Fourth and Goal: How are you on your sales numbers?

If you’re a football fan, we sincerely hope that your favorite team – National Football League, college, high school, etc. – is off to a good start to the season. Similarly, we also hope your year-to-date sales projections, revenue goals and business plans are on track to meet, or exceed, your expectations.

But, if you check the calendar, you’ll notice that the fourth quarter of the calendar year is already upon us and, whether you’re on target to hit your numbers or you’re pacing behind, now is the time to elevate your current plans to ensure you finish the year strong and, if necessary, “course-correct” to add more to your sales pipeline, revisit lost opportunities and close outstanding bids or proposals.

With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to determine what needs to be done to “get the ball over the goal line” by the end of the year:

Assess the Playing Field

Just as a quarterback needs to “size up” the game conditions and the competition, take time to assess market conditions, wins and losses, and what’s working, or not working, from a strategic sales perspective. What are you, and your people, doing well and what should you, or they, be doing better, more effectively and more efficiently going into the fourth quarter?

Set Goals

You and your team are in the “Red Zone;” where/what is the goal line? Is it meetings with decision-makers? Proposals? Revenue? Closed deals? Your goals should be determined not just by what you hope to achieve in the fourth quarter but also by how they align with the long-term strategic vision for the company. And remember the SMART acronym – your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Devise Your Plays

Now that you’ve identified the goal line, what “plays” have you devised to get the ball there?  What specific strategies and tactics will you implement to identify and close high-potential opportunities? Is it a more focused marketing effort? Asking for and obtaining quality referrals and introductions? Revisiting former customers/clients? Better use of data and technology?

Prepare Your Team

When the fourth quarter rolls around, some teams tend to get winded, discouraged or demoralized, especially if they’re falling behind. How are you, and your team, fighting fatigue, providing motivation and recharging for the task ahead? Recognize your team’s achievements, celebrate their wins and give them opportunities for professional development. It’s fourth and goal; can you/they dig deep and summon the strength to punch the ball into the end zone?

Be Alert to New Opportunities

Year-end budgets and sales cycles represent new opportunities that can significantly impact your sales efforts. Clients/customers are already focusing on the holidays, wrapping up their calendar (or fiscal) years and budgeting for the New Year. Now is the time to create sales and marketing activities that may resonate with your prospects and potentially capitalize on fourth-quarter market conditions.

Analyze What’s Working (and What’s Not!)

It’s foolish to keep running the ball into the line of scrimmage for no gain when an end-around or a pass to a wide receiver might be more effective. To increase your odds of winning, you need to constantly analyze your sales metrics, track your conversion rates and gauge your progress toward the end zone. If your analysis is on target, you have a better chance of success.  If not, you may need to…  

Adapt to the Defense

On the football field, you may have designed the perfect set of plays but, as a wise coach once said, “The other team gets paid, too!” Your perfectly conceived plan of attack may get thwarted and you need to adapt and change your strategy on the fly. Be prepared with a “Plan B” to address fluctuating market conditions, customer expectations and unexpected opportunities.

In your business, think of Q4 as the final minutes of a championship game. What is your plan to close out the win or to “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?” By devising a plan now, you will not only finish the year strong, but you’ll also be better prepared to kick off the New Year with a full head of steam. 

Jim Marshall is owner, and president, of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or

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