It’s critically important that you reflect on your past year, discern what you’ve done well, and look directly at the areas where you didn’t meet your expectations. Asking and answering the hard questions, then committing to improving in the areas that were problematic for you, is how you get better in the coming year. You are going to want to be brutally honest with yourself, facing down the truths that you wish you could avoid.
Ask yourself these questions and answer them as if your next year’s results depend on your honesty—along with, of course, your willingness to do the work necessary to improve over the next twelve months.
Appropriate Time Prospecting: Did you spend an appropriate amount of your sales time prospecting and scheduling meetings with your prospects or your dream clients? If you met your goals for the year, you likely spent enough time on the phone. However, if your sales year was not what you needed it to be, consider first whether you did enough prospecting to give yourself a fair chance of reaching your target. It’s almost a universal truth that those who don’t do enough prospecting don’t put up their best results.
Enough Nurturing: Those of us who work in what we affectionately call a competitive displacement business, a euphemism for “stealing clients from your competitors,” are required to nurture relationships with decision-makers and decision-shapers inside the companies we pursue. The prospective clients you need to nurture aren’t often compelled to change, and they already have a partner for whatever it is that you sell. The combination of nurturing the relationship and creating value before you attempt to claim value results in displacing your competition. Failing to nurture positive relationships with your dream clients will cost you big accounts that you might have won with enough focused time and effort.
Opportunities Created: Did you create enough opportunities to deliver the results you wanted and expected to win this year? You can never capture an opportunity that you don’t first create. You may have had two hundred percent coverage in your pipeline, but because you based that number on a large, unlikely opportunity, you ended short of your goal. Did your effort in creating new opportunities get as much attention as you gave your email inbox and all the other things that distract you from your real work?
Face-to-Face Meetings: I know. There is a pandemic. You couldn’t see your clients, even though many of us did show up to see our clients, and when we couldn’t, we scheduled video meetings so we could be virtual face to virtual face. Even if you only met via Zoom, you need to ask yourself whether you spent enough time with your clients and prospects instead of spending it on lesser tasks. The only time you are truly selling is when you are engaged with a contact about some opportunity to help them improve their results. All the other things that you have to do are really just commentary on creating and capturing opportunities.
Increasing Effectiveness: Your win rate is the best metric of how effective you were in the past year. To calculate that metric, divide the number of deals you won by the number of deals you competed for, including the ones that ended with a “no decision.” You have to be careful with a metric like this, as I have seen salespeople (you know who you are) with a ninety-percent win rate, a figure they come to by only recording their wins and pretending they disqualified most of what they lost. One of the very best ways to improve your results is to increase your effectiveness in the sales conversation. Do your results prove that you have gotten better at your chosen craft?
Helping Clients with Better Results: At our best, we help our clients produce better results, whether that is achieved by solving their problem, eliminating a challenge, or helping them take advantage of an opportunity. How much of your client’s better results are the direct result of the work you did as their consultative salesperson and their partner? Your value as a consultative salesperson is exactly proportional to the difference you made for your clients. Are your clients excited to see what more you can do to help them in the coming year?
Teaching Your Clients: Did you teach your clients how to make better decisions for their business as it pertains to the outcomes that you sell? Are your clients better off having learned from your insights, your experience, and your knowledge of the intersection where their business and the outcomes you sell converge? The test here requires your client to be better off spending time with you and taking your advice—even if they wouldn’t have bought from you.
You should never read something like this without taking action. The action you take here might start with something as grandiose as making a plan to improve in some area, or something as simple as blocking off ninety minutes on your calendar for prospecting, for every workday in the coming year. When building your plan for the coming year, be certain to shore up all the areas that you need to improve, so you can make your next year your best sales year ever.
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