By Ken Thoreson, president, Acumen Management Group LTD
An upcoming election. Roller-coaster days on Wall Street. Middle East issues. Budgets being cut. There are many distractions.
With that economic domino effect affecting us all as 2012 begins to wind down, ending the year on a high note will be more challenging than ever. At Acumen, we've been offering the following advice to our clients and their sales teams:
Keep it in perspective. Recognize that if you are in the information technology sector, it is the best place to be in tough economic times. You sell what's especially in demand right now: Solutions that can increase efficiency, cut costs and enhance customer relationships.
Stay optimistic. Remember that clients and prospects are seeking help and you're in a position to both reassure and assist them.
Work harder. (Sorry, but that's what's needed.) Try to stretch yourself both in terms of attracting new customers and better serving existing ones. Sell professionally; execute brilliantly.
Meanwhile, the standard end-of-year scenario still applies, too. As always, this is when accelerated compensation programs kick in. More importantly, it's when many management bonus systems take effect, rewarding executives for driving certain levels of pretax income to the bottom line or attaining their revenue targets. and it's no wonder that, just like every year at this time, sales teams feel like they're in the last 100 yards of a big race.
Following are five additional steps to help you stay out in front as you approach the 2012 finish line:
Count the days. In the same way that consumers track holiday shopping days, know how long you've got left to sell this year. Doing the countdown adds urgency to the process for you and your prospects. (Hint: How can you use the remaining weekends to boost business?)
Consider all your resources. Can you turn to colleagues to strategize about opportunities and develop winning tactics? How about doing site visits? Can an existing client or a vendor contact help create credibility with prospects?
Plot-closing strategies. Think about why prospects need your solution and exactly how they'll benefit from implementing it, whether it's generating revenues, improving productivity or better serving customers. Then figure out a reason for them to act now. You may have a sense of urgency driven by end-of-year deadlines for quotas or bonuses, but you need to show prospects how moving forward at this point will benefit them.
Make contact twice weekly. Never let a week slip by between meetings with prospects. If you see them on Tuesday, see them again on Thursday. Stop by at a convenient time-but always have a valuable reason to visit, such as providing an implementation plan or a reference letter.
Keep prospecting. Sales organizations often drain their pipelines by the end of December. January may be strong with leftover business, but February, March and April typically lag. It's important to ensure that marketing and prospecting levels remain constantly focused on future pipeline development. We recommend that you take your calendar and block out specific times for prospecting between now and year's end.
One last tip for coping with today's economy: In the downturn following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I developed a short personal motto that successfully reinforced the need to keep moving forward. It was: "Take action. Stay positive." I suggest that you develop a similar slogan to help you navigate these difficult times. Having a strong foundation can make all the difference in how you end the year and position yourself for 2013.