What does a birdseye view of your quarter look like? Do you have a consistent stream of deals coming through? Or does it seem a log jam builds as a new quarter kicks-off with a rush of opportunities making it across the finish line treacherously close to quarter’s end? If it’s the latter, you’re not alone — but it’s a key indication that your team is struggling to build a linear sales process.
Why Is Linearity Important?
A linear sales process — in which deals close in a predictable pattern on a week-to-week, and month-to-month basis — is crucial for a company to be in more firm control of its fiscal health.
Linearity enables your company to easily predict when onboarding resources will be needed to support new customers. It helps your company build better cash flow, taking the pressure off of finance and operations to do more with less. It drives better margins, preventing the need to discount at end of quarter. A linear sales cycle creates a predictable stream of revenue that fuels growth throughout the company. So how can you get there?
Create a “30-Day Close” Rule
Jeff Williams, an operating partner at Bain Capital, recommends implementing a “30-day close” plan to finalize any deals that were committed in the previous quarter. This prevents deals from lagging for months, and creates incentive for sales reps to prioritize getting signoff on these deals before pushing on earlier stage opportunities. In order to take advantage of this technique, it’s important to give both your prospects and your sales reps strong motivation to follow this target timeframe. In order to do this, you can:
Offer a 30-day extension on any promotions offered in the previous quarterIf a prospect didn’t bite on a deal offered in the previous quarter, offer an extra 30-day period to make the most of the offer before prices go up again — and make it clear that your team is not willing to extend the promotion beyond that point.
Offer premium packages for customers who close earlier in the quarterIn order to get late stage pipeline opportunities to close within the quarter rather than continue to lag, it can also be helpful to structure special packages that offer customers additional goodies (e.g., access to more product capabilities or services) if they sign on within a set timeframe, such as the first month of the quarter.
Build in commission multipliers based on how quickly deals can be closedIncentivize your sales team to proactively push deals through to a close by offering an accelerator for deals that close within a set block of time which goes down over time, such as an extra 5% for deals that close within a month or 3% for deals that close within two months of quarter start.
Williams also notes that when managing a sales team, he’ll point out that there are three close dates — not just one.
“I’ve learned in my career that if all of your reps are driving to the last day of the quarter, then you can’t drive linearity,” he says. Instead of pushing for end of quarter closes on all pipeline deals, he incentivizes reps to close commits by the end of each month.
By focusing on monthly, rather than quarterly close rates, your sales team can improve their ability to forecast where they’re going to land at end of quarter while generating a more predictable revenue stream.
Want more? Listen to Jeff Williams discuss winning sales strategies in the webcast 5 Non-Negotiable Sales Forecasting Metrics For Every Sales Leader