After watching the Masters golf tournament this past weekend, I learnt how quickly everything can fall apart. It is reminiscent of the life of a salesperson with difficult to obtain sales goals. All sales representatives have an annual budget that we need to meet, and one that we want to meet. Each round of golf represents a sales quarter for the account executive. We all have an income target at the end of the year, and if we hit our revenue goals, it allows us to feel a sense of personal achievement. The same applies with the contestants of a golf tournament like the Masters. Meeting our sales goals is like achieving par, though we’re always hoping for a birdie, eagle, albatross or even a hole in one.
We break out our annual sales goals into quarters, as golfers do each tournament by analyzing single rounds. The first few rounds of golf at the Masters provided huge challenges from the windy conditions they had to face. Like the economical climate, the Masters tournament hadn’t seen such challenging conditions since 2007. Whether you’re hitting the links at Augusta or pounding the pavement to sell products, there are three steps to help you achieve sales goals.
The 3 Ps to Mastering Sales Goals
1. Pipeline management
The golfers that were successful at navigating these blustery conditions were on top of the leaderboard. This year was particularly tumultuous, seeing many upsets from round two to three, three to four. Like the best golfers, the most successful salespeople are able to strategically maneuver around obstacles when they present themselves. Each round is different, as each quarter is unique for sales; shot selection is to a golfer what pipeline management is for all successful salespeople. We determine, not always with great precision, how many opportunities we have and which ones we feel the best about closing at any given time.
Pipeline management is about knowing all your opportunities all of the time and striving to meet sales goals. Understanding what part of the process each prospect is at in your funnel is essential in making (somewhat) accurate revenue projections. As golfers analyze each shot to determine what club to use and angle to take, salespeople need to find their most trusted approach to each interaction. We are constantly testing email subject lines and content, new sales scripts and various trade shows.
The best sales representatives know that if enough opportunities can present themselves, they will close x number of them. Conversion rates often prove fairly consistent, and the best golf players usually know their likelihood of making particular shots. But unless there is enough in the pipeline, they also know that their sales goals are unattainable, and that they will fail. Successful sales representatives are able to—as great golfers are able to—live within the moment. With every shot comes a new opportunity; with every phone call a new conversation. Whether you’re making a shot from the sand trap of calling a new prospect, there are unique challenges that need to be addressed. Salespeople and golfers alike prepare themselves to make the best of every opportunity by researching and ensure their chances of closing the deal or successfully putting the ball into the hole. For golfers, the more time on the green, the better their shot will get. Practice is no different for salespeople—the more time they spend making calls and refining their sales approach, the higher the conversion rate goes.
Marketing automation and customer management solutions ensure that you provide the sales representative with the opportunities they need to hit revenue goals. If enough chances present themselves, great salespeople are more likely to get a birdie and not a bogey. Opportunities also allow sales teams to learn and hone their craft. Learning from mistakes is a characteristic of all great people. I guarantee that Jordan Spieth will not make the same mistake again on the twelfth hole. Maybe no hole, in fact.
The Masters was a grind for all who participated, and there is nothing more frustrating than losing when winning is in sight. As with sales, you can have three great quarters and it can all come tumbling down in the fourth if you lose a big account. It happens to all of us, and those who persevere and know that they can replace the revenue are the most successful. It happened to me: one of our largest partners decided to switch to a competitor and I knew it was coming. I tried everything I could to change their minds, but the decision had already come from the top. Ultimately there was no choice but to find other opportunities to help fill the gap. Through many client and prospect calls, our team was able to fill the void by finding new partners and up selling to our existing base. These initiatives cannot be done alone—sales forces depend on marketing and partner success teams to unearth opportunities and achieve sales goals. If done properly, your chances of winning increase, and the best teams know how to navigate obstacles to ensure they don’t hit a quadruple bogey…or at least come back if they do
Persevering is maybe the most important part of becoming a closing salesperson. Knowing that failure is inevitable can be daunting. Remember that the best salespeople and the best golfers alike all fail. All of them. The salespeople that learn from those failures are mission critical to continually growing a healthy sales pipeline.
No matter your department—whether you’re in sales, marketing, product or anywhere else—a company with a well managed sales pipeline comes out on top. Through the three essential Ps of meeting sales goals—pipeline management, practice and perseverance—any company can become a thriving, sales driven organization. Danny Willett persevered, taking advantage of the opportunity left to him by defending champion Jordan Spieth, dropping six shots in three holes to win his first major. Pick up a club and start swinging; grab the phone and start ringing.