Thanksgiving signals the official rounding of the corner for wrapping up the business year. While never an excuse that I’ve subscribed to (or let my sales reps use), it can be extremely challenging to “do business” at this time of year.
It’s all downhill after turkey day. Holiday parties, office potlucks, client gifts, employee parties, year-end reports . . . your clients are consumed with trying to wrap things up so they can get important items off their plates and spend the holiday season relaxing, visiting friends and family, or maybe even traveling.
What can YOU do this time of year to still be productive – even when your clients seem to be winding down and building NEW relationships with prospects seems to be at a standstill?
Here are 5 ways to make the Holiday Season a productive time for Selling:
- Tell your customers why you’re grateful; show them how much you appreciate them. This is not just a “fruitcake” moment. Sure, everyone likes to receive gifts, but are you just going through the motions of giving? Can you give a gift of time, a donation in their honor, a hand-made something . . . instead of that notebook plastered with your company logo? Make sure you take the time to tell them WHY you appreciate them as well. “Bill, thank you for taking a chance on me this past year and working to get me in to the company.” Or, “Susan, I know there were a few rough patches in the rollout this year but I truly appreciate your willingness to hang in there with us. We’ll work hard this year to make you look good.”
Demonstrating your gratitude is an opportunity to discuss things that went well and smooth over mistakes made. These gestures can be great conversation starters for some of those “tough nuts” to crack on your account list.
- Ask them how you can help them complete their year-end tasks. Maybe you can’t finish their next year’s budget or employee reviews, but asking “How can I help” is never a bad idea to show your customers that you’re on THEIR team. You might be surprised though that there ARE places you can contribute. Perhaps asking about their year-end tasks positions you to have a conversation about contract renewals or opportunities to expand services for next year. You may learn that your buyer is trying to wrap things up because they are heading out to do mission work over the holiday and you offer, “Hey, can we provide a donation to that organization” – a small but extremely meaningful gesture.
Offering to share in your customer’s burdens – TRULY lending yourself to their team – can solidify your relationship and help keep the door shut tightly on your competitors.
- Plan for next year with them. Another way to offer assistance to your clients is to ask what large initiatives the company is looking to tackle next year. Maybe they have nothing to do with you but you have resources or personal introductions you can make to help them flatten their learning curve. Perhaps they’re looking at implementing a resource that would work jointly with you or your product. Offering to lend your insights, your expertise, your internal experts (engineers, developers, production specialists, et cetera); you may be able to shorten the learning curve or buy back time for your customer.
- Get on their calendar for next year. Empathy is priceless. If you’ve tried numbers 1 through 3 and your customer just can’t give you the time of day right now, offer to meet with them next year. Appreciate how busy they are and how stressful it is when you cannot give your time to someone even when you want to do it. Relieve some small burden for them and offer to take them to lunch or bring them coffee in the second or third week of the year. Make it concrete, though, and get it on the calendar.
By empathetically offering to defer the meeting until next year, you can compel strong feelings of reciprocity and get those meetings on the books. This may work with prospects you’ve been trying to pin down as well.
- Ask them for referrals. Everyone’s in the “giving” spirit this time of year . . . so ask for what you really want . . . REFERRALS! Recent studies still hover around the 90% range of sales reps that DO NOT ask for referrals (Dale Carnegie). That’s impressively awful. In my observation of sellers, asking for referrals doesn’t happen because it’s not a practiced and prioritized part of the sales process.
Having a referral plan increases your chances of your clients making spot on referrals for you. You have to have the conversations with them so they clearly understand who you’re looking for and most importantly, HOW you’re going to make them look like a brilliant rock star for making the recommendation.
Don’t succumb to the anticipation that this time of year is a wasteland of Bundt cakes and bad Secret Santa gifts. It’s the holiday season and it can have unexpected gifts if you keep working for them!
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!