The holidays are just around the corner and pretty soon, the New Year will be upon us. While this usually marks the start of festivities and much-needed relaxation for most people, for sales professionals, it’s the most hectic time of the year. Companies are rushing to meet quotas, close all possible leads, and prepare all the necessary quarterly and yearly reports.
Many sales professionals find themselves straining to reach their annual revenue goals, but remain unsure about how to successfully close deals under year-end pressure. A sales team’s last quarter is usually marked by skyrocketing stress levels. As sales managers push their agents to close more deals and meet annual targets, many prospects use the holiday season as a convenient excuse to postpone business-related purchases until next year.
In fact, research shows that the last quarter of the year, especially the holiday season, is considered as a “slow period for B2B sales” when prospects are less likely to commit to a purchase.
Given that the market is considerably slower this time of the year, what can inside sales reps and B2B sales professionals do to ensure that they conquer the holiday slump, clinch more customers, and finish the year with a bang?
Know and understand B2B Q4 spending habits
Stop and think about why the last quarter is considered as a slow period for B2B sales. Looking at the four key factors that influence B2B spending, we can see how these factors impact our Q4 sales performance:
Personal and business needs: Business buyers typically compromise between their personal and business needs. By the time Q4 comes around, many businesses are already preparing to close their financial books for the year. This can either make them more eager to buy (because have excess funds), or less likely to purchase (because they’ve already spent their budget for the year).
To turn this situation to your advantage, you will need to have built and sustained a relationship with your prospect, enough to give you an idea if they are more likely to buy at this point in time. Focus on prospects that have a budget surplus and persuade them that buying your product will be a worthwhile investment.
Collective nature of purchase decisions: Most spending decisions are made collectively by senior managers. The onset of the holiday season may mean that most of the key persons are either already in holiday mode or will stay longer in the office compared to regular employees. Again, getting to know your client is crucial to know if this is going to affect your sales.
Impact of professional titles and ranks. This is related to the second factor, business owners, CEOs, and managers have the most significant influence on a purchasing decision. As an inside sales rep, you will need to know if these key people will still be around during the holidays, and if they are still willing to talk to you this time of year.
Product knowledge: Business buyers spend considerable time researching before committing to a purchase. As an inside sales rep, you will need to know your client’s level of understanding of your product, so as to ensure that the information you deliver in the final stretch is easily understood. For your part, you will need to have an in-depth knowledge of the industry your prospect belongs to, so you can accurately show how your product will impact your prospect’s business in concrete terms.
Be creative and flexible in offering holiday discounts or promotions
The last quarter of the year is a great time to offer discounts and holiday promotions that can help encourage undecided prospects to finally buy from you. If you are unable to offer discounted rates, consider giving alternative payment schemes that can help convert your leads to clients.
Colleen Francis, founder of Engage Selling Solutions gives an example: a special limited-time only payment scheme, wherein the client’s invoice was split into two and payments were staggered from December to January the following year, helped convince a particularly difficult prospect.
You can also offer payment incentives (such as small prompt-payment discounts) to encourage clients to finally release the funds required for the purchase.
Revisit all past prospects, focus on those interested accounts, and nail the date.
The last quarter of the year is the perfect time to go back to your pipeline and look at prospects or leads that you’ve accumulated over the past 12 months. Learn to let go of seemingly big opportunities that take up too much of your time and effort.
Did you know that approximately 80% of sales reps stubbornly chase weak leads with little to no chance of a sale? Don’t do that. Clean-up your list and reconnect with those accounts that expressed interest, or those that you’ve already nurtured for quite some time but were unable to close. Be direct, and attempt to pitch to them again. If they say no, at least convince them to set a specific date and time early the following year when you can contact them again to discuss how you and your products can fit into their company’s annual business plan.
Setting a specific date also helps you to hit the ground running come January—avoiding that post-holiday slump.
Maximize technology to build personal relationships
A 2015 post-holiday survey done by Ipsos and Magnetic showed that 70 percent of people learned of promotions through email, 64% from searching online, 56% through online ads, and 38 % from social networks. This means that you need to ramp up your digital engagement with your clients and prospects during this time.
Apart from ensuring regular calls and emails, take the time to thank an existing client for a fruitful year of collaboration and send holiday greetings to prospects and leads. This will help build personal relationships and increase your chances of closing another deal.
One way to do this is by implementing a CRM system that helps you do follow-ups, track, and manage sales. A good CRM system–when implemented well–helps sales reps convert more leads to actual sales.
Make it a team effort
You may be committed to reaching or even exceeding this year’s target, but the rest of your sales team may already be discouraged by the lower-than-expected numbers they’ve produced. You can try to boost morale by giving your sales reps a clear goal that they need to achieve, in exchange for a small reward for their efforts.
These small rewards can be a small as allowing them to get off early on Christmas Eve, or throwing a Christmas party. Remember, the pressure of trying to meet annual quotas coupled with the slowness of the market can take a toll on your sales team, so it pays to give them a little extra something that can lift their spirits.
Start the year strong by setting accurate goals based on last year’s performance. The last quarter of the year is a time for looking back and learning from your sales team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as for setting goals for the year ahead.
Vanessa Merit Nornberg, President of Metal Mafia, recommends using the past year’s numbers as a starting point to setting new goals and targets. “At Metal Mafia, I start the goal-setting process by looking at the company’s overall business from the year before […] Once I gather that information, I project any changes I expect to make to those areas in the coming year. Because I can see approximately how much each source increased or changed our business, I can predict fairly accurately how much I expect the business to grow this year,”Nornberg says.
The stress and pressure bought by the last quarter crunch is no reason for sales reps to feel down. Instead of easing up on your sales efforts, look at Q4 as the perfect time to nurture client relationships, boost your team’s morale, and increase your sales. We hope these tips help ensure that you and your team have a very happy holiday indeed.