The Fourth Quarter Frenzy
The last of 2019 can be a time to catch your breath or speed up. However it is for you, let’s hope the year winds down as best as it can and 2020 comes roaring in.
Like most teams, the fourth quarter is often one where players are sucking wind and the coaches are searching through playbooks to find the right combinations that will work.
Although business has been fairly good for many job shops in the plating and liquid and powder coating sectors, the fourth quarter is always a great time for that pep talk to sales staff and managers to maybe push through more orders and finish the year even stronger.
That’s easier said than done. A survey done by Salesforce several years ago discovered that, on average, 13% of leads converted to an opportunity to sell to that customer, and the average time for conversion of the sale is 84 days.
Worse, the conversion rate of an opportunity to a done deal is even lower, coming in at about 6%. The only upside is that, on the deals that were made after an opportunity presented itself, it only took 18 days on average to get the order.
Maybe your shop is as busy as you can be and you’re actually looking forward to some slower times in November and December to catch your breath and plan for 2020. We all look forward to that after a hectic 2019. But if your shop wants to bank a few more orders – or even a few more new customers — experts I have read suggest some great ideas to make the fourth quarter a successful one.
Mark Hunter, who has worked for three Fortune 200 companies in both sales and marketing positions — and who calls himself the “Sales Hunter” — offers a few tips for fourth quarter motivation:
- Make calls now to find out what days your customers may not be available.
- Block the calendar with all holidays and vacations days for everyone in the organization. Don’t get blindsided by not knowing who will or won’t be in.
- Ask your managers how all orders will be handled the last two weeks of the year.
- Determine now where you are with regard to your quarterly number.
None other than American Express offers some help on their website for companies to ‘charge’ through the final three quarters of 2019. Focus on month-end, rather than quarter-end sales, as recommended by Fred Gewant, chief revenue officer for Adaptive Insights, which makes a performance management software. “If you look at every month-end as a quarter-end, that will change the performance of your sales organization.”
The AmEx website also notes that you should keep an eye on the new year, according to Manny Medina, CEO of the sales engagement platform Outreach. He adds that it’s easy to get so focused on achieving strong fourth quarter sales that you might deplete your product pipeline and find yourself in a tough spot starting the first quarter.
Some people will say that the fourth quarter is the best time to buy goods and services. Dan Tyre, a sales director at software developer and marketer HubSpot, says he finds that the final quarter is the biggest time of the year for sales for several reasons. The reason is that many buyers are trained to buy at the end of the quarter or year. They know that salespeople are more likely to discount the later it gets, so they wait. In many organizations, if departments don’t spend their budget, they may lose it altogether. Plus, conditions in a company can change throughout the year. Tyre says that champions get hired, blockers get fired and priorities change.
Max Altschuler, the vice president of marketing at Outreach, says that selling means a lot of rejection, but it also means realizing that someone in your organization made a wrong move or pulled the wrong string.
“Or maybe there are alternatives in the market with superior features compared to your product,” he says. “Whatever led to the lost opportunity, don’t let your disappointment go to waste. Learn from them. Keep notes.”
Altschuler adds that you need to recognize you shouldn't be doing business with just any company that needs finishing work or coatings. He advises that, during a prospecting engagement, you should attempt to qualify leads into sales-ready leads by probing their needs, isolating their pain points and then, more importantly, assessing their profile based on your ideal customer profile.
“The goal of prospecting is to build a healthy ‘supply’ of qualified prospects to let your company continuously attract new customers and keep your business humming,” he says.
We hope that 2019 has been a great year for everyone so far, as the economy seems to be humming along and manufacturers appear to be looking to increase production for the foreseeable future. If that is the case and your shop has latched on to some great new customers and managed to hang on to the existing ones, then pat yourself on the back. Because we all know that things can change in a heartbeat and the economy could go south or your best customer decides to make a switch simply because they can.
Perhaps you should operate year round as if it is the fourth quarter — or even a 2-minute drill in football — and look for new business wherever you can find it. However it is for you, let’s hope 2019 winds down as best as it can and 2020 comes roaring in. Now that would be a fantastic finish.