We’re all familiar with the post-Thanksgiving hangover, aren’t we? No, I’m not talking about the Tryptophan-influenced food coma. Nor am I talking about the effect that my late dad’s Thanksgiving punch left the next morning – although both of those can be significant.
I’m talking about the hangover that happens in selling. More specifically, I’m talking about the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, when many customers prefer not to see salespeople, and when many salespeople go into a self-induced sales coma. Yes, there’s no question – selling is tougher during the holidays, but there’s a philosophy that has stood me in excellent stead over my 27 years in selling.
Every day during this period, someone will be buying what you’re selling in your territory. Whether they buy it from you or not depends on your own work habits.
It’s true that, during this period, salespeople will hear “talk to me after the new year” quite a bit. I get it; I’ve been there. Hearing that can be discouraging, and can result in a salesperson who says “nobody will be buying” right now. Not true. “Nobody” and “Never” is hardly ever true in selling. Yes, there will be productive selling done during this period – so how can salespeople make this time productive?
- Collect good info on purchasing times. If your business, for example, runs on contracts, make sure you’re getting good contact expiration data. With that you can pull data from your CRM system (you are using one, right?) of which customers are going to be in the buying process in December. Granted, if it’s already December, it’s probably too late for this – but it’s never too late to start building good habits for next year. Other customers will be doing their “buy budgets” during December. The point is that, for one reason or another, there will be customers who structurally will be in the buying process in December. Use your information gathering abilities to find them.
- Prospect harder. Remember, “nobody buys” isn’t a valid statement. SOMEONE will buy – it’s just that your ratios are down. By “ratios,” I mean the ratios from calls to appointments, appointments to presentations, presentations to proposals, and proposals to sales. The only time those ratios will be zero is when your inputs – i.e. funnel building activities – are zero. So if you have to spend a third again, or even half again, as much time prospecting and funnel-building, isn’t that worth the investment? It’s better than giving up 1/12 of the year.
- Ask why. When you get the “holiday objection,” you have three choices. You can either try to bully your way into an appointment, you can meekly say “okay,” or you can take a third path. That third path is asking a customer-friendly question. Something like, “I understand, Mr. Customer, that this time of the year can be a challenge. Since I like to build long relationships, we’ll probably confront this situation again – so to help me be a better partner to you in the future, would you mind telling me what makes you want to postpone this conversation until January?” I’ve always been surprised at how many times, over the years, this question resulted in an appointment – because the truth is that there is no real obstacle to meeting on the customer’s part; they just instinctively use the holidays as an excuse. Play it soft and you might get a potential win.
- Schedule ahead. If you do get the ‘talk to me after the first of the year’ response, be respectful of your time and your customer’s time, and schedule appointments for January. While there will be some customers who put you off and ask you to call them again, many will allow you to pre-schedule an appointment for January. While that doesn’t help you for December, it does allow you to get out of the gate quickly in the new year.
The bottom line is this: While it can be tempting to go into vacation mode during December, you’re doing yourself, your company, and your customers a grave disservice by giving up 1/12 of the year. In fact, going into that mode, you really sacrifice close to 1/6 of the year, because a light December usually carries over into an unproductive January. Don’t be that person. Stay on your game in December, and you might be that person who is making the daily sale in your territory.