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As Q4 winds to an end, there are inevitably open deals needing to be shut and (hopefully) shoved into the “closed-won” bucket.

Just one problem -- this is far easier said than done.

Below are a few tips I gave the Lesson.ly sales team on closing before the opening of Q1 2016. 

1) Adjust your mindset.

Have you ever heard a sales colleague load on the excuses towards the end of the year? I’ve heard complaints about the short schedule, the vacations, the lack of responsiveness, the lack of decision making, and a million other things.

If you’re hearing this from your reps or teammates, you have a mindset problem on your hands.

On the other end of the spectrum are the sales reps who buckle down and view the end of the year as a golden opportunity. When the rest of the team is resting on their laurels, these reps over-perform. They are not victims of their circumstance, but conquerors of it.

Especially in software sales, Q4 tends to be the best quarter (thanks to budgeting decisions) so there’s no excuse for a bad mindset. The end of the year will be what you make it. Don't let a crappy attitude keep you from crushing quota.

2) Analyze the calendar.

In your industry, ask yourself: “When does my year end?” If your answer is December 31, think again.

Draw a red target around December 18th and work backwards the amount of days you need to get the contract signed for every deal. The chance of a deal getting pushed to Q1 2016 goes up dramatically if you miss that date.

Don't count on having the 18th through 31st to close deals. If your buyer is around during the end of December, that's great, but don't factor those days into your timeline.

3) Nail down next steps.

It’s always important to have a next step lined up with qualified deals, but this is particularly crucial at the end of year. Prospects are busy, business leaders are in and out of the office, and decision makers are trying to finalize strategic plans. If we’re not on their calendar, we don’t exist!

Often, salespeople shoot themselves in the foot by failing to ask to nail down a concrete time for the next step (concrete means on the calendar). To avoid radio silence, include this phrase at the end of every sales call in the next few weeks:

 “I understand things get busy this time of year and it’s important to be judicious with your time. Can we throw 10 minutes on the calendar next [day] at [time] to discuss {relevant next step}?”

4) Ask early and correctly.

There is a right way and a wrong way to ask for someone’s business towards the end of the year. Here’s an example I received of the wrong way to ask: 

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First off, any initial discussion about discounts should be done with a phone call. Second, presenting a deal for the “first 30 new clients” manufactures scarcity and makes it clear that this salesperson doesn't care about the prospect’s world. I can tell you very few would actually jump at this. Lastly, “best offer ever” screams desperation.

Show value when selling, and you won’t need to resort to cheap tactics like those included in the above message. The right way to ask for business at the end of the year, on the other hand, is to go about it like this:

“Based on all of our discussions so far, it certainly seems like we’ll be able to help accomplish X, Y, and Z that you’ve laid out. What would you need to see from us in order to move forward with a partnership before the end of the year?”

In addition to asking the right way, you should ask early -- i.e., before the last week of December.

5) Neutralize internal pressures.

It's not just the sales department that's busy at the end of the year -- it's everyone. Your legal team will be slammed, your managers will be flooded with discount approvals, and executives might be on vacation.

Double your expectations for turnaround time on requests from other functions within your company, and work backwards from the dates you need signed contracts in hand.

Above all, be cognizant of when and how you’re spending your time. Typically, you should set your sights on five to seven key deals and plan calls and account for travel with these folks accordingly.

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Originally published Dec 10, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Sales Closing Techniques