The end of a year can conjure up positive connotations of new goals and resolutions, but it can also trigger lots of deep introspection and regret.
In sales, if you’ve already hit your target or are about to - why should evaluating the past be necessary? If you know you’re going to miss the mark on this year, quarter, or month - why would you want to relive your failures?
While it might be easier to jump ahead and see the year coming to an end as a new start, it’s equally important to look back with a sharp eye on the last few months.
Taking objective inventory of how you got where you are today and how you’ll try to replicate, improve upon, or completely refocus in the future is critical to making the next year even better.
Pay close attention to these three things during your end-of-the-year evaluation to help polish and improve your sales performance next year.
Regardless of whether the revenue goal is on track or not, there are a multitude of numbers/metrics you should be taking into consideration when evaluating your performance.
We sometimes think that if we make a change it will be evident almost instantaneously in our numbers, but sales is like a new workout regimen or a healthy diet - it takes time to see results. It also takes time to see set-backs.
Pick two months to analyze. The first should be your worst month and the second should be your best.
How many first appointments did you have in each month? How many outreach emails did you send? How many phone calls did you make? How many proposals did you submit?
Look at those numbers in the months at hand or two leading up to each one.
What differences are apparent? Do you see a certain trend in previous months that affected your worst and best month?
Based on these numbers, determine what you would need to change in your processes or strategy to improve them.
Your Sales Stories
Sometimes we focus too much on anecdotes from our own experience. These make rare exceptions seem like the rule and they can ultimately impair us in future situations, but they are extremely valuable.
All sales usually seem unique, but there are many patterns that can be discerned when looking at the bigger picture. Looking at the larger story of your interaction with a lead (whether they closed or not) can provide you with valuable insight into what you led to them closing or walking away.
Identify two particular sales - one that you thought wasn’t going to happen, but did and one that you were sure was going to close, but didn’t.
Do they have anything in common? What differentiated them? Look for what was in your control, but also recognize what was out of your hands. What can you learn to do differently next time?
Keep in mind that some things will always be out of your control, but it’s always important to debrief to strategy how you can better handle the situation in the future if it were to arise again.
How many customer service surveys have you avoided taking? How about those regarding your performance?
Feedback is extremely valuable in providing otherwise missed insights and providing a base for improvement.
It can be daunting getting feedback since it can sometimes be looked at like criticism, but knowing how others perceive your actions will help you have a more objective view of yourself.
Ask for feedback from your clients, manager, and moving forward - your prospects.
For those who bought from you, ask them what in your actions or presentation helped them make their decision.
For those who said “no” to your offer - ask them for candid feedback. Their decision might have to do with your offering or it might be personal. Either way, knowing what it was that lost you the business will give you power for the future. You’ll be able to switch up your pitch and adjust your approach for the next prospect.
When it comes to your manager, set up a 30-minute meeting to see what feedback and insight they can provide. If you bring the numbers you should have analyzed by now, this can guide the meeting and help you both set a plan for the upcoming quarter.
It’s not always pleasant looking at ourselves with a critical eye. However, towards the end of the year, it’s necessary to take inventory of how we did and learn for the future.
Analyzing your numbers, stories, and getting feedback are the best ways to quickly determine what will make a difference in the coming year.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated.