My Advice on Finishing 2020 Strong

Around this time every year, salespeople start to let up. They take their foot off the gas, and even though they may not actively pump their brakes, they allow themselves to coast to the finish line. The holidays, they think, will interfere with getting deals done, as many people take time off work to devote their attention to their family and friends.

That’s tempting reasoning, but it’s dangerous to reduce your efforts for the next six weeks—not only in terms of this year’s results but also of your prospects for next year. You are going to produce the best outcomes possible when you play until the whistle blows.

No One Is at Work

One of the lies we tell ourselves is that “no one” is at work or working this time of year. Obviously, the broad, all-inclusive claim that no single individual is still working is false. There are some people who are taking time off work, sure, but many others still have work they need to get done.

Whenever I hear salespeople use words like “always” or “never” or “everybody,” it’s a safe bet that they’re rationalizing a decision to avoid work. The truth is, you accomplish nothing by avoiding your work.

businessman standing at a desk signing papers

At the end of the year, in fact, it’s even more important to develop and close deals since you can count on more obstacles. With some employees off work, for instance, it can be difficult for your prospective client to get the consensus they need to buy your solution. That trend will only get worse as we get closer to 2021, so wait until December 30th to find out that you can’t get a deal done.

You are better off asking for the meetings you need now, putting the pieces in place to have your client sign a deal before the end of the year. You can start having these conversations today.

Decision-makers and decision-shapers, people with responsibility, tend to use this time to accomplish goals that allow them to close out this year well and prepare for the next one. If the deal you are working on is going to improve their position for next year, you should remind them of the results you are going to help them improve, and ask if you can put the solution in place for them sooner rather than later. Negotiate now for a time to get the deal done.

A Terrible Approach to Closing

Speaking of closing, certain salespeople are shocked (shocked, I tell you) to learn that a potential discount won’t compel their client to rush the transaction. That trick works sometimes, but not often enough that you should pursue it as your end-of-the-year strategy. It’s a mistake to believe and behave as if the most compelling reason someone should buy now is to acquire what they need at a lower price.

After all, when you met with your contacts, none of them said, “Well, we really don’t have any significant outcomes we need help with. We were just trying to see if anyone would give us a discount on something we don’t really need.”

Here are two big reasons you shouldn’t use a discount as your primary strategy. First, it demonstrates that you are willing to sell your solution for some amount lower than what you quoted your contacts. You’re actively recommending that they buy what you sell at a lower price! There may be a better way to ensure your client knows you need the deal more than they do, but I sure can’t think of one. And once your client knows you’re desperate, don’t be surprised if they ask for an even lower price.

Second, and much worse, when your client doesn’t have any real, compelling reason to change now, or when adopting your solution in February is as good as doing so in January, the fact that you agreed to lower your price proves that they can negotiate that same discount with you eight weeks later. What should be compelling them is the better results you are promising to deliver for them, not the lower price.

two businessmen shaking hands

Never Stop Prospecting

You should never stop prospecting. In good or bad times, never stop reaching out to the people you want as clients. Don’t let the chance that some potential contacts will be unavailable convince you that all of them have checked out for the year. There will always be some people working, even if it’s a skeleton crew.

When your competitors give up on the year, letting up on communicating with their clients and their prospective clients, you call those very clients. There are always better results for those who are willing to do the work that others avoid.

There is never a reason to give up months of prospecting. The pattern of slowing down in November, stopping completely in December, and then lying to yourself in January that “people just got back to work” and “they don’t want to be bothered by a salesperson” will set you up for a very difficult new year.

When the deals you create in November close in February, giving up November means a bad first quarter. The same is true of January, where too little opportunity creation results in a horrible start to your second quarter.

Don’t let the weirdness that is 2020 prevent you from finishing strong, and don’t do anything that might compromise your ability to start 2021 strong.

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