Get off to a quick start for the year
It has long been my belief that one of the primary reasons that companies and individuals fail and are generally unable to meet their annual goals is because they waste the first half of the year.
Wait, how can anyone waste six months? Well, it is not really wasting the time but it is more accurately a lack of urgency and focus. “Hell, I have the whole year to hit my numbers.” It is an insidious process, and the results are often quite predictable. What can be done in January to avoid this trap?
We assume that yours is like many other well-run companies that have a series of sales, profit or other goals assigned to individual or groups of sales reps, managers or executives. Normally, such goals are defined on an annual basis and achievement is typically measured at year’s end—for purposes of both recognition and pay. But, often little emphasis or focus is placed on the year’s goals, early in the year.
We believe the solution for a “quick start” is as simple as the source of the problem—remove the built-in 6 to 9-month cushion. In short, break your year into four 3-month “years”—with a beginning, an end—and a performance expectation or goal for each of the four discrete “years” (yes, we mean the quarter).
But to make it work you must have more than a calendar and a pencil, you must also reinforce the importance of each quarter (“year” that is) by changing your feedback and recognition processes. For example try this:
- Tell your sales force and management team that the “world” comes to an end every three months; no more waiting around (or, more accurately milling around) until nearly the end of the calendar or fiscal year before getting serious. And, you can make the cycle every month if your business demands it!
- Have your finance department measure sales, profit contribution and or other denominated goals against quarterly expectations at the end of every week and month. Make sure your key contributors and managers have the results in their mailbox within 48 hours of the end of the period. Call them directly to talk about their results—and do not accept “BS” excuses for under achievement. They will eventually learn to anticipate your rapid feedback, questions and hot buttons.
- Be transparent and broadly post quarterly results for all to see. There is nothing like a little recognition (good or bad) to pep up the coffee break discussion.
- Finally, link achievement throughout the year to sales rep, manager or executive pay. Perhaps, you should add a 15% bonus on top off the annual incentive or bonus for anyone who makes and exceeds their goals for both the first and second quarters.
To be effective with such a program, you need to start immediately. You have plenty of time to be rolling and measuring by the end of February. Do not accept any administrative or IT excuses about too much work or scads of elusive data taking weeks to track down. Make them solve the problems immediately—the newly-developed (faster and better) reporting processes will also pay great dividends to the company in the areas of business development, customer service and competiveness.
Some will argue that this approach cannot be used in a business that lives and dies on the big order, with a sales force (and support processes) built to expect and handle “lumpy” demand. How can one “quick start” in such a big-order business environment? Try this:
- Identify all of the “closable” big orders (say the top 50 known for the year at January 1st);
- Ask your sales force and management team for each closableorder to—
- Identify the probability of closing the business this quarter—and the yield in revenue and profit to be achieved;
- Ask what must happen to close the business as scheduled, and then supply what is needed to your field operators (information, support, products, pricing…) to get the job done; and
- Expect a 15-minute weekly briefing from each seller on Friday morning regarding each closable deal—closing date, next steps, schedule revisions (accelerations, we hope) and abandonment.
- Encourage the sales force and executive team to close as much big stuff as possible early in the year. And then require them to add 50 more new big orders by year end (as one goes off the list a new prospect goes on). If done correctly, everyone loses sight of the year end.
Of course, these processes can become exercises in deception and half-truths if the company and senior-executive team allows it to happen. Again, transparency does wonders to avoid this.
As you can see from our description of the above “quick-start” tools and processes, there is nothing technical or tricky here. It is merely the consistent application of pressure to perform and book business starting the day after New Years’.
If you let your sales force slack off in the beginning of the year, your chances of being successful as a company will go down dramatically. So, do not let it happen—it is within your control.
Get ready for an exciting spring this year.