This article was written by Ed Hatton, the Start Up Coach for Entrepreneur Magazine (South African edition), as the My Mentor column published in November 2014 and is posted here by their kind permission
November and December offer many opportunities for alert entrepreneurs
You will all have experienced it – the dreaded November slowdown, with many anticipating the year-end holidays before South Africa shuts down sometime in December. Entrepreneurs complain that it is impossible to sell at this time of the year. Many can’t wait for the start of the holidays.
How much are you contributing to this business slowdown? Are you demotivated by decisions being deferred to next year? Have you gone into pre-holiday slowdown mode, and repeated that this is an impossible time of year for marketing or sales? If you have then you are part of the problem, and this is a self-inflicted limitation on doing business.
Can you really afford to have one quarter of the year, from the beginning on November to the end of January as a time of minimal sales? Is it really true that nobody buys at this time of the year? The truth is there is an enormous volume of business available at this time, but it will not come to you if you ignore the opportunity.
There is an old saying that “everything comes to him (or her) who hustles while they wait”. Many successful entrepreneurs have had great successes during the slowdown by catching competitors napping in preparation for the holiday, or being the only bidder for profitable business. Tenders are published now to limit the number of bidders – really awake entrepreneurs take advantage. To get a slice of the millions spent in the next couple of months you must be alert, work hard and look for opportunities. You should also plan and execute an assertive sales campaign.
Rid yourself of the idea that there is no business to be had. Get into the right frame of mind and take this golden opportunity to gain on your competitors. Look for business like yours which have spare time and can talk to you. Match you products to the needs of potential customers at this time of the year. For instance if you have a product or service which will quickly give an immediate boost to productivity you should go after jobbing manufacturers and construction companies rushing to get orders out before the holidays. If you have products that need a lot of review and planning to implement, approach companies who are not busy at this time of the year and can afford to absorb a new concept now, when this could be impossible later in the year when they were frantically busy. If you cannot think of any specific advantage then sharpen up your selling technique and work ethic; sell real benefits to address known needs, talk to many people. You will be surprised how receptive many people are to new ideas at this time of the year.
Having decided on your target markets, set goals for customer and prospect calls, provide incentives for business won against competitors. Incentivise yourself as well – promise yourself something you have always wanted, like a balloon safari or a special family event if you meet targets. Monitor calls enthusiastically, celebrate sales to build excitement, give frequent praise and reward, don’t dwell on failure.
Make a special point of visiting customers. Many businesspeople use this time of the year to think strategically and develop their own plans; take this significant opportunity to be part of their planning. Do the same with customers of your competitors. Arriving brimming with confidence and ideas will often contrast with careless service and poor communication so often given at this time of the year. It feels so good to celebrate the holidays having displaced a competitor in a major account.
Finally make a point of doing your own strategic planning. Look for products and services to improve your sales and marketing in the coming year, and take time to investigate different offerings. You should be both the buyer and the seller during this valuable time.
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