey’s paws, your team can get a lot of quick YES responses and get their foot in the door to begin a relationship – or strengthen a relationship – so they can close 2020 as strongly as possible, while laying the groundwork for an even stronger 2021.