A fourth-quarter tune-up for your sales efforts

It's hard to believe, but we're now into the fourth quarter of 2002, and are heading into 2003.

Are you poised for a hard charge in the final quarter and into the new year?

To position yourself as best as possible, it's important to review and evaluate your year-to-date as a whole, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that you're on track for exceeding your goals.

To do so, I suggest that you spend 10-15 minutes considering the following questions:

Has anything changed?

This is one of the single most important questions a salesperson can ask at any time and in any situation. It's the first question that should be asked every time that you meet with a customer or prospect, and the first question you should ask while performing a review like this one. It's imperative that you know whether things have changed because it will dictate your future course of action. If the question goes unasked — and unanswered — you may well be operating under false assumptions.

Personal-performance accountability.

Before looking outside, it's important to first look inside. Regarding your performance and your results, ask yourself:

— How am I doing?

— What's worked?

— What hasn't?

— What adjustments can I make to increase my effectiveness?

Whenever your level of personal accountability exceeds that of your superiors, you'll rarely be surprised and will almost always exceed expectations. Remember this, and hold yourself accountable to a higher standard than anyone holds you to.


Next, you should briefly consider the current climate within your company and take the appropriate actions that your findings suggest. (This is especially important during the current economy when companies are trying to get leaner. You must be viewed as a solution.)

— How's your organization doing as a whole? Is it on target to meet its goals?

— What changes have occurred within your direct sales channel? (i.e. sales management/salespeople departing, sales management/salespeople arriving, sales support, increased/reduced budget, etc.)

— How do these variables impact you?


Your customers — and how they're treated — are yours, and your company's, lifeblood and primary asset, worthy of being safeguarded, nurtured and cultivated. It's very easy — and tempting — to see your "next" customer when considering prospects, and to then spend much of your time trying to secure them. It's easy to make a sale, but difficult to make a customer. Accordingly, reflect on the following:

— Have you had any big "wins?" If yes, what factors contributed to them? Can these factors be duplicated in the future?

— Did you have any major losses? If so, why did the customer leave?


While not as valuable as customers, prospects are a very important part of the selling process. Selling, broken down, simply is, "Finding people to sell, and selling the people you find." It's important that you follow a regimented, predictable process that ensures that you'll always have a fresh pipeline of prospects to pursue.

What's your answer to the following:

— What's in your pipeline? How many "A" prospects? "B" prospects?

— Do you have multiple prospects that will be making their buying decisions in the next 30 days? 90 days? Six months? One year? (This timeline is personal and depends on your product/service, industry and length of sales cycle.)

— Prospecting process: Do you dedicate a specific amount of time each day solely to prospecting? If not, why not?

— Do you make time to follow up with the prospects that you've already contacted?

— How do you remember the prospects that you've contacted? Do you use an effective CRM or contact manager application?

Industry and competition.

Change is a constant in selling. Knowing who's doing what in your industry, therefore, is of critical importance to the professional salesperson. School is never out for the sales professional, so you must dedicate yourself to keeping abreast of industry trends and information, including overall market conditions, the success and tactics of your competitors, etc.


— How do you remain current on the most important happenings in your industry and marketplace?

— Have there been any major developments in your industry? In your specific market(s)?

— How is your market? Have conditions changed? Is it growing or shrinking?


— What is your competition doing? Are they profitable? Are they growing and/or adding staff?

— Have they added new products/services or made significant improvements to existing offerings?

— Have they had any major customer wins?


As you will only hit what you're aiming at, it's important to always keep your goals clearly in mind by reviewing them regularly and making any necessary adjustments to achieve them. (And if you haven't set your goals for the fourth quarter and the half of 2003 and written them down, do so today! You can't get to where you want to go until you decide "where" this is.)

— Are you on track to meet your goals? Why or why not? If not, what can you differently to get back on track toward reaching them? Were these goals realistic? Do they need updating? Professional salespeople must be in the habit of routinely pausing to evaluate their current situation, the critical factors necessary for their success, and making the necessary adjustments that will allow them to achieve their goals.


Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.