How to Close a Deal on the Hardest Days of the Month
A recent report revealed that salespeople lose more sales on Fridays than any other day of the week, which likely comes as no surprise to those in the sales business. Many seem to be be O.K. with this status quo, seeing it as just a fact of life in the industry.
But where does it end? First, you write off Fridays, and then, the end of the month. What’s next? Summer solstice? Super Bowl week? Be-kind-to-your-neighbor month?
If you’re thinking that losing deals during these critical sales periods sounds wild, that’s because it is. The data is there, though, which means there must be underlying reasons behind the trouble salespeople have closing sales at certain times.
Our company just recently closed its largest client deal. The call happened to be scheduled for a summer Friday, so we knew that if we didn’t have every stakeholder on the call, there was an increased likelihood of the decision getting pushed down the road.
To set ourselves up for success, we were unbending in requiring every decision maker in the process to attend the call, or we’d reschedule it for the next week. We also went to greater lengths than usual to confirm attendance: We made a big deal out of having many of our own senior team members in attendance, thereby increasing the guilt factor for our prospective clients if they were thinking about canceling. We also had the client’s decision maker agree to the agenda in writing, and we sent multiple confirmation emails.
Closing sales any day of the week
As a salesperson, vice president of sales, CEO, and sales consultant, I’ve seen it all. Here are four tips to help you and your team avoid lost sales on Fridays and the last days of the month:
1. Discourage sales managers from making “office days” into “bother salespeople days”
From what I’ve seen, many sales managers use Fridays as “office days.” In other words, they’re choosing to work from their home offices rather than selling from the field at the end of the week. Many of them take the opportunity to engage in some high-impact sales management activities such as dropping their kids off at daycare or starting their staycations a few hours early.
If sales managers have time for any actual work on those days, they often use that time to call salespeople, bother them about deals in progress, and push them to close sales that day. Of course, this behavior leads the salespeople to make poor decisions that can lose deals.
Do not let this happen at your company—encourage your sales managers to engage in real management activities, such as coaching their salespeople or working on innovative projects during their home office days.
2. Recognize and plan for decision makers to be “out” on Fridays
It might seem obvious, but it’s still true: Many business leaders—and, sometimes, their other employees—might ease into the weekend a day early by working from home, or get a start on weekend travel for next week’s meetings by working from the airport.
What isn’t so obvious is that even though they’re technically out, they’re not off—but that doesn’t mean they want to take a sales call at 4 p.m. on a Friday. It’s not very likely that a call at that time will result in a closed deal. So, especially in the summer, do not schedule important meetings or deal-closing calls on Fridays. It’s a simple strategy, but it’s effective.
3. Stick to real deadlines
To move sales through the pipeline more quickly, many “clever” sales managers and salespeople come up with fake deadlines, such as a 10 percent discount in honor of Flag Day. As these fake deadlines pervade the sales force, more and more salespeople are calling prospects and trying to get them to close using fake deadlines. The result? Desperation.
Nothing kills deals like the appearance of desperation—or the actual presence of desperation—and nothing gives off the nasty scent like a fake deadline. Encourage your salespeople to be more strategic when trying to get sales across the goal line. Think about what the prospect’s actual issues are and strive to address them in a sophisticated manner.
4. Ensure incentives don’t reward sandbagging
The best salespeople are always the best sandbaggers: They set expectations low, knowing they’ll exceed them and become the hero who pulled a deal out of nowhere. They’ve figured out the compensation plan and know when it’s best to push a deal to the next week, month, or quarter. It’s not that these salespeople are being unethical or manipulative—quite the contrary. They just have experience. They know how their superiors view over-promisers, and they know how to avoid being painted with that brush.
While it might seem like your top salespeople are doing everything they can to close the last deal on the last Friday of the month, they’re not. They love to avoid being bothered, and if they know flopping a deal from one week, month, or quarter to another will make their lives better down the road, they will.
To combat this, ensure your incentive structure doesn’t reward this behavior—for example, we’ve instituted real accelerators that lead to massive results for salespeople who exceed their goals. To incentivize new customer acquisition, for example, commission fluctuates based on how many new deals they close in a given month. If a salesperson sells fewer deals than the minimum goal, the commission he or she receives on all deals for that month will decrease. If he or she beats a higher goal, the commission value increases.
We also have team incentives to motivate top salespeople to close deals for the good of their co-workers. If there’s anything great salespeople value more than not being bothered, it’s recognition, and nothing yields more recognition than swooping in at the last minute to close a deal that gets the team to a critical goal.
While it’s true that fewer deals are closed on Fridays than any other weekday, it doesn’t have to be the status quo. If business leaders discourage unproductive behaviors among their salespeople and plan ahead for possible scheduling issues, it’s possible to successfully close deals even on the toughest sales days.