It is January 2nd and for most, the first day of the new business year. As an Executive or a Sales Leader, are you and your teams ready to roll? The implication of the question is that there was a lot of thinking and planning done in Q4 to get ready to launch into Q1 today. If you are like me, you spent most of the day yesterday watching a very interesting day of College Football. For those coaches, they had 30 days to prepare for an opponent, create a game plan and preach to their teams the importance of getting off to a Fast Start. This can be an Art form and finally caught up with Florida State [sorry Seminole fans] who trailed at the half in 75% of their games.

We spent a majority of our time in Q4 working with clients on their Strategic Plans. To create the focus and alignment across the organization, they laid very clear Strategic Goals and Execution Priorities. Depending on the time horizon, they did this work for 2015 and for Q1, but likely with a 3 year view [as well] of where they would like to be plus what is required to get there.

If you feel a little behind, we would encourage you to think about these elements in the next 30 days to build momentum and get off to the “Fast Start” that we desire.

1. Shorten Your Focus. What are your Goals for Q1? Doing Quarterly Planning is unique, but something we highly encourage. Q1 helps set up the rest of the year, so that momentum is very important. This is not only about Results (sales, operating income, etc.), but also Leading Indicators of what will happen in the Quarters to come (sales funnel size and momentum, activities, marketing campaigns, etc.). Once you have clear and concise Goals and Execution Priorities for 2015, shorten your focus back to Q1 and get the team aligned.

2. Execution Priorities. We talk to a lot of Executives who think they Plan pretty well, but Execute very poorly. A very common problem, as 85% of companies do not achieve their growth goals. Strategy is about choice and prioritization of “what to do” and “what not to do”. If you have a Revenue or Sales target for Q1, what are the 5 most important items you need to deliver or execute to achieve those Goals? Once you understand your Priorities, an Action Plan plus action item ownership and timelines are required.

3. Quotas, Comp Plans and Promotions. If the Sales team[s] are sitting their in April still waiting for their quotas and comp plans, we have missed an opportunity for speed and are actually creating barriers/excuses. Even though it does not prevent any of us from selling, the absence of a quota or comp plan at the beginning of the year is a signal to the organization that we are not ready to roll quite yet. As Leaders, we need to get rid of the excuses. The other opportunity is to launch whatever “Fast Start” style promotions may be required to achieve our Goals. These could be offers to the marketplace to incent buying behaviors. These could also be internal promotions or Fast Start incentives for the sales teams to drive selling behaviors. Either way, these are all totally controllable elements that enable the Fast Start.

4. Business Plans. Do your Sales Leaders and Sales Reps create Business Plans? When done well, this is an Annual and Quarterly exercise that becomes part of your Sales Governance model. Having a Quota, is likely a requirement to being able to properly build a business plan. If you are behind on the Quota work and still want to get the Business Plans in place, get them to set their Personal Goals for their business instead. Focused on both the Current State [previous year results, current funnel, Q1 forecast, etc.] and the Desired State [goals, funnel size, activity levels, support required, etc.], you get a clear understanding of gaps and what priority areas to focus on. We recommend revisiting the Business Plan on a Quarterly basis. Having a Plan makes it real and gets everyone moving faster.

5. Structure, Training and Tools. Like in sports, the beginning of the season always brings change in personnel, tactics and approaches. Whether you have changed your structure, added new resources or just need to sharpen the saw, Q1 is always a good time to improve. Classroom training is very valuable, but we also like to focus clients on how tools can create ongoing learning through on-the-job training. If done well, sales tools help both Managers and Reps develop a common language, daily habits and reinforce a differentiated Sales Process. Regardless of the approach, if you desire different results you need to give your teams the skills and tools to be successful. If you have made change, consider what help people in new roles will require.

Q1 is very important time period for momentum. I hope you feel prepared and ready for an exciting year ahead. If you do not, then there are still plenty of things you can do in the next 30 days to help get your team off to a Fast Start.

Have a great 2015!!

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