Everyone’s away on summer holidays at the moment (in the Northern Hemisphere, but if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere*, prospects can just as likely be away on winter holidays around this time of year).
In Europe, August tends to be the main month of absence, with the summer’s high season starting in mid-June until the end of August.
Most people feel happier during summer, but the heat and holidays usually come at the expense of productivity. Interestingly, a study shows that hot weather reduces people’s productivity by 4% per degree. Now those Spanish siestas make a lot of sense!
When prospects are on vacation – and generally during any off-season (including Christmas and New Year) – the best thing you can do is work on the things that you are always too busy to work on during the on-season.
Although a summer sales slump happens in many industries, the slower pace of business doesn’t have to mean your sales team can’t be productive.
What to do before the off-season
This is more of a planning tip for next year (better to start early!), but you can get ahead of the productivity slowdown by clearly communicating with your team that this year, they won’t be participating in the summer slump. Emphasize to your working employees that they shouldn’t be thinking that just because everyone’s at the beach, their productivity can go on holiday too.
You can have a daily check-in to ask what they’re doing to succeed this summer, set clearly defined goals and list the activities that need to be undertaken to achieve them. Set clear deadlines for the goals and encourage a positive environment.
One way to get ahead of things (maybe more for next year) is to let your best customers know that you’ll be available all summer. Target anyone who has bought from you in the last quarter via email or social media. Check in with them regularly and figure out how to expand your business with them. For example, you can ask what you can do to help as they prepare for a vacation or to help fill a gap in their absence.
What to do during the off-season
1. Prospect and generate more leads
It might feel like literally everyone is out-of-office or on the beach, but your team can still spend their time calling around and qualifying your prospects.
Regardless of the season, you should always focus on lead generation. You can also split the remaining team (those stuck in the office whilst their teammates are sipping margaritas in an infinity pool somewhere) to divide and conquer. For example, some of them can work on filling the pipeline with ideal clients while others can investigate new lead-generation opportunities.
A key aim is to always have a consistently full pipeline – that’s the only way you can reach your sales quota month after month. This is a good way to make up for any slow period throughout the year.
This is also a great time to research desired customers, new market opportunities and market trends!
2. Target those customers who can’t take a long holiday
With a bit of planning and research, you can prepare to focus some of your marketing efforts on prospective customers who plan to be around during the holiday season. This also goes for your existing busy customers.
These are the busy people who don’t have time to take a vacation or allow any drop in productivity levels. What you can do here is communicate the message (via social media, email or your website) that you’ll also be around and can offer something valuable to help them deal with their time constraints.
3. Focus on up-skilling with sales training and coaching
The very best thing you can do during this time, which is highly recommended by most sales experts, is identify any areas your team needs to improve and commit the time to develop them. This will help your performance and revenue quotas soar in the long term and help your sales team become more confident and more able to convincingly discuss how your products can be used to deliver results.
You can do this via sales courses, just-in-time training and/or individualized coaching sessions. You can train and coach negotiation skills and consultative selling strategies, or solidify your sales process. Focus on a specific area your team can improve on and see the results get better and better.
Sales coaching with Pitcher is a breeze – learn more here.
As per step two, if you’re calling happy customers anyway, you might as well ask how it’s going, how their use of your product or service is tracking, and if they’re coming up against any barriers along the way. If not, why not focus on up-selling or cross-selling? You can “farm” and grow these seeds early, and then focus on up-selling with customers who you already have a good relationship with.
If they are bumping into any issues, you will obviously need to focus on fixing those first before asking for more of their money!
5. Lastly, relax!
If all your prospects are on holiday at the same time, it only makes sense that you are too.
We’re taught that if we’re not prospecting, nurturing and closing, then one of our competitors probably is. However, it’s vital to step away from business to relax and recharge. This helps prevent burnout, allows for a mental reset and actually promotes more productivity in the long run.
What to do after the off-season
1. Get back into the swing of things
An easy conversation starter when calling your prospects and customers is asking how their vacations were and what they got up to. Ask follow-up questions to re-establish your good relationship. This is also a natural time to ask what their plans are for the autumn and winter, and build on that. (Don’t forget to put reminders in your calendar regarding any key info and timings they share with you.)
Ask the big questions: Are you fully prepared for when business picks up? What is your current sales structure designed to do? Are you getting consistently strong performance in the revenue areas most important to you? If not, now is the time to rethink your sales structure – and explain why and how.
Reminding a prospect of an upcoming autumn deadline to ramp up the urgency can also be a great idea. If you know the prospect needs a solution in place by a certain date, or that they have an upcoming goal they’re at risk of missing, gently nudge them to take action now, before it’s too late.
2. Stay on track with mini goals
Yes, you need to hit your quota, but if you’re struggling, it can be helpful to set a few mini goals (or activity goals) to sustain a good amount of activity and keep your team’s motivation levels high.
For example, you could aim to make three cold calls by the end of the day or present five demos this week. Or, reconnect with the three customers who have been on the longest vacations. A mini goal can keep you pushing ahead, especially when you feel like it’s impossible to achieve the month’s quota. The big, scary number feels a lot more achievable when you have already made it past a handful of smaller hurdles.
3. Nurture the leads you made during the summer slump
It’s crucial to focus on the leads you currently have, but don’t forget those that you made during the summer (in step one). Invite them to your monthly newsletter, create a webinar about the content areas they’re interested in specifically, and so on. Existing customers can always be helpful, for example, by helping you make connections, providing referrals and promoting up-selling and cross-selling when there is downtime.
To make up for the sales slump, you can also create special offers that are valid in autumn and scale up digital advertising and content. Determining which offers matter to an audience and what media works best for the offer at hand is crucial. Create content based on specific media and what you want to achieve on those channels.
Since things have been quiet over the break, you may find that not everyone is back just yet.
Regular communication is important, but you don’t want to be an annoyance.
There is a difference between communication that serves as a gentle reminder versus communication that shouts “buy my product now!”. So well-thought-through planning works wonders here. If you have a call with a lead, let them know before the call ends that you will call them back next week to see what they think. Then, when you follow up, they will be prepared.
Most prospects are more inclined to purchase if the sales rep calls back at a specific, previously agreed-upon time. But again, don’t overdo it if you are still trying to contact your lead for the first time.
Focusing on new customers is always important, but serving your existing ones can be even more helpful during this time (although it’s a year-round commitment, of course). When everyone’s wanting to take a siesta, demonstrate that you are motivated to make things happen quickly and empower employees to accommodate special requests, even if this means opening your business early or letting customers enter your establishment in casual clothes.
You want to aim for business to come back throughout the year, not just in the off-season of course.
*This article is written with the Northern Hemisphere in mind. If you are not located there, please think of this as an article referring generally to any off-season 🙂
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