December may conjure up images of frantic preparations and general busy-ness ahead of the holiday season, but it’s also a great time to give your business sales a head start for the New Year.
With Christmas in sight, it’s tempting to try to focus on just getting to the holiday finishing line. But there are things that you can do to help put your business in the framework for sales when people get back into the swing of things in the New Year. These festive feats don’t actually incur a massive amount of effort but they can make the difference come January when you are trying to kick-start revenues amid the post-Christmas fog and economising.
1. Get in touch
Think about the key contacts and customers you really need to thank for their business, referrals or support this year. Try and build that thank you into some personal contact – ideally face-to-face or on the phone – so they end the year with a warm feeling towards you. Whilst thanking them, explore what they’re looking forward to (or dreading) in the year ahead. Come the New Year, offer any help or support with that – which is relevant to your business and which will further cement their loyalty towards you.
So grab your diary and start fixing get-togethers before people’s calendars get too crowded. And if someone really can’t meet now, then schedule a ‘thank you’ catch up in the New Year so you have a touch-point with them already lined up… and before your competitors or rivals do. Similarly, if you haven’t got time to send a Christmas card, why not stand out from the crowd and send a Happy New Year greeting instead. It won’t be cluttered by everyone else’s as so few people do this. It will, however, remind your contacts of you when their brains are returning to normal working mode.
2. Eat, drink… but don’t get too merry
Most of us will be involved in some form of festive socialising or networking over December. The season to be jolly is a great time to expand your network and meet new contacts. With a ‘goodwill to all men (and women)’ mentality, people are more sociable at this time of year and are often happier to introduce you to others. Use these events to build your contact base and nurture opportunities to explore later. Pay attention to the whole host of topics being discussed – people’s lives and interests, their business challenges or opportunities and goals. If you spend more time listening than talking, you will uncover potential business opportunities – either directly with this person or for others in your network. You need to be sociable but also able to focus properly on the chat. Where appropriate, suggest ways in which you (or others you know) can help or find a means to remain in contact with the person.
Also, don’t forget to schedule in time in the days after a networking or social event to make those vital follow ups. Don’t let all that ‘goodwill’ fizzle out so that, by the New Year, they’ve completely forgotten you. Find ways to stay in dialogue – perhaps scheduling a coffee now or in early January, or help this contact or customer in some way with an issue they described in their chat with you.
3. Adopt a January mindset
Given the nature of your business, think about how your customers typically think and act in January. What’s their key focus and motivation when they return from the festive holiday. Consider and plan now how best to tap into this commercially. Say if your business/offering relates to fitness or well-being – think of special service or product packages you can put together to support all those Christmas-kilo shedding goals.
Plan now so that you can be the first ‘out of the gates’ come the beginning of January with relevant offers, packages, events, tips. Remember not everyone sees January as an economising and prudent time. For others the start of the year means goal-setting, renewed energy and excitement at the prospect at the 12 months ahead. So spend time thinking about your customers and contacts. Cluster ones that you think will share the same January mind-set or priorities and tailor marketing messages, communications and offers to them accordingly.
4. Keep your cool
December is a great time to build credibility amongst your customers and contacts and enhance your reputation. It’s often such a chaotic month with people rushing to complete task, projects and orders before the festive holiday. This all adds to the stress, noise and chaos. Resist at all costs getting sucked into this if it’ll mean letting people down. Instead of over-promising and under-delivering do the complete opposite. Double-check deadlines with customers and contacts to see if they are really needed before Xmas (or will the first week in the New Year be ok if they are going away?) If you know from experience a client will want a pre-Xmas order met, try to take more control of the project-management element of their side of things so the process goes more smoothly for all concerned.
The line from Rudyard Kipling’s If –
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs – is so true at this time of year.
You will impress people if you can remain calm and get things done. Come the New Year that strength will be remembered and your reliability will lead to more orders. So try to remain calm and in control during the festive madness.
5. Reflect then look ahead
If you are fortunate to get some quiet time in December or between Christmas and New Year, it really does pay to reflect on what worked for your business in 2012 and what didn’t. Try and be as objective as you can – involve a colleague, friend or other ‘outside’ person to help you step back and see the wood for the trees. This doesn’t have to go into analysis paralysis as the purpose of that review is then to plan 2013. Focus on building both on the successes and disappointments you encountered in 2012.
Consider also what different factors may be at play in the coming year. Of course we don’t have a crystal ball but we do know that say, there isn’t a Jubilee, Olympics or other sizeable event this year. If it’s hard to plan the whole year, consider the first 3 months at least. Think about what seasonality issues affect your sales. How can you make the most of these in 2013 or better combat them? Even if you spend a little time reflecting and planning now, it can really pay dividends in terms of your business focus and productivity in the early weeks of 2013.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.