Next week, it will be December, the final month of the year. For those in the corporate space doing sales and business development, this would mean having the final chance to achieve their sales targets. It could also be a most dreaded month for others, especially if they are nowhere near meeting their targets at all.
The longest stretch of employment I’ve had during my corporate years has been with IBM, both in the Philippines and in Singapore. I spent a total of almost 10 years doing sales in the enterprise market covering key industries that include telecommunications, and covering executives, local and otherwise (nuances and culture considered). The sales environment, to say the least, is an amazing training ground for those who remain hungry. I say amazing because it is always filled with challenges and no deal is alike, as each would have its own unique business challenges, and it would be up to the creativity of the sales team — and the immediate support team — to convince the client of its proposed value proposition and why they should be trusted with the business.
One important thing I learned at IBM is the concept of coverage. Many sales people in the technology space often go solely to the chief technology officer or chief information office (usually the key technology decision-maker), thereby missing key executives who may, more often than not, have a say in the decision. Coverage remains an essential skill to be developed with varying conversations to support it.
Here are some of the key activities needed that would help ensure your targets are, at least, met by the end of the year:
– Lead generation. All effective salespersons would have mastered the art of doing lead generation. Traditionally, it is done in a variety of ways: telemarketing (or cold calling) and emails, but these have already expanded to digital, including creating marketing campaigns, brand presence and thought leadership. As the conversation with the clients’ key executives deepens, more opportunities will come out, based on how the salesperson would probe or manage the conversation. Your lead generation activities will be reflected in the quality of your pipeline.
– Pipeline. Your pipeline must at least be three times your target. If your revenue target for a calendar year is $1 million, your pipeline must be at least $3 million.
– Call-out. A call-out is a forecast based on your pipeline. It is classified into three segments: commit (an opportunity will close within the quarter), upside (an opportunity may likely close within the quarter) and stretch (an opportunity may not close within the quarter). There are telltale signs that define these segments, such as a purchase order being processed for an opportunity being called out as commit; an evaluation on a bid about to be finalized for an opportunity being called out as an upside; and a pending RFP release for an opportunity being called out as a stretch. All these details will help determine the course of action needed by the salesperson or sales team in bringing the status of all opportunities to commit, which is always the ideal scenario.
– Coverage. As mentioned above, coverage is key to making sure your proposition is understood by the key people upstairs. There will be different conversations with different stakeholders. A procurement officer may not necessarily be interested in the operational efficiency of the platform proposed, but may be interested with how you can comply with their procurement guidelines, for example.
– Discipline and mindset. At the end of the day, the sales performance depends on the salesperson himself or herself. Managing your pipeline and cadence activities requires discipline and dedication as this becomes the very bible of all salespersons. Of course, this is also hinged on the overall motivation of the person, and what is he or she willing to do to achieve the business goals.
Best of luck to those who are still chasing those deals!
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at email@example.com.