It’s easy for sales people to waste time during December. After all, the weather is gray and “cold”, whatever the definition of cold is in your part of the country. Customers are busy and not in a buying mood. There’s paperwork to do, shopping to think about, social events to participate in. Yes, the average sales person can find themselves coasting this time of year. But not you!
The best sales people know that this is the best time to tend your sales garden. Just like in your yard or garden, there is clean up to do, planting for next spring to complete, and the one colorful plant really stands out when everything else has gone dormant.
The most successful sales people I know are working in December.
No, not everyone wants to see you but your best customers will spend time with you if you create value for them throughout the year. Ask for help to meet you year-end goal or to fill up slow production time. People like to help and will do so if you ask. Since most sales people are sitting at home in December, showing up to make a sales call sets you apart from the ordinary.
If you call on retail, walk the shelves and look for out of stocks, convenience items, and the little things that round out the seasonal offering. I once sold a full assortment of cat treats to a feed store just by hanging my sample on the Christmas tree in the store and suggesting that treats could be merchandised as decorations or under the tree with a bow. It was only a $40 sale but resulted in cat treats becoming a stock item year round.
Yes, you can stop by for coffee or to give the customer the company calendar or box of candy. Or, you can bring the gift of information. It has fewer calories and builds the relationship and plants the seed for future sales. Bringing a copy of the annual purchases for the new item the customer added, converted into their profit dollars, reinforces their good decision to do business with you and makes the next new item easer to sell in. Stopping to leave a magazine article about category trends or sharing a link to a report on better inventory control methods shows that you are a business partner and thought leader, not a peddler.
Your best prospect is your current customer. Use December to do a GAP ANALYSIS. Map the products, or product groups your dealers buy from you and then sort the data. Is there a product group that most of your customers don’t carry? Is there a size that is under represented? Is the trend line on your best products headed up, or down? Then look at the same data at the customer level. Look at your product offering, the customer’s assortment in that category, the space available and the type of store. What’s missing? Can you make them more money be changing the assortment? Which competitive products look like the weak sisters? What’s your “next best item” that the customer doesn’t stock?
Not every customer should stock every item you carry. That’s not the objective of the GAP ANALYSIS. Finding out where your products are underrepresented and helping the customer make the most productive use of the retail space is your goal.
The average sales person will wait until January 5th to start setting appointments for 2015. But not you. You are making appointments now to hit the ground running in the New Year. You are also checking your notes, sales reports, and daily calendar from 2014 for reminders of deadlines, review windows and promotional opportunities. If “Rosie” starts planning for the August sidewalk sale in May- mark it down so you don’t show up late with your promotional ideas. If the category review for “Discount Mike’s” is in May, map out when you need to meet with product development and marketing to prepare your presentation. Get the open house dates and trade show schedule penciled in. Remember that “Carlos” was going to take a big trip when his daughter graduates next June? Isn’t that about the time for the early order booking? Plan ahead so he doesn’t miss out.
Review how you used your time and look at your idea file. What worked well last year? What idea stalled out? What are your time wasters? What money maker didn’t you get around to last year? Reviewing your performance helps put you in control of your own destiny.
You can’t make clear plans from a cluttered desk. You won’t set a new direction surrounded by old ideas. You will be more productive when information and tools are in their proper place and easy to find. You will be energized with a fresh start to the year. Clean up, organize and throw out. Say goodbye to your regrets, “should haves”, and “might have beens”. A new year is a fresh start. It’s up to you to make it a new beginning.
Be a gardener and improve next year’s sales. Plant your seeds now for harvest in the new year. Prune out the conflicts, clean up the clutter, spray to kill the insects and disease the will damage your success over the next 12 months. Put some color in the winter garden and stand out from the crowd.