Four End-of-Quarter Sales Questions to Ask
The end of a quarter is an interesting time for sales. There is often a race to put numbers on the board and a desperate drive to move a few more deals across the line.
But the difficult truth is that there’s usually not much you can do at the end of the quarter to make a real difference. Any major improvement to your results would have come from taking action much, much sooner.
Of course, there are still some healthy actions you can take before the new quarter begins. Here are four questions every salesperson should ask as the current quarter comes to a close.
What do I still have time to win?
First, you should make absolutely certain that any opportunity that can be closed, will be close before the quarter ends. A good, solid pipeline review can surface the opportunities that are close to being obtained. It’s a good idea to review these opportunities individually with the sales force to determine what would need to happen to win the opportunity before the next quarter begins.
Sometimes there are even internal obstacles to a deal that can be easily overcome. For example, there might be a modification to an agreement that is sitting on your legal department’s desk. Or maybe a change has been made to a solution or service plan that, if agreed to, would allow you to win the opportunity. These are the types of things you can and should deal with before the end of the quarter.
What you shouldn’t do is start making pricing concessions that aren’t aligned with your overall business strategy, or accepting business that is outside of your real core target. Both will cost you more than you gain in the long run.
What did I win? What did I lose? Why?
At the end of a quarter, you should pause long enough to take stock of what happened with an eye toward making improvements in the next quarter. A win-loss analysis is a great way to discover the lessons that lead to improvement.
What new clients did you win? How did you win those clients? Who did you compete against? Why did your new clients choose you over the competition? What value proposition or offering positioned you to win? What are the differences in pricing, margins, services, and solutions, and what do those differences tell you about your business and sales efforts?
Questions like these will help you better understand what is working so you can do more of it.
Of course, you also need to ask a similar set of questions about your losses, as painful as it may be.
What opportunities did you lose? Why did you lose them? Which of your competitors were chosen? What was it that allowed them to win the opportunity? How closely was your sales process followed on the opportunities you lost? What would you change if you had a chance to compete for this opportunity again?
These questions will help guide your future behavior as a sales force, as long as you take the time to be honest and thoughtful in completing the review.
What does next quarter look like?
For most businesses, the new opportunities you need to win next quarter—especially the larger ones—should already be visible in your pipeline.
As Jim Rohn used to say, “You plant in the spring, you harvest in the fall. No planting, no harvest.” Acquiring new clients and customers isn’t an endeavor that lends itself to cramming or last-minute heroic efforts.
Reviewing your pipeline now and forecasting your next quarter will help you determine the gap between what you presently believe your number will look like and what you need it to be. Identifying that gap is the starting point for taking the actions necessary to close it.
In most cases, if your forecast isn’t what you need it to be, the answer is to increase your prospecting activities to ensure that you acquire the opportunities required to hit your number.
What do I need to change?
Finally, the reason that you go through this exercise at quarter’s end is so you can make informed decisions about what you need to do differently.
Most reporting is trailing. It is an autopsy; the body is already dead and there is nothing you can do to bring it back to life. The best way to make use of all of the data you have collected over the quarter is to add context. You need to discover what happened, why it happened, and what beliefs underlie your results.
Numbers only tell part of the story. You have to acquire the proper context to make sense of those numbers and decide what actions—or lack thereof—were the cause. Then you can put a plan in place to make the necessary changes.
The biggest mistake you can make at quarter’s end is to decide that next quarter will be improved by simply doing more. More activity is only the right answer when your activity is already low. In most cases, the greatest improvement is made through the changes you make after taking time to discover what activities might have led to better outcomes.
If you want to put up better numbers at the end of the next quarter, you need to start working on that result long before the current quarter closes. So start working to that end now.
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