Recently, while coaching two CEO’s on how to rebuild the sales culture within their companies, they told me they wanted to put our work on hold for the summer. When I asked why, they both explained that everything slows down in the summer: too many people are on vacation and sales always slow down. “My sellers tell me their customers aren’t around then,” they added, “so it’s a fact that there’s really no point in trying.”
That’s not a fact: it’s an assumption. And one that’s simply not true.
Unless you’re in the hockey stick-making business or an ice cream vendor on a beach somewhere, slow seasons are self-made and self-perpetuating. You get the conditions you expect.
Sales activity and business activity are two different things.
Commerce doesn’t care what season it is. Even if your sales are cyclical or seasonal, there’s no reason your business has to be slow in the summer. There are activities you must keep doing to keep business flowing. If your business activity does slow down in the summer, it’s because you or your team is letting that happen. And that’s largely due to the false assumption you keep making.
Are competitors in your market making the same mistake? You can bet at least one of them isn’t and thats the one that’s going to start eating your lunch if you’re not careful.
When you stay active, you sell better. Even in the summer. Because you’re doing more to keep business flowing. But making that happen isn’t just the responsibility of your sales team: it’s everyone’s job.
Here’s how to leverage your entire company to get the results you need.
Build a new inbound marketing campaign. Boost your flow of new leads by creating a new inbound marketing campaign. Target your best prospects. Especially multiple decision influencers inside each account. Create specific marketing messages for each one. Use a combination of email, direct mail and social media connections as well as a phone campaign to deliver high-quality education pieces. Make each one purposeful for them: things they can learn and apply to their businesses. Choose at least four people to target per company you are pursuing.
Add a live event. Building on your inbound marketing campaign, consider adding a live event or a series of small live events. Leveraging your social media channels, send out invites to your followers, pointing them to a link that takes them to your event or multiple events. Remember: all marketing materials should prominently feature success stories of other clients, so your prospects can relate to them.
Do a customer service health check. The right time of year to do this is when things slow down a little. It means you have undivided attention to focus hard on your top clients and explore how you can serve them better. To do this, have your team perform a triage of current clients who have upsell opportunity. Evaluate two things: does the customer use your product to its full capacity currently, and are there additional unmet needs that your product could address? In answering those questions, aim to reach between four and seven contacts per client and build relationships with each of them.
Polish your pre-emptive early warning system. You have one of these already, right? If you don’t, get started now. If you already do, test it out and make sure it’s performing the way it needs to. You can’t grow in the summer if you’re losing customers. By getting ahead of a client’s desire to leave, you gain the ability to save that lost customer and can foster new opportunities to grow. But none of that will happen unless you do the work.
Create a customer reactivation campaign. Reach out to previously lost customers. Did you ever ask them why they left? Do that now. At minimum you will gain important insight to help you perform better. You also create an opportunity to earn their business back.
Ask for referrals. People are busy, so quieter times of the year are ideal for reaching out and asking for referrals or testimonials. Schedule check-in meetings with your current clients and ask to meet them face to face. Invite them to lunch and use that time to build deeper relationships with them. Attend in-person networking events to build new contacts in your territory.
Advise customers about your upcoming schedule. Scarcity sells. If you plan on taking holidays in the summer, tell clients in advance about your schedule. Encourage them to place orders before you leave so they get their orders filled without delay. Call prospects that are looking to buy during the Fall season and see if they’re interested in moving-up their orders to an earlier date.
Invest in yourself. Schedule lunch-and-learns and include your manager. A quiet season is an ideal time to develop new skills, to brush up on existing skills with the help of a sales coach. It’s also an ideal time to develop new sales material, including presentations, keynote material and case studies.
Amplify your network. One of the most powerful sales management tools is road tripping in your team’s territory. Travel with your sellers and have them schedule meetings for you to meet senior-level decision makers at your best client’s base of operation. This will help you build strong corporate rapport within your client base, and help you build out your contact base. Both, critical factors allowing you to spot new opportunities to grow. As the leader, you can also boost your networking signal online by contributing to group discussions on LinkedIn and elsewhere, leveraging what your team is saying and posting, and referring your network generously throughout your team.
All of these steps are achievable and absolutely necessary if you’re going to keep business flowing year in, year out. So, stop confusing sales activity for business activity. Make more out of the summer months and watch how it pays dividends when that next wave of new business hits.