Quarter 4 is here, the year is coming to a close. You’re running out of time to turn a good year into a great year or a bad year into a good one. You’re probably hearing a barrage of ideas to help you this quarter, so I’m going to swim against the tide a bit. Here are 5 ideas that you might hear that I suggest you ignore in Quarter 4! Hopefully these will help you and your team of advisers achieve the results you’re looking for.
“Focus on driving your strugglers up to the benchmark”
It happens every year… A few of your “stars” shoot the lights out yet again, a big group in the middle will be there or there about and a (hopefully) small group of your team are really struggling and quite a bit off the pace. The usual reaction is to spend time focusing on them, analysing why they are struggling and then hopefully helping them to make the changes and turn their year around.
However this is often done at the expense of the rest of the team, who are left to continue under their own steam. Does this make sense? If through your intervention you are going to achieve (say) a 10% uplift in performance, the impact on your overall number will be bigger if this comes from your stars, rather than your strugglers. The time to work with your strugglers is throughout the year before it becomes a problem.
“Fill that vacancy immediately at all costs”
You’ve a gap in your sales team, it’s really hurting you in one area of the country and you’re struggling to get the right person – a problem faced by many financial advice firms today. A potential candidate emerges but you know in your heart they are not the right person… but they might just deliver some short-term results. Be very careful. This situation can be very difficult to undo as this person builds up relationships inside your organisation and more importantly with your customers. If they have negative traits, these potentially can rub off on other members of the team and as the saying goes; bad breath is worse than no breath…
“It’s all about getting sales in the door”
Well yes it is, but is this not the case throughout the year? Unfortunately what often happens in Quarter 4 is that thinking gets very short-term. Money starts getting diverted from marketing budgets which are building up long-term engagement and brand equity into shorter term and one-off sales enhancements – incentives, pricing campaigns etc. While these undoubtedly have a place in the overall marketing mix, they shouldn’t be introduced out of desperation. They should be part of an overall well-thought out sales strategy.
The downside of these short-term initiatives is that sales seem (naturally) harder to come by when they are removed and also if your longer-term marketing initiatives have been undermined, you might find the start to the following year has been made even more difficult by your short-term thinking in the past.
“See more customers, your internal work can wait”
This is one that raises its head quite frequently. The boss wants the sales team out seeing more customers. The sales team complain about the amount of internal work that needs to be done such as keeping the CRM system updated etc. To deal with it, the boss agrees to temporarily turn a blind eye to the system being updated. Now you’re on the slippery slope! Wait until you try and turn this back on again, get ready for a struggle! Sales people want to spend their time out with customers and as a result will begrudge having to carry out this “internal” work. I suggest if you get the team engaged in doing this important work, never let this slip! I’ll be watching my back with all the broker consultants in the country after this point!
“Pick up the 1:1 meetings again in the New Year”
In the same vein as the above point, another activity that is often let slide as the pressure mounts is 1:1 meetings as everyone tries to stay busy, out chasing up every tree. However this is a time for clear leadership and direction for your sales team. The experience and capability of a manager to stand back and survey the situation, and then being in a position to influence and tweak the activities of the sale person is invaluable. The 1:1 meeting is the best opportunity to display that cool head and influence your team and it is really important that these happen regularly and consistently throughout the year, in good times and difficult times.
Is there any other advice that you’ve got that you think has been very important to ignore? Please leave your comments below.
by Eamonn Twomey