I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but here in Texas, it’s just plain hot. And there is still almost a month left in the summer vacation schedule. This means that forecasted decision timelines will likely slip due to unavailability of influencers and decision-makers.

In the current situation, is it best to sit back and wait for back-to-school or are there actions you can take today to ensure a strong sales finish to 2011 and a strong start in 2012? Consider some of the following activities that can pay handsomely this year and next.

  1. Flush your sales pipeline of suspect opportunities. No matter how well you manage your pipeline throughout the year, it’s inevitable that some deals will age beyond your normal sales-cycle timelines. There may be legitimate reasons for decision timeframes to slip, but the summer months often expose those opportunities that are becoming stale. Find reasons for the slippage and remove or re-classify opportunities that fall outside your norm.
  2. Review your sales team’s performance. The pipeline review you just completed will likely expose some performance issues on your team. There may still be time to improve lower performing reps through additional training or coaching. In other cases you may determine that a sales person is not working out due to work habits or skills that cannot be corrected, and now is the time to begin exiting them from the business. Working closely with your HR team will ensure that you have taken the proper steps and built the level of documentation needed to prevent any legal exposure
  3. Begin your sales rep recruiting process. It takes time to find rainmakers and they will likely be locked up until at least year-end due to their existing compensation plans. You know the usual sources for good talent; make sure you use them all as early as possible.
  4. Conduct a quota assignment compensation plan review with HR. It will soon be time to begin planning for your 2012 sales year. If you are hiring new reps you must have a competitive salary and incentive program, as well as a quota-setting process that makes sense. If your firm has not done an external compensation review in the past two years it makes sense to do this now. There are several excellent resources available that can help you build compensation programs that drive the behaviors and results you need. Losing a sales star to a competitor or being unable to attract good talent can be the difference between a good sales year and a great one!

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Dan Hudson is the co-founder and president of 3forward and has a B2B sales and sales leadership background of more than 30 years. He can be reached at dan.hudson@3forward.com.