The 14 Most Important Days of Your Sales Year
Here’s one of the best tips I can offer you on K-12 sales strategy. Don’t blow December. How you spend your time from December 10-24 can make or break the coming year.
I think in a typical sales month successful reps are doing three things: prospecting, attending new client meetings, and closing. In December, however, I suggest your time is best spent on only two of those, prospecting and closing, and that you go a step further by using some specific strategy in how you approach these activities.
What NOT to spend time on in December
First, let me explain why you might want to avoid new client meetings in later December. I generally believe a day without a new client appointment is a day wasted. So when I first started in B2E sales, I’d approach my December calendar no differently than any other month just trying to make hay with meetings right up until winter break. Even though meeting days are fewer in December, most months have some sort of holiday or testing window or otherwise “dark” appointment days in them so it really isn’t that unusual.
But I started to notice very disappointing results from the meetings held in later December. They had a far worse close rate than my meetings from any other time of year. The reason could be that the people who agree to meetings just have less on their calendar in those couple of weeks leading up to the Winter Break, so they are less judicious about meetings they take, and more open to looking at things they really don’t have time or money to implement. Or on a belly full of holiday cookies and the evening’s holiday concert to prep for, they aren’t as focused on the presentations they receive in those weeks. Or most likely in my mind is that prospects’ minds wander to other things during the extended break, come back to new priorities in early January, and strain to reconnect with my visit and ideas from only a few weeks earlier.
So I took a risk one December by changing my sales strategy to the one I’ve outlined, splitting my time only between closing my existing pipeline and filling my January calendar. In doing so, I capitalized on whatever sociology seems to control school administrator behavior at this time of year and set myself up for terrific Decembers and first quarters.
Closing in December
All salespeople struggle to find a sense of urgency that will push a client to act. In education it’s no different, with the exception that the sense of urgency usually derives from a mandate, funding deadline, or the school calendar. December possesses no important K-12 funding or programming deadline. The best December has to offer is that a curriculum or product can have a clean start at the beginning of second semester, and that isn’t compelling for many B2E products.
But there is a human biological clock driving purchasing decisions that I learned is a B2E rep’s best friend. Since everything else going on in educator’s lives runs on the standard 12-month calendar, yearend mania pervades their senses. There is something pleasing to principals in particular about leaving for the Winter Break with a clean desk. Your proposal is either getting approved or pitched as part of that housecleaning!
Spend a fair bit of your December in urgent follow up with your open pipeline opportunities. Use phrasing that points to the advantages of having a “fresh start in January,” “full semester ahead,” and “plenty of time to witness improvements on spring testing.” Leverage optimal timing for “harvesting data gathered from first semester” or the fact that “other initiatives of the school year are settled in” clearing a path for yours.
Marketing campaigns offering holiday specials and other beat the clock savings successfully capture buyers’ attention, not because of the realities of their work calendars, but their life calendars. So don’t try to use B2E logic in December, follow B2C strategy and you’ll close. Seriously I would even expect Black Friday/Cyber Monday specials could work for transactional education campaigns, so please let me know if you ever try one.
Setting Appointments in December
Understand that while December itself has a sales goal and you are likely striving for a quarterly, half or calendar year number, the bigger impact is that January is make or break to your first half. I’ve seen reps fail to prepare for January in the weeks leading up to winter break, and pay the consequences of having to start the year scrambling for meetings that don’t occur until late in the month, get pushed back for snow days, and finally are received in a climate that is engaged only in budget planning for the next school year. #firstquartermiss.
Resist filling your December 10-24 calendar with new sales appointments. As I mentioned earlier, the sugar plum fairies seem to mess with the success of otherwise equivalent opportunities introduced in this stretch of the calendar. Follow up appointments and thank you visits with goodie baskets to existing customers are great ways to stay top of mind. I plan to blog on smart gifting in the coming weeks so stay tuned!
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that setting distant appointments in January and even into early February is actually easier in those weeks than appointment setting at other times of the year. Maybe admins are just so excited you aren’t asking to see them as soon as possible like we usually do, that their guard drops a second and they go for it. Or hopefully they want to ring in the year with fresh ideas.
Your appointment messaging follows the same talk track as your December closing in that you are leveraging the tide of resolutions and boundless opportunity to make a difference in the coming year. Again, feel free to pilfer shamelessly from B2C messaging. Words like “fresh start,” “resolution,” “opportunity,” “new beginnings,” and “kick off” associated with your January 5th appointment request help your prospect feel less guilty about any missed goals in from the waning year.
For those of you reps working colder climates, I’d also advise a strategy for school closings. School closings are often only determined by bus stop or rush hour conditions, and district personnel and principals often report to work. You might want to request an alternate number where you can reach the prospect in the event of a weather cancellation in their district so you can communicate if the meeting will need to be rescheduled. I’ve enjoyed some of my best conversations with admins on snow days, because they are not in any hurry for a change. Safety first, and having kids of your own stuck home that day might prevent it, but a kept appointment is money in the bank. The later the school year goes, the less likely you’ll have a short sales cycle.
And the 26th-31st?
Since we’re talking December, what good can be done on your number the week between Christmas and New Year’s? Of course it depends on your product or service, but believe it or not, many district personnel are in the office. For sure there will be purchase orders and payments moving, so don’t ever give up on your goal just because your sales haven’t been processed by the 25th. I’ve known reps to chase down orders right through the 31st that pushed their annual or monthly sales over a bonus threshold. I confess this is a time when I personally enjoy recharging my batteries, but a goal’s a goal and when there’s a shot, a few drop ins or calls in between holiday fun has almost always proved worth the effort.