How Sales Leaders Can Avoid the Quarter-End Crunch

Quarter end crunch in sales
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The end-of-quarter crunch.

For most sales teams, I’d venture to say it’s 10% adrenaline-fueled excitement, and 90% utter torture.

A quarter-end wish list for any head of sales would likely include these items:

  • a healthy deal cushion to serve as a fail-safe;
  • complete visibility into sales team activities on prospective accounts; and
  • predictability.

The end-of-quarter timeline will vary depending on your goods or services, but the anxiety level maps to the same pattern:

Code Yellow: Pricing
You and your prospect should have agreed on pricing terms X number of weeks before the end of the quarter. You know what X is for your organization (for us in the software world, we’d be looking at approximately four weeks from quarter close).

Code Orange: Contract Review
You have a contract ready for the counterparty’s review by this number of weeks from the quarter end (for my team, it’s three weeks). If terms are still being haggled, it is unlikely you’ll close the deal in time.

Code Red (an appropriate color): Redlines
You should have a redlined copy of the contract from your prospect by this point (for us, two weeks from quarter-close).

Point of No Return
You’re in the office at 6:00 a.m. every day that last week, trying for last-minute heroics, but the reality is you were counting on a deal that didn’t adhere to your timeline.

In an ideal sales world, we could structure predictable outcomes from vendor-selection stage to the moment the customer signs on the dotted line. The limited amount of time we have to close deals at quarter-end forces us to take a good, hard stare at how we can improve efficiency closer to the beginning of the negotiation process.

One simple way to avoid the quarter-end crunch is to inject deal predictability and efficiency into the sales cycle. How? Start with the foundation of your deal: the contract. Here are some techniques that you can start implementing right away:

1) Get a term sheet from your prospect as early as possible. Knowing up front what your prospect intends to include in the contract will ensure that you have a clearer picture of the deal timeline. The sooner you can see the terms and conditions that are crucial to your prospect, the faster you can respond (and the better prepared you’ll be for negotiations). At this point, you’ll already have improved your deal predictability by understanding if the feasibility of your prospect’s essential terms implies weeks, months – or even more than a year for deal closure.

2) Create a “contract playbook.” Perhaps one of the most important things you can do in the early phases of a deal is create a contract playbook – the series of items to which you’re willing to agree so the deal doesn’t get bogged down in legal quicksand. One of the common reasons a negotiation gets delayed is unreasonable terms and conditions on both sides of the fence. Creating your contract playbook ensures that you have a plan about which cards you want to show.

3) Prepare the way for quick signoff.  If you’ve cleared the more difficult hurdle of coming to terms, you don’t want to miss closing the deal because you can’t get the contract to the right people at the right time. Make sure you fully understand the sign-off process for your deal before crunch-time hits. If you have many different types of contracts and a complex approval cycle, consider deploying contract-management software that can automate many of the steps, reduce errors, and speed the approval cycle.

End-of-quarter stress is a fact of life for sales teams. Rather than hope for last-minute heroics to get your deal done, invest in some smart steps ahead of time so make the process more predictable. You’ll be ahead of the game and ready to speed to close when the customer says, “Yes.”

Doug Bell
Doug Bell is Chief Commercial Officer at Selectica.