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Why Your Account Based Sales Reps Shouldn’t Close Business This Year

You should be focused on lead generation for 2018.

Closing the sales year with a bang is nice, but signing new clients shouldn’t be the focus for account based selling teams in Q4. Sure, some companies have unused budgets you need to grab, but that is an unlikely scenario. Account based sales reps quarterback complex deals that rely on an exquisitely crafted, fine-tuned prospecting strategy—not a last-minute free-for-all.

Savvy account based sales reps know the one or two deals they can close this year because they’ve outlined the steps to get there. Those deals are already in the works and fall into one of three categories:

  • Waiting for the agreements to be signed? Are they stalled in legal? You know the steps to get them out.
  • One more reference to check? You’ve coordinated with the client who is giving the reference and ensured the conversation has happened.
  • The decision is stalled. Do you know the reason? It could be time to bring in your CEO to close the deal.

If there are any reasons other than these, the deal is not far enough along to close this year. Don’t let your team waste time chasing that last deal for 2017. It’s time to think ahead and get a jumpstart on business for next year.

Get Your Priorities Straight

Selling is time-consuming work. It’s easy for account based sales reps to get overwhelmed or distracted and to neglect lead generation. It’s tough to focus on prospecting when you’re working on a massive project or closing a big deal. But if you’re not regularly adding qualified opportunities to your pipeline, you’ll have no pipeline.

Don’t let that happen. Here’s a business-boosting suggestion: No one wants to begin a project in December. The last quarter of the year is 25 percent about closing business for this year and 75 percent about building a robust pipeline for next year.

Account based sales reps are always focused on how to generate leads while also staying in touch with current clients. The holiday season provides great opportunities to network and make new connections. It’s also the perfect time to reach out, ask clients how the year is shaping up for them and what your company can do to help, and then ask for referrals to ideal prospects.

Set Strategic Sales Goals for Your Account Based Selling Team

The close of each quarter and the year-end close present the same challenge over and over for sales teams—balancing the need to close as much business as possible and exceed quota with the need to build a pipeline that will help them meet the next quota.

Yes, we have goals to meet, but short-term year-end thinking is not strategic and doesn’t give us the time or permission to build a longer-term sales pipeline. Sure, your account based sales reps must address the tactical, day-to-day business, but they need to think ahead, too. It’s the difference between working “in the business” versus “on the business.” You need to do both all the time.

How does your account based selling team ensure only qualified sales leads go into the pipeline? Do their lead generation strategies only consist of emails, phone calls, videos, content, direct mail, social media, webinars, events, testimonials, and case studies? If so, they’re missing out on the fastest way to build a qualified pipeline—asking for referrals.

When your account based sales reps receive referral introductions, buyers actually want to talk to them. All their leads are qualified because they’re introduced to their decision-makers. They get in early, often before prospects even know there’s a need. They develop strong, mutual relationships their competitors don’t have—relationships that help them land and expand in client companies.

And here’s the kicker: They convert more than 50 percent of prospects into clients. Most salespeople say it’s more than 70 percent.

Forget the tired, old sales mantra, “Always Be Closing.” Smart account based sales reps should “Always Be Asking” for referral introductions to their prime prospects.

What Does Your Sales Future Look Like?

Many companies on a fiscal calendar year are finalizing their budgets now and have asked me for estimates. I’m scheduling daily calls with prospects and asking for referrals from at least two people a week. They’re introducing me, and I’m getting more meetings. Yes, I’m following my own referral process and actively building a qualified pipeline for 2018. 

It’s time to make referrals the way your account based sales reps sell. Stop the time-wasting, irrelevant, unproductive, frustrating prospecting activities you think they should be doing. There’s only one kind of lead that should be in their pipelines. Only one kind of lead that counts. Only one kind of lead you should care about.

That’s hot leads—the kind you source by asking for referrals and receiving introductions. Your challenge will be following up on all those great referrals. I’ll take that challenge every day. What about you?

Planning your 2018 Sales Kickoff Meeting? Help your team prepare for their best sales year ever by inviting Joanne to speak at your event. Your team will learn how to generate leads via personal connections and referral introductions.

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