I see more sales teams miss February’s targets than any other month of the year. In fact I’ve missed a few Februaries too.
Here’s a short list of reasons why sales team’s miss their February goals:
I had a football coach that would say “We can’t be undefeated if we don’t win the first game.” Many sales managers take this same approach. They focus hard on hitting January’s number. Some sales teams even start working on January in December (that’s not good either). Success is a good feeling, but success can cost a sales team too. Nothing fails like success. So for many sales teams too much celebrating January leads to a February hangover.
Weather makes this already short month even shorter. Many reps fail to account for weather and actually lose a few more selling days because of road conditions, cancelled flights, and cancelled school (customers can’t find childcare and must stay home with kids). This affects all sales professionals. Just because you live in San Diego doesn’t mean your customers do too. In fact I’ve seen flights between two unaffected cities because the plane slated for the flight was grounded in another city, on another leg of its route.
February is the shortest month of the year, even during a leap year. Inevitably fewer selling days results in fewer selling activities. Fewer selling activities means fewer buying opportunities. It’s just math. Now let’s take away those few precious selling days lost to bad weather. Most sales managers don’t account for the shorter number of days, or the affect weather will have on the team’s ability to work. Most sales people don’t plan for this reality either, and find themselves either at home with kids or snowed in watching Netflix.
For some reason sales executives always budget February to be bigger than January, and I‘ve never understood why. Maybe it’s pressure from leadership, maybe it’s inexperience with forecasting. Either way, it’s the same result: a big miss. I haven’t seen a sales team that wasn’t affected by seasonality in some way. It’s great to be aggressive and push the team to produce. However, sales leaders can compromise their credibility with the sales team when they publish a silly February Forecast.
Here’s how I handle February:
Back off the budget. Most of you met your sales number in January, so your year’s off to a good start and your building credibility with leadership and the sales team. Look back at last February and let’s make sure this year is better than last, but don’t be too aggressive. Consider the facts and publish an accurate forecast based on the realities of this short month.
Create “Snow Days”. Have each rep create and share an alternate plan for those unexpected weather events. A good “snow day” plan is full of activities we always plan for, but keep getting pushed further down the task list. Prospecting blitzes, writing an annual sales plan (that they were supposed to write in December or January but never did), take an online course, read a book that improves your craft, schedule mock pitches and presentations with other sales team members, and any other non-revenue producing activity.
TDY. The military has a beautiful thing called Temporary Duty Assignment (TDY). It can also be a gift for a sales manager. If fact, this seldomly used tactic can make you look like a hero to your executive team.
If you anticipate a major storm in a market that will sideline a sales rep(s), then temporarily send them to another market. If it’s a senior rep that is going to be hit with inclement weather, then send them to cross train on a different product or to help train a more junior sales person. If it’s a junior sales person, then send them to work with a top performer in another market.
Here’s an additional benefit of this tactic: variety is motivating.
Many sales people rarely leave their markets, or take a vacation. A TDY can mix things up for a rep, give them a little “sunshine”, a chance to connect with teammates they rarely speak with, and they alway return energized and grateful for the experience.
Getting my sales team through February has always been a priority for me. Over the years I’ve learned (the hard way) to consider these realities. Hopefully you can deploy these tactics and beat February.