I had been working in corporate for many years before starting my sales consulting practice back in 2009. For many years, I would go down to Florida to visit my elderly parents and spend some time with them during the holiday season. Many of our customers had been trained (by us!) that the best time to get a good deal was at the end of the year. We trained our customers that we would eagerly jump through hoops to get deals in by our fiscal year-end, December 31. So, here’s how my visits would go down in Florida during the holidays.
Because I had a large sales team reporting to me, I also had a large revenue number that my team had to attain – or better yet – exceed. I was always on the phone with the sales team or with our customers during the holidays. Always discussing how to get deals closed by the dreaded deadline – December 31. Maybe Christmas dinner was a safe haven, but all other times were a free-for-all. I was not enjoying myself sitting inside, on the phone, watching the palm trees blow in the wind, sun shining so bright. Nor was I enjoying myself if I sat outside since I was always, and I mean always, on the phone working to get all deals in by December 31.
Honestly, it sucked. I mean every New Year’s Eve, I had to be available and ready to negotiate and close. Waiting to get the signature on the contract. Good in the end, but not fun. And our deal sizes and revenues were actually suffering as a result.
Fast-forward a bit, to the time I decided to implement one major thing that would help us stop this bad year-end habit: the Sequence of Events (SOE) document.
The SOE document enabled us to work with our customers to better understand all the key activities that needed to get done – by both parties – in order to ensure customers got the value of our products and services when they needed them.
We would start with an end-date in mind (the date the customer would need to actually realize business value) and work backwards from there to ensure both parties understood the key steps necessary to get the customer to their end goal. The SOE document would be a few lines to start, and then would end up being about a page’s worth of content. This was not a project plan, but a high-level executive document to help us both stay on course and ultimately ensure everyone’s success.
We would then review the document periodically over the course of the deal, monthly at first. As we got closer to the end of the sale cycle, we’d review it a bit more frequently.
The benefit to everyone was a pipeline that finally started matching our customers’ priorities and timeframes – and essentially eliminated the December 31 crunch. Now, there was no need to retrain customers to get deals done on our timeline. The number of deals closing on December 31 greatly decreased, and we would make our number earlier and earlier in the year. Unfortunately, that led to higher quotas, but also more money. Win, win, win.
Then I left the corporate world to start my own consulting business. There was no more corporate pressure to close deals by December 31. My family, at first, could not figure out what was different about my visits. But, I knew. I was, and am to this day, able to spend quality time with my family, play golf, visit friends and enjoy the holidays.
Where do you stand on year-end crunch time? Are you drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve, enjoying your time with family and friends? Or are you trying to escape the noise of the party so you can be on your phone constantly to close those deals by December 31?
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