Original article

Whether you’re ready or not, the holidays are quickly approaching. Everything feels just a little more hectic this time of year: we’re in the final sales quarter, there’s a bit more pressure on the pipeline, and a number of holidays are set disrupt the hustle and flow of many sales teams. For some, this could mean the difference between hitting and missing an entire year’s quota. Discussing where things went wrong in 2015 is not the most ideal way to kick off 2016. While it may seem like there is plenty of time before sales leaders should start planning for the final push of 2015, in reality it should have already started. Here are a few ways to ensure that your sales team makes its number, the real gift that will keep on giving into 2016 and beyond.

1. Start planning early

When planning quarterly goals and quotas each year, successful sales leaders should use past years to understand the pattern of revenue generation and how quarters typically stack up against each other. If you know that your company has a history of strong Q3s and tough Q4s, take that into account when creating goals so you don’t set your team up for failure. This doesn’t mean that you should make your goals easily achievable, but instead use data to predict how the year might pan out.

2. Prep the pipeline

Your pipeline should be loaded in Q4 thanks to stellar sales performance earlier in the year. This can be a blessing and a curse for your reps, who may have trouble balancing and prioritizing accounts that are at various stages in the decision-making process. In your Q3 QBR, make sure to go over not only closed lost and won deals from Q3 but also look ahead into Q4. Help reps identify the highest priority deals and gauge the probability of those deals closing before the end of 2015. This will help reps focus and will lessen the risk of deals falling through the cracks or pushing to 2016.

3. Really look at the calendar

With your reps in and out of the office for holidays, meetings and more towards the end of the year, it’s important to take a look at the calendar to see how many business days are actually in Q4. Once you account for all of the holidays and days surrounding them that prospects typically take off, not to mention the days your own reps may be taking, you may be surprised to see how few days are left. I try to check in with my reps in person and over email to remind them of the number of days left, so they are able to stay on track and keep the foot on the gas until the final hour of the quarter.

4. Know when the turkey’s cooked

Similar to being aware of the number of selling days left, at Seismic we use the term “as soon as the turkey’s cooked” as a cutoff for when the path to a contract signature must be paved. If a prospective customer’s budget and contract haven’t been delivered and approved before “the turkey’s cooked” on Thanksgiving, there’s a very good chance it won’t close in Q4. It’s difficult to count on deals whose contracts aren’t in by Thanksgiving, so make sure to keep that in mind in the weeks leading up to the long Thanksgiving weekend.

5. Be available

Being a sales leader is a demanding job—you know that by now. In Q4 when time is of the essence, your reps may need your help to quiet lingering objections and negotiate final prices. Make sure they know that you are available to help in any way if it means getting a deal across the line.

6. Take care of your team

The holidays are stressful enough in our personal lives, and being a sales rep at the end of the quarter definitely doesn’t alleviate that stress. Yes, making the annual number is important—probably the most important aspect of you and your reps’ jobs. But at the end of the day (or year in this case), if you have the right team in place, the number and individual quotas will take care of themselves. Make sure your team is on track, but also that they take time with loved ones and truly enjoy the holiday season. Making the number is undoubtedly a gift that keeps on giving, but it won’t matter if your reps aren’t ready to start 2016 off on the right foot.

It can be hard to find the balance between work and play during the holidays, especially at the end of Q4 when hitting quota can be do or die. But following these guidelines will help you implement the right strategy to make sure things get done efficiently and effectively, so your sales team can relish in the joys of the holiday season—and the joys of making the number.

About the Author

Ed Calnan is the founder and President of Seismic, a leading sales enablement platform. Calnan has more than 20 years of sales leadership experience from ADP, Thomson Financial, S&P Capital IQ, Document Sciences and EMC. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from St. Michael’s College.