Closing the year strong with less stress

As the holidays approach and year-end is almost upon us, many companies and individuals are preparing for that “final sales push” to reach their annual sales goals. It can be a time of considerable stress on sales teams and managers who are trying to reach the highest possible numbers and reap the benefits for themselves and their business.

It can be tempting for management to push the sales teams to the limits of what they can accomplish during the fourth quarter.  However, this can have major negative consequences:  dismal first quarters the following year, sellers completely draining their pipeline, turnover from stressed and overworked employees and customers feeling pressured by desperate closing tactics.

If you’ve had three bad quarters already and are praying for a “Hail Mary” to save the year, stop!  Instead of taking huge risks or adding a ton of stress, step back and think about how you can sustainably grow your business in the fourth quarter. Look at where the leads are in your sales pipeline and their value. Structure your goals based upon what can reasonably be expected without draining available resources for the following year. As a manager or a seller, how can you lower stress and still improve results?

1. Pay attention to your largest existing customers.

Remember, for most companies, 80 percent of your sales will come from the top 20 percent of your customers. To close the year strong and reduce stress, look for opportunities with your largest existing customers. Find ways to offer even more value based on your relationship with them. The fourth quarter can be an excellent time to reach out and nurture these relationships and demonstrate your continued interest in their satisfaction. Do a thorough Customer Satisfaction Survey, live and in person with your best clients. Ask them what you can do to improve your relationship with them or the results they are achieving and then act on that information. New sales from existing clients are cheaper and easier to attain than sales from new prospects, especially in the fourth quarter.

2. Follow up on leads quickly and consistently.

In the fourth quarter, opportunities can come and go quickly. If a potential client needs a fix by the end of the year or has money remaining in the budget, they need to get a resolution quickly. Follow up accordingly and pursue a “yes or no” qualification process with each lead to help separate this year’s legitimate prospects from next year’s “window shoppers.”  Studies indicate that the first salesperson to respond to an inquiry is more likely to reach the decision-maker and close the sale. Instead of adding more leads to the pipeline and more pressure on yourself, follow up consistently with the leads you already have and qualify them quickly. Fast “yes’s” and fast “no’s” will help lower your stress and hit your sales goals.

3. Embrace and leverage the holidays.

The holidays can be an important part of a successful sales strategy. Customer appreciation and holiday events can lower stress and create sales opportunities. The holidays are already a time for festivities, vacations, and gift-giving, rather than battling the spirit of the season, use it to your advantage.

Host an open house or customer appreciation event.

Create holiday-inspired promotions or encourage giving your product or service as a gift.

Use the holidays and time off to reward sales personnel who reach particular goals.

Do not be afraid to take or allow time off. It allows you and your people to recharge their batteries and come back stronger, instead of stressed and tired.

As the last quarter of the year progresses, sales teams need to spend time preparing so they can finish the year strong, while also setting themselves up to tackle the following year. Invest time in creating a plan (versus frantically trying to close everything in the pipeline) to minimize stress and maximize results and keep these ideas in mind to have success all year around. ♦

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay. Sandler Training provides proven, effective sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals throughout Tampa Bay.  Contact Jim Marshall @ (813) 287-1500 or

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