Many of you have just completed the first quarter of your fiscal year. If you met your Q1 plan, congratulations! If you didn’t, can you catch up in Q2?
If you didn’t make your number, you are probably already doing a deep dive analysis to figure out what went wrong and what will turn things around. Whether you made it or not, it’s important to review what went well and what could be improved moving forward — from both pipeline management and sales resource planning perspectives.
Does this sound like your current reality? Read our five-step guide on how to glean valuable lessons from Q1 and increase your chances for success in future quarters.
Beware of Early Success
Early success can mask problems. In my experience, when people reach their goals, they are far less likely to analyze what factors led to that result than they are when they fall short. If, for example you reached your quota by pulling deals into Q1 you expected to close in Q2 or later, but there was no overall growth in your pipeline, you risk missing target in future quarters. Regardless of your early successes, don’t miss the opportunity to scour your plan for inaccurate forecasting, inconsistent account planning and differences in performance across territories that could be troublesome in Q2 and beyond.
Account for Ramp
Similarly, let’s assume you planned on hiring new reps early enough in Q1 for them to have completed their onboarding ramp and be fully productive by the end of Q2. You weren’t really counting on them for delivering much in Q1, but if the actual hiring timeline is delayed by a month or two, that is lost productivity that could haunt you later in the year. Be sure to account for leeway in your projections should your hiring plan stall or new hires take longer to ramp than anticipated.
Monitor your Pipeline
Your quarterly sales forecast is only as good as the data in the pipeline. As such, it’s important to keep a close eye on the quality of your pipeline at all times. Is the total number of opportunities continuing to grow? Is your conversion ratio staying steady or increasing? Is your sales velocity increasing? If the answer to any of these is no, it’s time to take a closer look. Pay close attention to increasingly longer sales cycles, deals skipping stages and/or slipping into future quarters and address these issues early to avoid pitfalls later in the year.
Get Your Check-up
Speaking of monitoring...You should be performing regular check-ups against your sales resource plan, preferably monthly, but at least quarterly. During these exercises, you can gauge how close actual performance is tracking to your plan assumptions. For example, you’ll be able to discern if you are hiring according to your original plan as well as answer whether or not your attrition assumptions are holding true. Depending on the results, you might need to revise your resource plan to address any areas of concern before it’s too late.
Dig Deeper on Deals
Don’t take your sales successes at face value — now is the time to dig deeper. Poll your Sales Managers at the close of each quarter. Learn why they were able to secure the deals they landed. Determine what lost deals could have been turned into wins. And don’t forget to ask what lead sources proved to be the most fruitful from their perspective. As the primary contact with prospects, Salespeople can provide a unique perspective to the conversation. By foregoing this follow-up, you risk not learning from past mistakes.
As you can see, the first-quarter close is a golden opportunity for Sales Leaders to analyze and re-calibrate their plan before it’s too late. Whether you’re ahead of your YTD mark or have already fallen behind, it’s imperative that you take this opportunity to review your successes and shortcomings from both a pipeline management and sales resource planning perspective. Completing this analysis will help you get a running start on the second quarter and pave the way for year-long sales success.
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