The 4th quarter is always a busy time of year with the hubbub of the holidays, travel, parties, and events. It is also often a year-end push to meet quarterly or annual sales targets in the sales industry, frequently made even more difficult with prospects and customers themselves immersed in year-end activities. In today’s competitive, fast-paced sales environment with empowered buyers and lengthened purchase and sales cycles, actions taken in the 4th quarter are also determinative of incoming 1st quarter results and outcomes. The environment requires planning, preparation, and balance on the part of sales, keeping an eye toward the upcoming, new 1st quarter even while accelerating sales in the 4th.
The new paradigm – The empowered buyer
The digital information age and the Internet have created a new paradigm in both business-to-business and consumers’ sales: the buyer-empowered world. Information is easily available and accessible. Buyers are more independent in the exploration process with less reliance on sellers for information, creating a very competitive sales environment. Some estimates are that, on average, business-to-business buyers have done 57% of their due diligence work before engaging a sales representative.
The lengthened sales cycle
The buyer-empowered word has prompted the extensive movement toward inbound sales and lengthened the purchase and sales cycle. Buyers are bombarded with information and offer and are educated and demanding. Sellers must compete for their attention. This requires getting in front of prospects and keeping them engaged until they are ready to make the purchase decision. Sales personnel must align their selling efforts to the buyer’s journey; personalize interactions so they are relevant and meaningful; build trust, acting as an advisor to assist in solving problems, preparing for trends, or otherwise help a prospect reach the purchase decision; and enhance the overall customer experience
Risks of trying to accelerate 4th quarter sales
In general, sales organizations are continuously trying to shorten the sales cycle, accelerate sales, react more quickly, and use sales acceleration tools to automate processes. However, there are risks given the current paradigm of the empowered buyer and competitive sales environment.
A salesperson needs to understand where a prospect is in the buying decision path and respond appropriately, keeping and enhancing the prospect’s trust. Too much push on a prospect not ready or unable to make the purchase decision may be counterproductive and generate an adverse reaction, turn the prospect off, and negate previous efforts and engagement.
Budget, preparation, and planning
In business-to-business sales environments, the 4th quarter is frequently the time when a business prepares and plans budgets for the next year. A sales team that has aligned its efforts with a prospective buyer’s path and developed a trusted relationship with meaningful and personalized engagement is in a much better position to have its products or services included in budgets for the next year.
With the revelry of the holidays, salespeople face the final push to meet quarterly and annual sales targets at the hectic end of the year. However, the 4th quarter means more than just accelerating sales to reach year-end numbers. It also requires continuing efforts to keep prospects engaged for future purchases. A salesperson that ignores 4th quarter prospects not yet in the final stage of the purchase decision puts upcoming 1st quarter results in peril.