Let’s face it: Sales is a numbers-driven occupation. The sales rep — or sales manager — who can afford to ignore quotas, targets and goals is a rare bird indeed.

But as you might suspect, when you allow yourself to become entirely numbers-driven, you’re setting yourself up for some big mistakes.

Proof of that point, if proof were needed, comes from research carried out by consultants at InsideSales.com. The researchers looked at 9.8 million transactions over nine quarter-year periods from reps at 151 companies. They found that artificial haste — often whipped up by end-of-period desperation — is a major contributor to reps’ losing sales they might have made.

Black Fridays

Whether the period involved was the end of the week, the end of the month, or the end of the quarter, the research found that this was when reps’ success rates were lower, and failure rates higher. On Fridays, for example, reps lost almost 40% more deals than they lost on Tuesdays — Tuesday being the best day of the week for successful closing.

Looking at end-of-month, the data showed that reps managed to close more sales on the last day than on any other, by a factor of almost three. But that apparent success is illusory. Consider that reps also lost more sales on that day — by a whopping factor of 11.5X — and the sales they did make were one-third smaller on average than those made earlier.

End-of-quarter showed similar phenomena:

  • Deal sizes were almost 12% less in the last week of the quarter than over the rest of the period, and
  • Reps lost almost twice as many sales at quarter’s end as they did at the end of each of the quarter’s first two months.

Buckling under sales pressure

It’s not hard to understand what’s going on here. When reps feel deadline-imposed pressure to make it happen, they’re more likely to push sales forward that aren’t ready yet, resulting in buyer rebellion. They’re more likely to offer price concessions, if these are available. And they’re more likely to winnow out prospects who, with a little more patience and cultivation, might come to fruition later on.

So what can reps, and managers, do to resist these trends?

Reps need to work toward deadlines and quotas steadily, so as to avoid unhealthy last-minute frenzies. Sales managers, for their part, should try to create “urgent events” over the full course of the time period, so as to keep reps at a simmer throughout, rather than coming to a frantic boil at the end.

Bottom line: While goals for the week, month and quarter have their importance, when reps work themselves into a frenzy to meet them, bad things are likely to happen.

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