Leading a 4th Quarter Comeback

We’re a couple of weeks into the 4th quarter ( our fiscal year is also the calendar year).  And in the 4th quarter almost every sales leader I know (including me) is frantically, and singularly, focused on doing whatever it takes to hit their number.  Their adrenaline is in overdrive and there is this unrelenting drive to finish strong and finish successfully.  

For some of the sales leaders who may be behind plan, they are already imagining the comeback story they’ll get to tell on stage at the 2019 global sales conference after accepting the “President’s Trophy” from their CEO.  Good for them and of course everyone loves a good comeback story. 

But short of heroic “Hail Mary” efforts, luck, or massive discounting to close deals, what do the best sales leaders do to close the gap, overcome any shortfall to quota, and finish Q4 strong?  We’ve identified three common strategies:


1: Trust the process.


The sales leaders who complete a comeback and close their gap have quantified the size of the deficit to the penny.  And they’ve also defined the exact daily, weekly, or monthly targets for activity and results required to close their gap.   But the top sales leaders also know the gap isn’t typically going to get closed in a single sale or in a single day.  They know it’s going to be an hourly, weekly, monthly, etc. series of flawlessly executed steps on the most critical opportunities that will get them to their goal.


Most importantly, they don’t abandon their sales process or invent new plays in the 4th quarter.  The best sales leaders trust their process and ensure their people are executing flawlessly on the most critical opportunities.  


2: Perfect Practice


The old saying “practice makes perfect” is not trues for leaders attempting the 4th quarter comeback.  Perfect practice is the right approach.  Or in other words,  the best sales leaders don’t abandon training in the 4th quarter despite the urgency to work the critical opportunities in a very short timeframe.


What they do make time for is perfect practice to equip their sellers to go from “good to great” on the specific skills and knowledge that are immediately applicable.  It is not time to practice new skills or to spend much time training on the basics.  Instead, the best leaders rehearse the skills to address any customer resistance that your salespeople might encounter on calls to advance the “must win” deals to close the gap.  

It’s tempting to cancel practice sessions or role plays for lack of time but the consequence is a sales team that’s less agile to respond to customer’s needs or concerns which at best, typically lengthens sales cycles at a time when there is no margin to do so, or at worst, results in a lost deal.


3: Grit matters


Much has been written about the power of Grit as Angela Duckworth so famously described in her TED Talk Grit: the power of passion and perseverance.  Much of what she reveals defines what “grit” looks like and how to develop this characteristic over a long period of time.  Of course, that’s a great ambition to build in your people.  But most sales leaders trying to make a comeback lack the time, or patience,  to work on long-term character building. They need grit now.


That said, as a leader you certainly want to foster more grit among your team so they can complete the 4th quarter comeback.  Here’s what you should reward and recognize from their sellers

  1. Courage The salespeople who operate in the 4th quarter out of a fear of failure will most likely not be successful.   It’s time to let your people know that not everything will work exactly like expected and it’s ok to not be ok.  For sales leaders seeking more “grit” from their team the only thing that isn’t ok is giving up or letting a fear of failure become debilitating.


  1. Resilience. In Andrew Zolli’s book, Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, he defines resilience as “the ability of people, communities, and systems to maintain their core purpose and integrity among unforeseen shocks and surprises.”  The leader that reminds their sales team that it’s not the time for short-cuts or to abandon the process because of setbacks or surprises, will have a much more resilient, persistent, and “gritty” team.


To find out more about how you can lead your sales team to a 4th quarter comeback, access our Guide to Sustaining the Impact of Sales Training below:


Guide to Sustaining the Impact of Sales Training

Andy Smith, SVP Sales & Marketing

For 24 years, Andy Smith has been helping some of the world’s leading sales organizations, including Honeywell, MasterCard, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, and others increase their effectiveness through improved sales process execution, better sales coaching, consultative sales skill development, and higher CRM adoption. Andy holds a degree from Baylor University and prior to joining AXIOM he served in senior sales leadership roles for Sales Performance International, AchieveGlobal, and Acclivus Corporation. He started his career in sales with Xerox before joining ExxonMobil where he discovered his passion for the sales performance improvement profession. Andy lives in Denton, Texas. Ask Andy about his very average golf game, radio broadcasting of high school sports, or his three adorable grand babies.

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