Three key ways to prepare for fall selling

It can be tempting for companies, and salespeople, to simply coast through the slow, late weeks of summer. Customers and prospects are trying to squeeze in those last few vacation days and that requires more effort on the part of salespeople to keep the pipeline full, successfully close sales and see profit from those efforts.

This seasonal slowdown will cause some organizations to save their efforts for the weeks, and months ahead when the pace picks up and the kids are back in school. Taking the time to lay and plan the groundwork now, however, can help your sales team set up for a fantastic fall and lead to strong year-end results.

Here are a few ways your sales teams can use the slower, late summer schedule to ramp up for an outstanding fourth quarter.

Nurture long leads and existing customers: There are always some leads that require a bit more attention. There are probably several accounts that will be up for renewal in the fourth quarter of the year. Taking the time over these next couple of weeks to nurture those leads can position well for strong fall sales. Since there is more down time during September, consider telling your sales teams to:

• Set up conference calls or meetings to discuss the product or services with prospects.

• Conduct in-depth research on prospects so that all selling efforts can be specifically tailored to this person and, or, their company.

• Speak directly with existing customers to see how they are using your products or services. Look for areas where they can get more out of what your product has to offer.

Prepare for the holiday season: It might seem strange to think about the holidays in late summer but successful companies know that planning in advance is a key to sales success. The holiday season can be a difficult time for sales because many people get distracted by seasonal activities. However, remember many businesses are scrambling to finish spending their yearly budget before the year-end and new year because operating on a use-it-or-lose-it strategy is common. Some estimates point to a 5-times increase in spending during the final week of the fiscal year, compared to an average week, particularly for government agencies. In preparation for this important period consider:

• Using holiday messaging in your upcoming advertising and sales tactics, tapping into the festive mood that many buyers will be in.

• Analyze your competitors to see where their weaknesses lie, upon which you can capitalize.

• Look at trends in fourth-quarter buying from past years, as well as the data over the past year, to identify the areas that will likely be important at the end of this year.

Build your brand reputation online: It should be no surprise that an estimated 81 percent of customers perform research online before making a purchase. This means for you to finish the year strongly you need to have a helpful online presence that will help you draw more prospects into your prospecting and sales funnel. Posting helpful articles and open-ended questions, to start conversations, can put you on the radar of potential customers. Inviting existing clients to share stories, or pictures, of their experience with your brand in exchange for coupons or other rewards can improve your brand reach and reputation. Make sure that your main website is also home to high-quality content that addresses topics that your customers will find useful and interesting.

Fall presents organizations with the opportunity to finish the year with strong sales records, and good relationships with clients, that can carry over into the next year. Work with your sales team to prepare for Q4 business throughout the weeks ahead and see how a well-optimized season can help your brand continue to grow this year.

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or [email protected].

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