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This is the interesting time of the year when we start to see the focus of most Chief Sales Officers expand. In addition to thinking about revenue targets for 2012, we will also begin looking forward to 2013. Over the next few months with input from sales management, the CFO, and the CEO, a new revenue target will emerge.

Based on benchmarking thousands of firms over the past 19 years, let me share with you two things that will result from this process.

First, the 2013 revenue target will be higher than 2012. Why? Because it virtually always increases. Going into this year, 95.5% of the 1,500+ firms CSO Insights surveyed raised revenue goals for 2012, even in the face of economic uncertainty. I see no reason to believe this year’s planning efforts will generate any different results. And by the way, raising revenue goals is not in and of itself a bad thing. But this does lead to my second observation.

In far too many cases, while a great deal of effort will be put into coming up with the new number, far less (if much time at all) will be spent figuring out how the sales teams are going to hit those increased revenue targets. As the Olympics are fresh in our minds, let me share with you a track and field analogy to put this in prospective.

You’re the coach of a high jump team. Half of your athletes can currently clear the bar at 7 feet (which means half can’t). You now tell your team that the qualifying height objective for next year is 7 foot 6 inches. What do you expect to happen? Well if all things remain the same, the athletes who couldn’t clear 7 feet will continue to underperform, and odds are they will be joined by more of the team who are doing everything they can just to clear 7 feet.

As the coach, what should be occurring as the bar is raised is the development of new strategies for how the team is going to achieve that goal. Are there new jumping techniques they can learn? Would yoga increase flexibility? How about changing shoes, etc.?

This brings me to my second point. You want to increase revenues for 2013 by closing more new accounts. What are you going to do to make it easier for your sales people to penetrate those accounts? Or perhaps you want them to cross-sell/up-sell to existing customers. Great idea, now how are reps going to identify which of their existing clients to focus on and what parts of the product line they should present to each of them?

The reason I am bringing this up now is that in addition to figuring out the “what” for next year, you still have time to figure out the “how.”

One of the first places many of us look at is the productivity and effectiveness of our sales organizations. CSO Insights recently conducted a survey of more than 200 executives and sales managers to identify top challenges affecting sales departments today. One of the most pressing challenges reported is the onslaught of prospect data they need to sort through. They are overwhelmed by the amount of internal and external data available. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. Are there ways you can help solve this “Big Data” problem for them? Can you identify ways to help them better prioritize leads based on their propensity to buy?

My recommendation: For the January 1st email to all our sales reps, where we give them the new target for 2013, let’s also tell them all the things we did in the last months of 2012 to lay the foundation for helping them hit that number. Seriously, start now and 2013 will be a lot more successful.