Recently, two very interesting things happened.
I posted a short LinkedIn question ‘If you were selling your house on Sunday, you wouldn’t just drop the price 20% because the buyer asked you to. So, why would you do it at work on Monday?’
The response from experienced professionals and sales leaders was unanimous: ‘END OF QUARTER’
Two weeks later I hosted a panel of sales experts and sales leaders at Centre for Sales Excellence 2013 and discussed the same topic.
After a two day conference where everyone was filled with the joys of strategy, enthusiasm for coaching the right sales behaviours, consummate sales visions and case studies, the elephant in the room became an entire zoo when asked if people would stay the course if poor end of quarter figures were looming.
There was more shifting in seats than a flatulence convention followed by ‘It depends’, ‘Ya still gotta get the number’ and the wonderfully ambivalent analogy ‘ If I’m giving up smoking and I relapse by having one or two, then it doesn’t mean I’m not still giving up smoking’
Er…doesn’t that ‘relapse’ matter if you’re the leader that’s been telling people to give up smoking for months?
Don’t you love self righteous justifications?
So, let’s look at the most common behaviours that take place at end of quarter and their impact.
Putting on Brown Pants
’I forecasted X to APAC and we’re 22% down. Where’s my magic discount calculator? That’s right – hidden under that new Leadership book I bought at the airport. Hey…All hands on deck. Tell anyone who has ever spelled our company name correctly that they can have the same widgets for 20% less if they order by Wednesday.’
Please Mr. Customer…I’ll be your best friend, mow your lawn for a week and give you back rubs every Friday afternoon if you’ll sign the PO in the next 2.4 seconds
Gathering up the sales team and delivering a blistering verbal attack on their appalling inability to do what you hired them to do.
The worst case of this was a CEO who came down near the end of December and called the entire sales team ‘Two Star Parasites’ True Story.
He then wished everyone Merry Christmas.
Playing jiggery- pokery with the system, quotas, inventory, invoices, commissions or whatever else will make it look good.
Whatever it takes
Got an indirect channel strategy – f*ck it, let’s go direct. Agreed minimum margins become a polite suggestion. Start invading sales territories like the Taliban on methamphetamines.
You might say ‘Hey, this is the real world, mate and it has to be done this way’
At least consider the major impacts on your business:
1. Train your clients to expect discounts quarterly and they will wait and salivate like Pavlov’s Dog dragging your revenue and margins down into the doggie bowl for a long time.
2. Beg your customer and in many cases you will lose trusted advisor status and commoditise yourself as ‘just another supplier’.
3. Attack and blame the sales team and reflect on your staff retention numbers in 12 months time when the head hunters find out.
4. Someone with a personality disorder who wears thick glasses and cardigans in Global Operations will find your fudgery eventually.
5. Break the rules, destroy the strategy and throw sales behavioural change out the window for expediency and watch a confused, dispirited bunch of people at the coffee shop talking incessantly about sales transformation not being taken seriously.
The real world is not perfect and reasonable compromises that are extremely well communicated can still be made.
However, if you’re serious about growth, client trust, developing truly professional sales strategies and people, then it takes leadership.
As Warren Bennis famously said ‘Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing’ Even at End of Quarter.
CEO of Salient Communication, Elliot is a sought after keynote speaker and corporate trainer who has coached and trained over 4000 people including CEOs, senior management and successful sales teams throughout Australasia and Asia including Hong Kong and Singapore.
Elliot is a specialist sales speaker and trainer for high profile corporates having spoken at over 1500 conferences, workshops and break-out sessions on presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching for leading companies such as HP, Avaya, Commonwealth Bank, Hitachi, Computershare, CUB and SEEK. He is renowned for ensuring presentations are engaging, interactive and relevant to winning business in competitive markets.
Elliot is based in Melbourne where he lives with his wife and two expensive children.
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