I hate to tell you this but……….it’s not too late!

To the chagrin of many of you who have had just an absolutely terrible sales year, there is time to make a COMEBACK! Yes, I know it seems very unlikely and for a lot of you the fiscal sales year closes in few  months but there is so much you can accomplish in the next few weeks and packing up prior is a huge mistake. Now, I’m not this “everything is positive” type of guy however I’m not someone who thrives on pessimism either and I’ve seen on more than one occasion where a salesperson rejuvenated their year by finishing strong. Yet there is a tendency to look forward into the next year after a nightmare year and then guess what….the cycle of bad performance continues the following year. I do believe in momentum and that momentum doesn’t necessarily mean “good momentum”, packing it in from a lousy year and having a month or so left can create less momentum going into the next year. Furthermore, if you don’t think your customers feel that energy from you…..think again. I’ll never forget what someone said to me long ago “Andre’ as a sales professional you don’t have the luxury of having a bad year”, and that is tremendously true. Customers are no different from you they just happen to be on the other side of the table. I’ve recently written that your behavior determines just about  EVERYTHING on how you’re going to react, or not react and that is picked up quickly by your customers. This is a true story; I had just come off a miserable sales year with about 2 or 3 more months to go before the sales year officially ended. The company like most thought it would be brilliant to have a sales incentive contest to try to squeeze out the last bit of sales possible before the end of year (read my post on “Sales Contests”….it’ll give you an understanding on how I feel about end of year “Pavlov’s Dog Contests”: http://ah2andbeyond.com/sales-contests-disaster/) and like many of the reps at the time I thought it would be a good idea to all of sudden become this obnoxious competitive rep and aggressively go after my customers. I decided to visit one of my favorite customers just knowing I was going to get a huge sale…….hellooooo can you say wake up call.

The “Re-enactment”:

Andre’: “Hey Steve how are you, all set for the holiday’s”?

Steve: “Andre, how are you guy, no I haven’t even started thinking about it….like everybody else I wait to the last minute (haha!!).

Andre’: Yeah, you and me both (haha!!). Hey, we’re offering a special on the neonatal temperature monitor. I know you and I have been going back and forth and you’ve mentioned to me what you have in place is not sufficient…still the case?

Steve: Well, I know we had that conversation a few months ago and since then we decided to go with another manufacture.

Andre’: Oh…why is that?

Steve: We were offered a great deal during the latter part of the summer and decided to go in that direction….why are you guys just coming out with a deal?

Andre’: (my best tap dance) Well, the company asked that we target our top customers prior to end of year to offer a deal on the monitor that could save considerable dollars for the hospital. Since you’re one of my best customers I wanted to track you down as soon as I could to offer this.

I kid you not Steve said this……

Steve: So, if I purchase this you’ll win the contest…..?

Andre’: crickets……………

I point out this story to say first customers understand buying cycles just like we do, they understand the temperature rises towards the end of the fiscal year and sales reps are eager to close as much business as they can. While my behavior was not appropriate what was more alarming was Steve’s reaction and the risk I set forth in jeopardizing our relationship.

After that experience (and by the way Steve didn’t purchase the monitor) I decided to pack it in with a month or so left in the year and ready myself for the following year….only to start the following year poorly. I didn’t sustain any momentum going into the next year after getting so many year-end rejections, I just decided to give up (which I regret a gazillion years later). There’s so much that could be gained after a frustrating year and I do not have the golden recipe to serve you and say these are the things you can do in a month to turn your year around….NOBODY DOES. But there are certainly action items you can do right now so that you end on a positive note and have great MOMENTUM going into the following year:

Optional Action Steps:

  1. Are there “Open Accounts” to aggressively pull-through product offerings that differentiate from competition (I.e performance pricing based on ordering processes, product bundling strategies that encourage product line usage, and specific pricing). These same accounts can provide momentum going into following year.
  2. Increase call average on top profiled accounts (ONLY), this will improve/leverage relationship intro into following year (including those accounts you do not have strong relationships with)
  3. Start building “Thought Leader Development” in each account to further level partnership, and also you’ll have a following year “Priority Hit List” for quick sales uptake.
  4. Profile and Identify key opportunities for increasing business unit product category (I.e. monthly utilization report, buying patterns, current pricing, and embellish value added benefits).
  5. Targeting account “Behaviors”/“Characteristics” such as utilization volume, purchasing activity, competition activity, early adopters/late adopters and peer influence. This will provide a great start to the following year business targeting/planning.
  6. Evaluate account call average to ensure appropriate visibility and consistent pull-through product sales. This will help identify “Consistent Access” & “Minimal Access” to customers.
  7. Develop account product algorithms for the customer to help them identify cost savings to their bottom line P&L. This work can be done with top customers and will help build partnership and set up for business relationships in the following year.
  8. Build and Track Account/Customer “Scorecard”. This scorecard should have at least 50 accounts/customers listed, as this will stay abreast of their activity throughout the year where business adjustments can be made.

This list is just an example of what can be done prior to the end of this year to ensure you finish strong and build momentum going into next year. The key is to not sit back and lick your wounds from a bad sales year but learn from it, prepare from it….and SUCCEED FROM IT!

Starting to build your following year Commercial Plan? Getting Stuck? Check out my “ADD” principles to building a great “Commercial Strategy Plan”….and then contact me to help you build yours!


Thank you so much!

Andre’ Harrell

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