December, closing time for sales professionals, can be tense. While most people are thinking about their Christmas shopping and New Year’s Eve plans, salespeople worry about hitting their quarterly and yearly sales targets. If your Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday events did not produce the results you were hoping for, as we head into the holiday shopping season, it can create heightened pressure and anxiety for us sales folk.
But end-of-year sales don’t have to be that way. With the right focus and execution, you can sail through the holiday season stress-free, rack up some of your best sales and finish the year strong.
It’s a common perception that work slows down during the holidays. Some go as far to say “nothing gets done” between Christmas and New Year’s. Thus, many salespeople assume that sales do not happen at the end of the year, so they either go on vacation themselves or work at a snail’s pace.
This is a huge mistake, as December, specifically the last two weeks of the year, can have the year’s highest sales conversation rates.
While many go on vacation during the holiday season, companies do not just shut down for the holidays. At a bigger company, half of the office may be away, but people are still around for holiday season sales.
And at small to medium enterprises, business owners and founders do not have the luxury of taking time off. Either way, companies around the world close their books on December 31st and many are working till the last minute, especially to finalize year-end deals.
There are sales to be had, especially as your business may be offering its best prices or promoting markdowns during this time. Many salespeople know they might have to work a little harder and focus their attention on after-Christmas sales, end-of-year clearance events and new year’s sales. Do you associate yourself with this sales style?
Prospects who are still working may be doing so at a leisurely pace, meaning that previously hard-to-reach, stressed-out prospects are easier to get a hold of and more receptive to a conversation. This is especially true if you’re promoting sale items or clearance items sitewide. Thus, wise salespeople will defer their vacation plans until the new year to capitalize on prospects’ slow time and desire to land a deal.
While your prospects are not working too hard, you should be stepping it up and trying to squeeze in extra calls and meetings wherever you can. Take these moments to reach out and deepen existing relationships. Point out your clearance sales (if applicable) and tap into their desire to stock up on needed or desired solutions before the deals end.
If you play your cards right, you’ll close more end-of-year sales in December, or at the very least agree on next steps for post-holiday sales in January.
With limited time left in the year, having too many opportunities in your sales pipeline can work against you. With too many deals, your attention will be diluted, and you’ll have trouble giving attention to the right deals.
With 31 days left in the year, the clock is ticking, so you will need to ruthlessly remove deals from your pipeline. Any deal that is not going to close in December is a distraction.
Here are a few simple questions to determine whether to remove a prospect:
Are they a good fit for your product or service?
Does this client take your product or service seriously? (Many people take sales calls just to keep up with industry trends.)
Is the need for your product urgent? Or are they happy to pick up the conversation in the new year?
The answers to these questions can likely be determined from prior communications with the customer. If the answer to any or all of the above questions is “no”, then remove those prospects. Now is not the time to waste on prospects that aren’t serious, aren’t a good fit, or don’t have an urgent need for your business.
Save you and your prospect time by directly asking, “Do you think it is likely you will make a purchase decision this month?”
If they love your product or service but they can’t make it happen this month, it’s a lost cause – for the time being. Remove the deal from your December pipeline, and schedule a follow-up call for next year to plant the seed for after new years sales.
Cleaning your sales pipeline is a great habit and something to continue in the new year.
The easiest and fastest way to hit end of the year sales goals is to sell to existing customers by having a New Year’s Eve sale or Christmas Eve sale.
Look at your customers’ purchasing activity, see what they have bought and when and then ask yourself and your sales team if they are buying everything they can possibly buy from you? The fact is that not all of your existing customers know all the products you sell. This could be a good time to upsell by giving them an extra incentive with an end of the year sale.
Existing customers are the easiest prospects to target to put more end-of-year sales on the book quickly. They know you and trust you. Plus, since they’re already set up to buy from you, there won’t be any delays in serving them.
As much as holiday sales can help you reach quotas, with year-end pressure mounting, many salespeople make the mistake of dropping everything to only focus on Christmas sales or select items. While this may seem logical, it will set you up for failure in successive quarters. Be sure not to lose sight of your key sales activities.
Key sales activities are the actions you control that have the highest leverage on hitting your sales goal and set the stage for next steps and forward motion in the process.
For a moderately complex sale, key sales activities fall into three buckets:
Discovery (calls) force
Product/service introduction (demos)
In any sales process, there is a “numbers game” or set of ratios that govern how you spend time. For example, 100 calls generate 30 meetings, 30 meetings generate 10 demos, which in turn generate five sales.
Most of your deals that are going to close in December are probably in the latter stages of the sales cycle. So if you drop everything for product discussions and proposals and skip your 100 calls a week to “always be closing,” your entire sales funnel will fall apart in January, and you’ll start the new year with an uphill battle. You don’t want to enter January wishing you had done something different at the end of last year.
The key is to focus on closing what is “closable,” without ignoring the activities that keep your funnel alive and well for next year. It’s never too late to start getting ready for a fresh start in the new year.
Let’s face it, without a stand-out sales team, it’s difficult to take any company to the next level. Therefore, it’s important to celebrate their hard work by rewarding their efforts at the end of the year. Celebrating your sales team can:
Boost sales team morale
Encourage healthy competition
Attract more good sales talent
Motivate your reps to keep improving
Sure, you could have a ‘salesperson of the year’, but why just celebrate the success of one salesperson when you can reward your entire team. Celebrate each person for what made them stand-out. Have your own ‘Dundies’ with awards for things like:
Best cold caller
Funniest follow-up email
Best team player
Most creative sales tactics for closing
The biggest sale of the year
What are some possible ways you can show appreciation? Here are some ideas:
A corporatewide shoutout. Whether it’s an announcement in the company newsletter or an all-staff meeting, giving someone praise for their performance goes a long way.
Personal days or time off. The person who brings in the most revenue by the end of the year could be given five personal days (after December, of course), the next spot, four, the next spot, three, and so on.
Have an awards party. A company potluck where the top salespeople of the year are exempt from bringing anything but still get a gift, an all-expenses-paid dinner for your top 5-10 salespeople, or a karaoke night are all fun ways to celebrate the accomplishments of your top performers.
An all-expenses-paid getaway. A weekend getaway to the Wine Country, a beach getaway, or a spa retreat are all great ways to provide a little rest and relaxation to deserving salespeople.
Truth be told, the habits that help you close out December and strongly finish the sales year (with the exception of working through the holidays) are the habits that will help you hit your goals throughout the year.
If you find yourself feeling pressure closing end-of-year sales or struggling during the holiday season, your problem could be a fundamental one, and these tips won’t save this year or quarter. If your Pipeline is flawed, the year-end crunch will expose its weakness.
You may want to revisit your sales pipeline’s structure, or if you are new to sales, consider the Sales Pipeline Course email course. (It’s free!)
If your pipeline is healthy, you may want to consider a new sales productivity tool to improve pipeline efficiency in the coming year.
Sales managers can also analyze end-of-year sales reports to understand why top performers broke records and why less effective performers struggled. Then, amend the sales process accordingly to help equalize overall success.
Here are some key reports/features that will benefit both you and your sales team as you analyze the past year and formulate your plan for the coming year:
Obtain deeper insights with visual reports. Create tables and charts that help you and your sales team visualize individual performance and conversion rates, in addition to identifying opportunities for improvement.
Create customizable reports. Customizable reports allow you to see the number of new deals added, number of open deals, age of all deals and stage-to-stage conversion for sales deals for a specified time period.
Create customizable dashboards. Customizable dashboards allow you and your sales team to track goals with ease by creating, tailoring and filtering visual sales dashboards.
Regardless of how December is shaping up, start thinking about how you can improve next year.
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