How to survive the end-of-quarter SLOGFEST

Thank the back office for clinching that bonus

Opinion Most of us working in the channel are no strangers to pressure. For better or worse it’s part and parcel of the job and when it all goes your way, there’s no better feeling in the world.

On the other side, I’m sure we could all do without the late hours and the niggling stresses that go along with it. Nowhere is this more obvious than during the busy end-of-quarter period – and with Q4 we have the added distraction of Christmas to navigate. My advice? Put down the mince pies, Easter eggs, whatever, pack the Berocca and be prepared for a slog.

It’s a fact of life that quarterly financial periods are getting increasingly top-heavy. By that I mean a great deal of your numbers might come in the last week or so – often through no fault of your own. You’re effectively in the final minute of extra time with the scores tied, so what can you do to get those vital deals over the line?

Well, hard work, trust and integrity should be a given.

It’s vital that vendor, reseller, distributor and end customer maintain healthy relationships based on mutual trust. The relationship between vendor and reseller is of course paramount, as is that between the reseller as trusted advisor and end customer, while the distributor remains a vital bridge between vendor and reseller.

As a vendor, your value proposition should already be clear to your partners, who above all need to have confidence in your products and in you as a vendor. However, even then, in those last few days and hours you may need to get very creative in order to seal the deal.

Back office gremlins: Why you need good ones

Even when the end-user has committed and placed the deal, this is not the end of the work. This is when the back office team come into their own to make sure the deal came be processed, delivered and most importantly invoiced in a timely manner with the clock ticking.

Never underestimate the value of a good back office, they’ll often be working until the early hours to make sure every there are no hidden nasties in the T&Cs and everything gets signed, sealed and delivered without a hitch.

Despite the best-laid plans, though, there are things that can happen at the last minute to add extra spice to those final days and hours of the quarter. Perhaps a reseller has just reached credit limit with distribution and the needs to extend or maybe the end user has left to go on holiday without leaving instructions on who to follow-up with to close the deal.

This is when those industry relationships and open communication channels become so important – to make sure if and when a problem occurs it can be solved with minimum fuss.

On one occasion I was expecting a sizeable order to come through on the last day of the quarter but the end customer contact had gone home, unaware that the payment order they had emailed through had been sent to the wrong address. It meant a last-minute dash by the distributor to physically get the purchase order from the reseller who had gone home for the day and was uncontactable.

Such examples are not uncommon and call for a cool head. Stay calm and nine times out of 10 everything gets resolved satisfactorily. Cool heads will be needed - especially during the dying days of Q4, arguably the year’s most important dates, depending on your vertical.

For one thing we all need to realise that working practices have changed over the last decade. Previously, offices would by and large shut down over the Christmas period and the expectations on closing deals were not as high as they are today. Well, times have changed. I’ve been known to work much later than hoped on New Year’s Eve closing deals – that’s how important this quarter is now.

Attitudes have changed, business has become more competitive and globalisation has meant certain cultural norms around Christmas holidays no longer hold true. In short, expect to work hard, especially in the period between Christmas and New Year. It’s not easy, and your friends and family will probably not understand it, but at least BYOD and more flexible working means you might be able to put in this extra Christmas graft from home.

In the end it’s what we do and a good final few days could really end the year on a high. There’ll still be time for festive merry-making, but remember to pack the paracetamol. ®

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