As a general rule of thumb I intensely disliked the first quarter of any business year. And for good reason. For seven years as a salesperson we had a comp plan that Sir Isaac himself couldn’t have figured out. By the time we figured out the new annual tweak to the program we had to load in at the end of the fiscal year to make any money. You know how that affected January and part of February. Long about October 20th the ugly cycle started again.
Then we had this little start up in the 80’s. We had certain revenue milestones that keyed in stock options and other “perky” little things. Long about mid- June (FY ended in July) we’d sidle up to our best customers and ask them to fill the basement store room (the CFO never knew they existed) with an extra six weeks of product. There went the first quarter of the next fiscal year-again! (I’m not condoning the behavior here but it sure helped pay for the majority of two college educations!)
Since those days are a dim memory let’s be realistic about what March 10th means. Twenty five percent of the fiscal year is close to being toast. Here’s what went through my brain in those bygone days:
- Are we 25% or more of the way to making our sales forecast?
- Are the opportunities collecting mold in the funnel or are they moving?
- Are the salespeople seeing the right prospects?
- Are we growing the business we don’t have in our existing customer accounts?
- Are the salespeople following the sales activity plans they created for the current year?
- Are we chasing bad prospects? (See #2)
- Are we seeing the right people in prospect accounts?
- Based on the manager’s observations are the salespeople using the sales language correctly?
- As the sales manager am I doing the right stuff?
This is one of those times when you begin to see the good managers earn their money and the bad managers sweat. If we were at plan or above I’d gather the salespeople together for a play date in a warm climate. Golf, pool, spa and good food. A small portion of the time we would spend plotting our course for the remainder of the year. If we were below plan we’d meet in Minneapolis in late March. Ideal conditions for that meeting were below zero temps with a blizzard. They weren’t fun.
The Final Thought: “Succes is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistenly applying basic fundamentals.” Jim Rohn