It started last week. I was speaking to a group of sales professionals at a workshop and a hand shot up. “This is good information Bob, he said; but it’s almost the first of December and people have already stopped buying for the holiday season.” Bingo, the sales shutdown has begun again for another year. Fortunately, in most industries, this is a self-imposed shutdown that does not have to happen.
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the effects of the Holiday Season Sales Slump
When your favorite sporting team goes into a slump the managers, coaches, and trainers rally together and immediately implement a plan to help the team determine the source of the problems and develop solutions to help them rebound. They review replay videos of the games. They assess their strengths and weaknesses and they review and practice the fundamentals that made them successful in the first place.
Unfortunately most sales teams take the exact opposite approach. They all bemoan the slow down and pack their bags and decide to wait it out. January or February will come around and they think things will return to normal. Many B2B sales people believe they have to wait for the holiday season to end and the economic conditions to be aligned again and the customer will start buying.
The good news is many successful sale people have great sales results at year end because they plan for this time of year.
A few years ago I was working with a technology company that watched their sales numbers start to drop off in November and come to a standstill in December and then it would take January and most of February to recover. The result was almost 4 months, one-quarter of their year being deemed by the sales team and managers as bad selling months.
Working with this team and implementing a new end of year sales strategy we helped them hit over $1,000,000 in sales making it their best month even. Not only was December a great month but the ramp up to year end resulted in excellent sales in November, January, and February.
So what’s the secret sauce you ask? First, it was the change in mindset by the sales team. Get them to consider the implications of a sales “drought”. If your team gets paid commission 30 or 60 days after a sale is invoiced or the product is delivered then a December slow- down will mean commissions may not be paid until February or March. If your sales team develops a mindset not to accept that scenario then you have a powerful motivator to avoid the seasonal slump.
Secondly, many of your customers and prospects have a December 31st year end and that means there is usually budget money available. Yes, they are going into buying season whether you are ready or not. If you start working with the prospect in the fall and help them plan for their year-end purchases you are much more likely to get the sale. It’s important to keep the prospect focused on the fact that this budget money may not be available in the New Year so they had better keep their buying cycle on track or lose the opportunity completely.
Finally, you have to be willing to challenge your customer to take action. We all know that most people naturally take a lot of time to make a decision. They will evaluate the options and then review the proposed solutions over and over again until their options all become a confusing blur of details. A confused customer does not buy. Your job is to keep it simple. Provide clear information that does not focus on features and benefits instead you need to focus on the outcomes they are expecting. While your competitors are talking about features and benefits you are going to be providing references and social proof to convince them you are the right person and the right company to partner with.
Decide to keep your prospecting activities strong over the next few weeks and challenge your customers and prospects to take action before the New Year. This simple strategy can turn the holiday slow down into a year-end success story. If you would like more tips on how to generate more leads, close more sales and earn more income please visit our sales resource centre.