August 22, 2011

Get Ready for the Selling Season Sprint

My kids return to school today. And it’s a good thing. Not sure about you, but I’ve had enough of summer. Loved our vacations. Enjoyed the family time. The relentless heat, not so much. The fact that the only things still growing in our once-lush lawn are crabgrass and nuts-edge truly angers me. Even more exhausting is listening to client sales teams whining about how things are slow and bemoaning that their best prospects are on vacation.

Aside from the NFL, cooler temps and a restored lawn, what I most enjoy about the fall is that it’s “Selling Season.” Years ago, a great friend who also happened to be a client dubbed the period between Labor Day and Thanksgiving Selling Season. So every year about this time I begin beating the drum and reminding the sales world it’s time to get to ready. Hallmark hasn’t quite picked up on it yet, but don’t be surprised in a few years when you start receiving Selling Season greeting cards telling you to get your ass in gear.

Here’s the point: Summer is ending. The kids go back to school. Vacation season is done. For the most part, it’s back to work for everyone and time to get serious. We all know what happens around mid-December when it becomes wind-down for the holidays time. So we must take full advantage of this critical 11-week season of time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

My request is simple. Sprint like crazy. Triple your normal new business development activity level. Take no time off. Define your strategic target account list and push like never before for meaningful conversations and appointments. Earlier I mentioned the relentless summer heat. Be relentless in your sales attack. Act like your personal livelihood and your company’s health depends on finishing 2011 strong and jam-packing your pipeline full of opportunities to ensure success in 2012. Do not rest. Do not spend your mornings cleaning up emails and tinkering with your fantasy football rosters. Do not let the anti-sales department at your company get in your way. Do not take the first or second “no” for an answer when asking your prospect to “visit” with you. Stop babysitting your favorite accounts as an excuse not to prospect! Get reacquainted with your old friend the phone and try using these magic words. Spend a few minutes a day reading great sales blogs for practical ideas and inspiration. The list of GoTo Sales Gurus above and to the right is a great place to start. Sharpen your sword. I learn a ton from these gurus every week and so can you.

Shouldn’t We Always Be Selling? Is This Really Necessary?

I know what you’re thinking. Come on Mike. This is silly. It’s rudimentary and unnecessary. Everyone in sales knows that their job is to sell. “We are always trying to maximize face-time with key prospects. You don’t need to create some season to make us do our jobs.”  Admit it. A lot of you had those thoughts reading this post.

In theory, you are right. But in practice, with the vast majority of small and mid-size companies, that’s not how it plays out. I’ve worked with thirteen companies in 2011. If you saw how much of my sales coaching devolved into conversations about time-blocking, business planning, working finite target prospect lists and pushing for more telephone and face to face sales calls, you wouldn’t be arguing against a Selling Season Sprint. A reason to increase focus and intensity, even if it is manufactured, is a good thing. Bottom-line is that most sales teams are under-led and most salespeople are not operating any where close to peak intensity.

Today is Monday, August 22nd. There are fifteen days until Selling Season kicks off. What are you going do about it? How are you going to get ready? Are you willing to do the prep work so you can bust it for those eleven weeks till Thanksgiving? Will you commit to acting like your own livelihood and your company’s health depends on your commitment and execution?

Sprint to Thanksgiving. As I wrote last year, I’ll buy the wine and roast the bird. Until then, run my friends, and run hard!