There’s something cruel and unusual about Second Quarter B2E sales goals. Q1 is also a tough time to close sales, but most sales VP’s are good about pacing Q1 as a very low percentage of the year’s sales. See, they don’t want to start out the year explaining why they are behind the eight ball any more than you do. Unfortunately, to make up for that softball Q1 target, Q2 can be set nonsensically high. And then there’s this: Q2 comes in like a lamb. April is traditionally the quietest month of the B2E selling year, and at the end of it, we’ve made little progress on the quarter’s sales target, we have mere weeks left in the school year and have to ride out May and June in anxiety-ridden suspense. How do we manage to manage Q2?
Closing in Q2
This quarter’s sales will come largely from closing existing opportunities in your pipeline. We just can’t count on taking new opportunities from an introductory call all the way through to a quick purchase at this time of year. That’s super scary if you enter this quarter with very few late stage opportunities, but don’t panic—every existing customer, tradeshow lead, and former “no” is defined as a pipeline opportunity for the purposes of Q2. Here’s how to close this quarter:
Revisit everything in your pipeline. The best thing about Q2 is that even the oldest of qualified leads can be a solid Q2 target. At the end of the school year, everything is up for grabs. It’s at this time of year that you’ll realize that anyone you’ve EVER talked to, even someone that decided not to buy, has a better chance of closing than everyone you’ve NEVER talked to. You should therefore invest more time on closing activities in Q2 than you do at any other time of the year. Go way, way back touching every yes, no and maybe in your territory.
Yes’s – Tell them it’s time to renew and what they can add
Maybe’s – Tell them why it’s time to buy
No’s – Tell them what’s new. Presume their circumstances have changed…they usually have.
Bring August to mind. One of the reasons it is an important time to buy is that it’s time to plan summer teacher in-service days. You can create a sense of urgency around booking the training dates a prospect wants for their staff. This isn’t a manufactured sales pitch, it’s a real issue. ALL of our customers want their PD during the same few weeks in August. The early bird gets first choice of those training dates.
New policy? New tools needed. There is always a new policy, mandate, or district change taking effect in the coming school year. Maybe they are purchasing new technology or opening a new STEM center or adding staff. If your product can help your prospects launch other new initiatives off successfully, make sure they know it’s time to buy.
Every last penny. We all know that education has a “use it or lose it” fund balance. Every penny must go, and every penny must be spent wisely. If you’ve been holding on to your full price virtue, you might be left an old maid at the end of Q2. Time to give up the discounts. The most exciting deal often turns heads and moves a purchase up the prioritized list at this time of year.
Work school sites. Often schools are a great place to find the year end funds because it takes them longer to account for what they have left to spend, sometimes not knowing right up until the last few days of June. Title 1, or State and Federal Program Directors are the other people frantically making sure they zeroed out all the accounts. Be ready to quote and re-quote as the pennies available go up and down in the final days or even hours.
Show you can deliver by June 30. A lot of the money that must be spent urgently is tied to a rule that services must be “delivered” within the school year. For SaaS companies, that means activating their accounts by the end of business June 30 – be prepared to do so. For product companies, make sure you won’t have an inventory issue with missing parts that will not arrive by the end of the month. That can void the entire order.
Close verbal commits for 7/1 budget. If you push your prospects to the limit and they just can’t find a way to get you an order in the current school year, 2nd place isn’t too bad. All that work can land you a verbal commit for a July 1 order. Particularly when it comes to renewals, July 1 is a red letter day.
Prospecting in Q2
Q2 is largely about closing and you should invest more time in closing than you do at any other time of year. But that’s a relative concept. You should ALWAYS spend the majority of your time prospecting, and that means Q2 as well. A few twists to your normal routine are in order:
Post-test pilots. The little bit of the school year left after spring testing in 3-8th grades is an ideal time to try something different. It can be a time of reinforcement of the year’s lessons or prime the pump for the next grade level. It’s just nice for a teacher to roll out something fresh as the students’ fancy shifts to the warmer weather. You’ll need to be diligent in capturing feedback at the end of this pilot lest everyone just fade off into the sunset. Surveys or an admin meeting are great ways to cap the pilot and then you get your chance to work on those closing tactics above.
Get in the field. If you live in your territory, drop in on some schools. This is a great time of year to catch a strolling principal. They start wandering the halls and playground more. A principal in motion is a good guy to drop in on.
Focus on district department heads. District offices are less willing to take walk-in appointments, but this is still a great time to try to meet with them. Department heads are in pre-planning mode for any curriculum rebuilding they are doing over the summer. Focus on fresh beginnings and curriculum planning in your communications at the district level.
Customer outreach. Not only can customers be the source of year-end add-on and renewal purchases, they can help you with referrals at this time of year. One referral you never want to miss is when a client changing jobs will recommend your product at their next assignment. It’s awkward to just call through all your customers and say, “Going somewhere?” but with a 15% turnover rate in education, it’s worth trying to capture movers. A more elegant way to handle this is to send a thank you note near the end of the school year, let them know you are going to connect with them on LinkedIn and Twitter (and do), to make it easier for them to reach you should they need anything over the summer. That’s a pretty good invitation for the migrating customer to mention they’ll be at such and such district come fall.
Summer CEU’s. Continuing education credits are required for many teachers, and if your company has a strong PD offering, it’s a good reason to touch base with prospects this spring. This can be done at the district level to the person that is in charge of Instruction, also known as Teaching and Learning, or the Professional Development Director. Just be careful that you aren’t selling the PD without selling the value of your service. I’ve done bundles of PD plus software that have been funded by PD dollars. Building admins and Instructional coaches are also a good place to pitch your PD bundles.
Lastly the most important message for success in Q2 is that as a sales manager, I’ve long observed that our clients’ Spring Fever issues never hurt us as badly as our own. Reps take a ton of vacation time in Q2 and find many distractions in the form of early tee times, patio bars, wedding plans and their own children’s end of year commitments. Make sure your work-life balance is right where it should be to maintain a healthy, happy life that includes succeeding at work. Q2 is tough and an easy one to give up on as it starts out with slow April. Don’t let it slip out of reach. Put the time in on the above activities, and things will land right where you want them to by the end of day June 30!