Stop the Q4 disease, BARF (Banal Asinine Revenue Focus)
The lull of late August has a relaxed and almost carefree air to it even for those of us competing in fast-paced, high-pressured B2B sales jobs. However, when Tuesday after Labor Day hits, the mass freak-out will start as senior execs begin playing the “you-have-this-many-selling-days-left-in-the-year” game.
You can set your watch to this age-old phenomenon as Labor Days will forever be the calendar marker when cases of a common disease hit many B2B sales managers: Banal Asinine Revenue Focus, a malady also known as BARF. I’ve seen many cases of it, and aside from Restless Leg Syndrome, it’s one of the top three silent paralyzers for B2B sales managers.
Don’t get me wrong, when I was running sales teams, come Labor Day I was a “squeezer” too; I wanted to make my number more than anyone! However, I learned that if you squeeze too hard, you risk your team turning into harassers and maybe beggars too. A calendar that says September or October doesn’t mean B2B selling approaches should change from what you’ve worked on during the first two-thirds of the year: customer focused selling.
The instant your approach focuses on squeezing more revenue for you, your customers get BARFed on. Yes, clients are very needy, but they don't need that!"
The following is a loose script I’d preach to my team during the first week of September to fight against BARF. (The message was not just for the sellers, but most importantly for the sales managers because they were the lever who needed to control our approach with customers.) In brief, the convo bullet points went something like this:
Heads would always be nodding at this point. And then I’d ask, “so what does it mean to be smart about how we squeeze the most out of the year?”
The replies were always obvious, summarized by this comment: “I’ll call everyone who has spent, or is spending with me this year and see if they have incremental funds to come our way.”
Ok, good place to start, but that answer is tactical and doesn’t justify why the buyer should look between the cushions. Looking back on my early career, I was not experienced to push this conversation tread to a strategic plateau and now I pretty much conclude we were all playing a part in some kind of stupid B-movie…me, the sales managers and sellers were all saying lines the other wanted to hear. If we got anything incremental for the year in Q4, it was probably just luck.
Yes, odds of impacting top-line rev through September/October selling is small, but the point ALSO is to teach how to sprint through the finish line. (And, how to be professional and consistent with one's approach all year round.) In the latter years of my career, I realized my job was to teach sellers and managers to think strategically about how they approach their customers and accounts…and again, the importance of doing it twelve months a year.
Here are some conversational threads I urged my team to use with customers during the months of September and October:
Compare the above strategic and “customer-first” conversation threads to some of the following I’ve actually heard from the mouths of sellers:
I get why these questions would be asked, and they do serve a function. But, used in isolation, these questions don’t suggest the customer’s needs are being considered.
I wish you all the luck and energy in the world going hard at collecting every drop you can in the next few months…but as you approach the last few days of the calendar-year selling season, ask yourself this: “is my team giving the customer a good reason to find more money for me? Is my team approaching their customers with only the customer and their needs in mind?”
The second your approach focuses on you squeezing more for you, your customers get BARFed on. You don't have to see a doctor about this, just buck-up!!!!
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