10 Questions to Refocus Your Sales Strategy in the New Year

Starting over again after the Christmas period can be tough – your brain doesn’t quite work as fast as it should, there’s a ton of things you are sure you’ve forgotten from last year and energy levels feel low.

Added to this, you’re a sales person so you’re expected to be giving 110% at every moment in a bid to win that new customer or keep an existing one happy.

So how do you come back and refocus yourself after a few weeks away?

Here are ten critical questions to help you refocus and ensure you keep your sales numbers moving in the right direction:

1. Where do you want to be in your sales career by this time next year?

Do you have a clear idea in your mind about what you want to have achieved by this time next year? When a year has ended, it can be hard to think about the end of yet another year before it has hardly begun, but it’s really an answer you need to know in order to understand what you are aiming for.

Without knowing what it is we want to have achieved by the end of this new year, we can’t pick out those key drivers that will push us along towards our goals.

Maybe you want to have saved up for a deposit for a house, or paid for a new extension or car. Maybe you are expecting to have saved up enough to have left your job and set up a new business.

Make that end vision clear in your mind so you can work back from it and refocus your sales efforts today.

2. What is going to be different about your sales behaviours this year?

If we keep on doing what we have always done, then we will yield the same results. Before you get stuck into all those emails that have stacked up over the Christmas period, think about what you are going to do differently next year to achieve your targets. If you overachieved last year, then will the same methods work for you this year? If you didn’t reach your targets, then what do you need to change now to get off on the right foot for the year? My series of articles from this time last year might help with reviewing your previous performance and planning your territory out with the account planning triangle.

3. How often do you plan to speak to your customers?

We often think we speak to our customers more than we actually do. But if you write out a plan of how often you aim to engage with your customers in the new year, and break it down into timescales (i.e. one call per week, one meeting a week), then it’s clear that time quickly runs out. Are you speaking to them this much already? How will you split your time between multiple customers to increase the engagement?

The only thing that you can bring to a sale, is YOU. So how do you differentiate yourself if you are only engaging with the customer sporadically? Don’t wait until the deal is about to drop, do the ground work now and get a plan in place for seeing those customers early.

4. What are your ratios?

The quiet period after Christmas is the perfect time to look at areas for improvement in the coming year that you don’t usually have time for.

Have a look at any statistics and ratios you can pull together about your sales performance and processes – it might shine a new light on an area of improvement.

For example, take a look at your win/lose ratio – has it changed year on year? Or can you find any common themes that link the deal losses to help you win next time?

How long does it typically take you to close a sale from the initial customer conversation to purchase order receipt?

5. What is the shape of your sales funnel?

Looking at your sales funnel management, are you maintaining a healthy funnel shape? Do you have lots of prospects at the top of your funnel to close further in the year? Working on this part now means that you move through the year with a healthy list of potential customers.

Ignoring capturing new prospects in favour of working on an existing ‘done deal’ which could wait, will mean that you quickly run out of work and spend valuable busy time in the middle of the year carrying out planning and prospecting activities which could be done now

6. Has your sales manager signed off on your account plans?

Everyone should have a sales/territory/account plan. And not the ones given to you with your sales target on by your company. You should create your own business plan, which sets out your target, which customers make up that target, the activities you are undertaking to achieve your sales goals and a SWOT analysis of your sales territory.

You should then look to get your sales manager on board with this plan so that he or she can see all the activities you are undertaking to achieve your target, how organised and motivated you are to achieve your target but also the concerns and threats you see which could affect your reaching your sales figures.

Flagging potential issues early on will save you looking like you aren’t in control of your accounts later down the line.

7. Have you created a short-term, mid-term and long-term set of goals for the year?

One of my old colleagues used to write their SML (Short/Mid/Long term) goals up on a big whiteboard in their home office, to remind them daily of what they needed to be focused on, whilst keeping an eye on those long term goals so that they were steadily tracking against their numbers.

Your short term goals might be the daily to-do list, or it might be a weekly set of actions.  I wouldn’t recommend having your short term goals going beyond a week – they need to feel in sight and urgent.  Having a long deadline means you aren’t as motivated to complete the activity as you can keep pushing the date further and further out.

Mid-term goals might be monthly or quarterly – depending on your accounts or sales forecasting.  This could include goals such as:

  • Meet with 3 contacts in XYZ account by the end of the quarter
  • Deliver revenue within ABC account in this month

The long term goals might be more strategic directions for your accounts, and will probably also include your overall sales targets.  For instance:

  • Acquire 10 new customers with a minimum spend of £50k each.
  • Sell the ABC-Cloud Solution to at least 3 customers.

Then, you can link your goals; working back from the long term to establish which activities need to be delivered in the near term, and then the daily actions relating to those activities.

Put these goals somewhere visible.  It’s amazing what we forget when something is out of sight, especially if it involves making tough calls to new customers.

8. Did you really do your best in 2015?

Let’s be honest.  It’s easy to procrastinate.  It’s easy to spend time on Twitter and convince ourselves that this really matters when in fact it bears no relation to our sales target.

I have been reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and one of the insights he shares from his research is about how we overestimate our achievements or abilities with hindsight.  He covers how when people are asked to predict a series of outcomes before and after an event takes place, they overestimate how accurate and close to the truth their originally estimations before the event were.  They believe they would have accurately predicted the correct outcomes, when in fact they didn’t.

I believe we do a similar thing when reviewing our historical performance.  We make excuses for why we couldn’t have done more, or why we worked so many hours yet got so little done.  We see our previous efforts as more favourable than they actually were.

So this year, maybe we should try and aim to put in 1% more effort than last year.  That doesn’t mean working 1% more hours, or sending more emails.  It means more prioritising and 1% less procrastination.

9. What type of sales person do you want to become?

What do you want your customers to think about you?  What do you want your sales manager to write about you in your annual review?

Moving away from purely looking at sales targets, what behaviours and traits do you want to emulate as a professional, successful sales person?

This could be dressing more smartly or taking the lead in sales teams – or even just being more organised in your work activities.  Having that vision of the traits you want to work towards helps crystallize the actions that will help you take on those behaviours.

What are your customers’ professional New Year goals?

Having your own goals is one thing, but knowing what your customer’s work goals are for the coming year will enable you to build a picture of their business, and likely needs and requirements.

Try asking your customer – what does this coming year hold for you/the department/the company?  What do you want to achieve over the next 12 months?  What do you want the end of the year to look like?  Where do you want to be by this time next year?

These are great ways to start a strategic discussion between you and your customer.

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