As we head into 2018, we are heading into a year that could make the current economic cycle the longest since the great depression. Currently the longest is the 120 months, from March 1991 to March 2001. This could well mean that there is more than a real possibility that the next 12 – 18 months will see an economic slowdown, at the same time many market pundits also point to age of the current bull market, and real possibility of a pull back.
There is little or no doubt that this will impact all of us in sales. How it impacts organizations and individual reps will vary based on a number of factors.
How Long You Been Doing This
It is always interesting to see the reaction of reps, which in turn is driven by experience and sales style. Those who have never lived through a downturn, those who entered the sales game after 2011; it is fair to say they are about to discover if they really are a sales people, or just killing time till they figure out what they want to do when they grow up.
But in many ways, being new to sales may be your advantage. People are slaves to their habits, being new to sales, you have not had the time to develop some of the bad habits we veterans have had years to develop.
First habit to develop in owning your own numbers. Specifically owning your metrics. This is not about good number vs. a bad number, it is about your numbers, and how they help you drive towards and above quota. If you know your core conversion rates:
- Initial Meeting to Discovery
- Discovery to Proposal
- Proposal to Close
These will fluctuate with different factors, some predictable, such as seasonality, others are not, like economic cycles. But if you know the numbers above, you will have the levers to react. If you’re one of those likes to preach that sales is not a numbers, good luck. With four numbers, the three above and your quota, you can be in control. You will be in a position to know which to focus on, implement an improvement program, and improve.
It is clear that you will not be able to change all at once, especially when the economy turns against you. Which is why you should start now, select an item, set your benchmark, your current number, and then set a realistic goal. Don’t be macho, and go for the fences, Big Hairy Audacious Goals play well at kick offs, but they lead to disaster when trying to make course adjustments. Examine what is working, and what is not; this of course only works if you are doing thorough and realistic deal reviews, including wins, loses, and draws.
You will have to decide whether you want to attack something that is a current weakness, or pick something you are doing well, and see what you need to do to take it up a notch. Part of your calculation should be to estimate the measurable impact of any change. You want to ensure that the payoff is a net gain.
Remember, you are trying to change habits, which is an incremental process, not a long ball game. Which is why you should start now, cause when the music ends, it may be hard to find an open chair.