Maximize your Q4 "downtime" to set up a great Q1-Q2 in 2016.
Consumers have Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s specials and pricing shoved down their throats throughout the holiday season. If your business is retail, it’s a busy time of year to put your revenue firmly in the black. (Although this year’s data shows a less-than-stellar holiday season for retail sales.)
However, if you specialize in B2B sales, the holiday season through December and leading into the first half of January are traditionally a tricky time. These are the doldrums of many sales professionals.
People are busy. They are trying to put a dozen things together at their own jobs before the holidays. Leads put sales calls off until after Thanksgiving. Then Christmas sneaks in and you’re told “Let’s talk after the holidays.”
If you’ve been in sales for any length of time, you know that “after the holidays” does not mean after Christmas or even the first week in January. People are coming off their own vacations and working to catch up at the office.
“After the holidays” can easily edge into the third week of January (or more) as companies calculate their own revenue from the previous year and look to their new year business projections and plans.
While it’s easy to be discouraged during these slow times, a savvy sales professional can overcome the holiday slowdown to hit the ground running at a dead sprint when you can reconnect with those leads.
What can you do to take advantage of your own holiday and post-Christmas slowdown?
There may be 4 more weeks of sales slowdown, and your contacts and leads may be busy, but don’t disappear. Stay on their radar. Drop them a small note. Check in with them. You’re not being pushy — you’re not even trying to sell to them (right now) — you are just reminding them that you’re there.
And if you’re not there, say you go on a vacation, be clear with your auto-responder message as to when you’ll be out and how they can contact you if they need to. Let them know that you hope they have a happy holiday season and a great new year, but you are also available if they need you.
You’re not selling, you’re subtly reminding them that you are the salesperson who is always available for them, no matter the time of year.
Be certifiably excellent
Use the extra time to renew industry training. Is there an online class you’ve been putting off that may help you close more deals? An area you know you’re a little weak in that you could strengthen?
This slow period is the perfect chance to get that certification you’ve been considering. Expand your knowledge and tackle that MOOC you’ve been thinking of. Hit up Lynda.com and find Sales training that will help you and your team. At the time of this writing, Lynda.com has 1,395 listings for business and/or sales-related classes and certifications.
Expand your skillset, both for the next quarter and for your career.
Polish sales and marketing collateral
These slowdown weeks are the perfect time to review and strengthen your sales and
marketing collateral. Update out-of-date information in your documents, ensure your sales presentation is spot-on for the new year and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Review, audit, and update your sales documents. Polish your proposals, beef up your
quotes, and strengthen your business documents. This ensures that when you are connecting with all of those “after the holidays” contacts, you are fully prepared with any document or information they may need. You can turn around a stellar quote in moments because you’ve maximized your downtime.
Coordinate with your marketing team and make sure you are all on the same page. Don’t hesitate to let your marketing team know you are taking this time to update documents and sales collateral. Find out if they have any new graphics, data, or information you should incorporate.
Clean house and prune your leads
Review your leads, look at the long-tail of your funnel, and take this time to better quantify the most promising leads. Use the downtime to effectively groom your sales pipeline to best strategize on your next steps in Q1.
The team at HubSpot wrote a fascinating piece on the concept of “graymail” and why they chose to unsubscribe 250,000 people from their mailing lists. While I’m not advocating you cut loose a six-digit number of people from your funnel, their approach is noteworthy.
If there are leads you can identify as having been sitting in a sales limbo, it may be time to evaluate your ROI for the time you have spent on them. Consider setting up more automated workflows for these “lower-tiered” leads, or discuss the possibility of dropping them down into a neutral newsletter or drip campaign status. If they’re not hot, put them back on the burner.
After all, you have leads that have committed to talking with you. You need to focus on them and be willing to do a little house cleaning where it will best help your team.
Even a perfect bonsai tree needs careful pruning and nurturing to reach its full potential.