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“Closing or Planning?” – CROs’ Summer’s End Dilemma

September is rapidly approaching, summer breaks are over, the kids are back in school, and a large portion of this year’s business will be transacted in the next 4 to 5 months. Typical September sales themes focus on harvesting the deals which have been developed throughout the year, elevating the sense of urgency to new heights and exceeding revenue goals.

But with Q4 approaching – and hot on its heels, the new year – sales leaders’ priorities are often split between closing Q3 and Q4 strongly, and planning for the rapidly approaching new year (with larger revenue expectations, team expansion, etc). The challenge for sales leaders is to navigate these competing priorities because the revenue produced this year will crowd out the time to set the new goals.

So we surveyed our customers’ sales leaders for how they navigate these conflicting priorities, and got useful insights:

  1. Celebrate your wins to date:

The next 4 months will be stressful, and keeping the sales team motivated throughout is key. The best sales leaders celebrate their teams’ wins thus far early and often. Here are two good CRO quotes:

  • At the start of the year, or the quarter, or at major events, we’re promoting the overall game plan. Our call to action is ‘One team, $50M’ And we repeat it constantly.
  • Always motivate the troops – celebrating your wins is a great way to elevate the sales team’s enthusiasm, especially in August as the reps and customers return from vacation.”

So, as CRO, it’s important to find the time and also internal energy to always spread good cheer and optimism. Make sure you’re surrounded by can-do folks that also feed you the positive energy you’ll need so your own tank doesn’t run dry.

  1. Harvest the deals that have been building in the pipeline over the year:

For many B2B companies, a substantial amount of their 2022 revenue is closed in the last few months of the year. Our surveyed CROs mentioned two key strategies to realize that higher performance level:

  • One is to “balance team performance”, i.e. getting more salespeople on the team to close the deals they have in the pipeline, vs. only relying on the usual, smaller set of high performers.
  • The other is to expect high activity levels (i.e. proactively monitor reps’ KPIs) – here’s another quote: “Sales mgmt is pushing very hard for high activity levels, closing deals that were set up earlier in the year and executing on your plan

But it does not matter how hard the reps are working if they run into roadblocks and slowdowns. One thing we’ve done for several customers is to actually set up their CRM system to help the reps eliminate roadblocks. So, let’s talk about what we call setting up “Air Strikes” in your CRM:

  • What we call “Air Strikes” is a set of drop-down menus in the sales team’s CRM tool that is visible for every contact or lead record so the reps can select from a variety of support options right from within their workflow.
  • For example, from the CRM dropdown menus they might select options like “contract review”, “call from CEO”, “price reduction”, or “demo deep-dive”. Once selected, a notification goes right out to, in these examples, the legal team, the CEO, the CFO, and the SE team, who are auto-alerted to then assist the requesting reps proactively.
  • This cuts down on the administrative overhead required for reps to request internal help to push those deals across the finish line that require a little extra attention. With the “Air Strikes” system implemented in the CRM system, the reps can spend more time selling, the organization gets a better sense of where deals get stuck too often so long-term fixes can be implemented (e.g. simplifying contract language), and a larger percentage of iffy deals get closed successfully, producing incremental revenue.
  1. Rapidly ramp up demand gen for Q4 and for a good 2023 kickoff:

Even with all the troops motivated, everyone is putting in the extra effort, and roadblocks are being eliminated, sometimes there just isn’t enough pipeline in the system to hit the revenue goal. We get called in quite often then to help with short-term demand generation programs, or if a company has its own inhouse talents, they can launch those themselves.

  • We typically look at individual reps and assess how deep their pipeline is vs. how deep it should be given pessimistic assumptions for conversion and sales closure rates. Usually that analysis surfaces a few stragglers that are short of pipeline, and then short term lead generation activities get launched on those reps’ behalf.
    • Here’s another CRO quote: “Growing pipeline for Q4 and early 2023. Need more pipeline now to make numbers later. This is where marketing can help with target marketing , and upping lead gen. Get more from all your Revenue channels.
  • Typical quick-turn approaches to generate near-term pipeline rely on:
    • LinkedIn-based demand generation (i.e. automated outreach as well as ads, all precisely targeted to those reps’ patches)
    • Fast marketing campaigns like custom real or virtual events in a particular geography such as dinners or webinars, or quick-turn promotions
    • Rented or re-deployed BDRs to either source new leads or triage and mature the existing leads, feeding the reps with not enough pipe for more meetings
  • Focus on sales enablement to improve closure rates; e.g. does everyone have the training and artifacts they need? A quick survey of the sales team to understand which artifacts would make the most difference in helping them close business can provide valuable insights on what artifacts product marketing should update or produce.
  • Another good CRO quote around focusing on closing deals: “Planning is starting for next year but sales people’s brains should be consumed with closing deals. 110% of the sales brain is deal closing and the other 2% is planning for next year. Yes, sales people should be working 110% or more because the good ones make a lot of money.
  1. Lay the foundation for next year’s continued growth:

This is where Premonio’s adaptive and predictive revenue growth system is useful as it does not need prior data to make predictions. Instead, it is a forward-looking revenue growth planning system, with the underlying calculations based on “indirect, feed-forward, multivariable adaptive control” algorithms, to be geeky about the underlying mathematics. 

With this system, CROs can:

  • Model out the needed budgets and resources for continued new year growth.
    • I.e. ensure hiring reqs are approved, budget is set aside, and company goals are clear well before the start of the new year (vs. at the end of January, barely in time for the first board meeting in the new year, as is common).
  • Define the underlying KPIs that need to be met as leading indicators (i.e. what do you measure in Q4, say, so you know that Q1 revenue will be on target)
  • Course-correct early the areas where revenue goals are uncertain, as needed
  • Accelerate time to revenue, having a high likelihood of hitting forecasts
  • Optimize go-to-market plans and align pipeline delivery with sales needs
  • Ensure budgets are efficient enabling highest sales / marketing ROIs
  • Align board, execs, and teams around the revenue plan for the new year

Between now and the end of the year, chances are CROs will be spending their time oscillating between the polar extremes of closing the current quarter and year, as well as laying the groundwork for continued / restored growth in the new year. Hopefully this list of priorities from a set of CROs that we highly respect should help make this time a bit less stressful.

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