Make sure to use the end of the year to push extra-hard for any final business. Consider holding competitions among your sales staff for closed sales, written sales, completed sales, etc.

Everyone has challenges in their business and some use the calendar year as the end of their business year. While December 31st may not be the end of your year, it does provide a focal point for handling many items that should be addressed by you and your employees.

Sales proposals, orders, and promotions. I believe I’m safe in saying all companies could use more sales. Likewise, more profit dollars. There is no better time than now to close out pending proposals and turn them into real business. Use the end of the year to push extra hard for that client’s buying decision.

A sales quote or proposal is not an order. My blood pressure always went up a few notches when I heard someone bragging about their number of proposals. A great time to focus on this with your team is in late November and December. Close it now so you have a chance to get it into this year’s business.

You might as well find out now what amount of business can be closed now. This will give you a real look at what your first quarter of 2012 will be. This type of info, if gathered assiduously, will help you make realistic plans for year-end, as well as next year. Nothing beats having this information.

Dream up a sales promotion with existing sales targets for your team. The very spirit of the successful salesperson is built around competition and being recognized for exemplary results. Set up a time frame to measure their extra effort and profitability. Consider several top prizes for closed sales, written sales, completed sales, most profitable sale, and highest paid sales collections.  

Rules for promotions. Make sure to establish a specific time frame, with easy to understand rules of what it takes to win, transparent way of calculation, definite prize or award value, when it will be paid or available, what will happen if there is more than one winner, and how the winner will be determined.

Consider rewards for a big winner along with several other prizes, since a winner-take-all approach is of limited value and not everyone will put out their best effort. A grand prize or contest winner is fine, but I’ve always been a fan of the type of contest where there are multiple opportunities to win.

Why not consider having a promotion on collections of account receivable? Maybe an award for the largest dollar deposit on a commercial order or salesperson with the lowest outstanding receivables over 60 or 90 days old.

Brush up on the basics. Use the slower time period in December to think about expanding or refreshing knowledge in products, installation prowess and sales techniques as everyone gets rusty and complacent. Why not set a written goal for all three areas-monthly, for the next year?

Rather than wait for a mill rep to schedule a training seminar for product updates, determine what would be most beneficial for your team and approach them; if that mill is a key component to your offering, I suggest you consider a quarterly update. Be proactive and plan ahead, rather than leave it to a mill rep to suggest it.

New or refresher installation training is ideal for your delivery team; where are you weak or where do you get the most complaints? What new products are you considering and do you have installer competence in those areas? How many installers will you send out for advanced training in the next year? A good question is: How could we have avoided our most expensive delivery failure? Are we going to learn from it by better training, or having better personnel or more effective supervision?

When’s the last time you got a reading on your sales team’s ability to consistently close sales? If you have an experienced salesperson with a lot of proposals but lagging sales, that’s your cue to look at closing ratios. Get a count of the number of proposals versus written orders; of course this can be done monthly, but should be done at least quarterly.

Schedule some sessions on how to ask for the order and how to handle typical objections. I have found that having the right words to say (such as a script) and practice is absolutely critical. Everyone needs this practice; it can be very effective to do this in a group meeting since this type of setting puts one on the spot, as is similar to the pressure of asking for that big order in front of a client.

I live by the statement: “You don’t know what you can get until you try.” I once asked a salesperson how they got a huge deposit on a commercial job. Their reply: “I asked for it.”  

A sales role in your company is worth how much sales volume? As you look at your sales volume for next year, are you sure you have enough qualified personnel to get the job done? One quick way is to look at your sales volume production over the previous three years; for each year, divide the net volume by the number of sales personnel that were then available to produce it; calculate an average of the three years. Now you have an idea of what an average salesperson will produce in volume at your company. Do you have the right number of people for the sales volume you want for 2012?  

Yes, I know that you’ll want each person to be more productive; but if your average is $1.5 million, then a jump to $2.1 in one year is probably not going to happen. You may also refine this concept to include sales and support personnel, or perhaps you have other metrics in mind specific to your company.

It may also be helpful to differentiate between new personnel and experienced ones; those with one year’s tenure versus those with more than two years. After all, what would you expect a newly hired person to produce during their first year?

How many gross profit dollars will each produce and what is your overall average for each type of commercial business? How much will a new salesperson cost you in compensation and how does that translate into sales volume and gross profit dollars others will have to produce?

Weeding out the bad. Replacing personnel is usually a painful process, as is finding qualified replacements. Have you reviewed all your personnel with an eye to making changes? One method is to devise a 10-point rating scale for each sales and support position to measure effectiveness. This may be done along the lines of ten questions, with a personnel rating of one to 10 for each question. Take the questionnaire, the list of your personnel in each position, and then rate each one. When you add up the scores, you’ll find some surprises, and have a list of those that either need to do a much better job or be replaced.

This ratings method will give you one way to gauge your bottom tier and have a numerical comparison so as to avoid seeming capricious. All of your employees need to be reviewed on a measureable scale. You owe it to yourself and them to do this.

This is the time to fix holes in your service and sales delivery/support areas, too. You have probably been doing some type of client survey. Review and categorize these reports to see where changes are needed. Usually, there are personnel that should be moved to other positions for which they are more suited, or terminated for uneven or inept performance.

Yes, give them a warning, but be ready to terminate for cause if needed. The worst thing you can do is to live with a bad situation.