Think Tank Thursday: The Holidays Don’t Have to Slow Down Your Shop

The holidays may traditionally be a down time for most sign and graphics shops but it need not be. So says Keith Rosen, an award-winning author and CEO of Profit Builders, a management training, sales and executive coaching and sales training firm. He makes some good arguments for why the next several weeks can be a particularly good time to go out and beat the bushes to generate more business.

“Ahh, the holidays. A time for festivities. A time for vacation. A time for family. A time to relax, enjoy and reflect upon the year and your accomplishments. It is also a time when many businesses prepare for slow sales and a fall in performance and production.

This is the time of the year when sales and appointments slow down and more work must be done to generate the next sale. After all, your customers are more focused on preparing for the holidays, right? Sales quotas are compromised and expectations of strong sales are lowered.

Many sales professionals, managers and business owners anticipate a slow December by budgeting and preparing their staff for the inevitable. It seems as if everyone in the business community not only plans for this but accepts the notion that sales will be slow; period.

I recently spoke with several managers in different industries and heard things like:

1. I tell my sales staff to see what they can generate within the first two weeks, since it is a short month anyway.

2. People are busy preparing for the holidays and don’t want to be bothered with any type of purchasing decision.

3. People want to wait until the New Year before making their purchases.

4. The leads are going to slow down since many people go on vacation.

5. It is just “that time of the year.”

6. The only money people are looking to spend is on gifts for the holidays.

Everyone seems comfortable accepting the notion that sales will always be slow in December. Some companies even close up their doors for a few weeks. “Hey that’s just how it is. It’s this way every year.”

Does it really have to be this way? Consider for a moment that business owners, managers and sales professionals, actually created this obstacle or objection themselves! When did you decide that every December would bring about the same old thing? Many organizations have been saying this for so long that they have conditioned themselves for this to be the only truth.

If you are a manager or business owner, what message are you sending to your staff? The philosophies and expectations of performance will always start from the top and flow downward. If the managers are expecting a slow month, you can imagine the results you are going to get from your staff. By informing your staff that they have to work twice as hard to compensate for the slow month may actually be setting them up for failure. This way, when they have a bad month, you have already given them the out to justify why their sales are slow. You are helping them validate their poor performance.

I remember a few years back hiring a salesperson during the month of November. Sure, I could have done what I did in the past by preparing him for a slow December, informing him about this imminently slow time of the year. Instead, I tried something different. We sat down and discussed why December is a great month for selling. This is what we came up with.

1. Many purchases, whether you are selling business-to-business or consumer direct, can be used as a tax deduction for that year.

2. Some companies actually have the money put aside in their budget for end of the year purchases or still have money in their budget. As a matter of fact, they may need to spend the money in fear they won’t be allocated that amount in the budget for the following year.

3. You might be able to offer deferred payments that won’t have to be made until the New Year. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of bad timing. Determine whether or not this is a purchase your prospect will inevitably be making. If so, and they are simply concerned about taking on another expense, see what can be done about offering them some type of finance or payment program.

4. People are willing to spend money! Just look at retail sales. You just need to find a unique proposition or strong selling point that fits into the holiday spirit. How can you position your product or service so that it is timely enough to tie in with year-end business goals, family or the holidays? Adjust your presentation so it fits accordingly.

5. The morale of many people is actually up around the holidays. Take advantage of the holiday spirit.

6. Since many sales oriented companies plan for slow months, a salesperson may have more negotiating power with their clients to earn their year-end business. Since every company would love to end the year with strong sales, you can explain to your clients how they can take advantage of this position.

7. Many companies raise their prices in January. Clients can take advantage of your lower pricing structure before the year is out.

The result of this experiment? This salesperson broke a new record for the most sales ever in December. Was it because he was any better, more aggressive or talented than the rest? I don’t think so. It had to do more with the message he received, the perception that was created, and the results the company expected. After all, perception really is reality.

Who says people don’t want to be bothered during the holidays? You will just have to be a bit more creative when providing your prospects with an incentive or an added value, especially if you can save them money.

This is the joy of selling in December. Instead of feeding into the same old year-end excuse, you validated the perceived objection by turning it into a benefit and an advantage. As such, you’ve developed some sense of urgency in making a buying decision before the year-end.

While other companies have actually conditioned themselves and their staff for slow sales as a result of their perception, seize this opportunity to capitalize on the business that your competitors are leaving on the table.

Remember the old adage; if you do what you have always done, you get what you have always gotten. There are companies who are earning the business of many new customers in December. Re-think your approach by shifting your perception and create your own unique selling strategy for December. Instead of reacting to the situation by looking at the past results, try shifting your selling efforts to uncover what needs to be done in order to make December the best selling month yet.”

Keith Rosen, award-winning author and CEO of Profit Builders, which provides management training, sales coaching, executive coaching and sales training. He has been designated a Master Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation. For more information visit www.profitbuilders.com.