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3 Ways to Be a Human for the Holidays – ‘Tis the Season, Not the Selling

The herald angels have been harking (and hawking their wares) before Fall even adjusted its woolen scarf. We’ve been swathed in red-and-green packaging and dunked in faux-snow ad décor since before the fine Halloween episode of Modern Family. But no matter the name of the holiday we celebrate, now it’s mid-December—we’re all in. Holidays are in our heads: it’s, as Manny might say, “the dominant zeitgeist.”

That means good salespeople need to make a conscious shift in how they create memorable interactions during the holidays. Here are three principles to guide you, as well as actionable ways to put them into action this holiday season.

As the Chrysler blog recently said:

Don’t hard sell: This is usually a good thing to avoid anyway, but doubly so during the holidays. Consumers are already inundated with “buy, buy, buy!” during the holiday season. Adding to the shouting match with hard-sale tactics is sure to turn off a customer.

1) Talking the talk means being quiet too

Sometimes conventional approaches just don’t apply, and that sometime is this very time. When calling prospects or clients during the holidays, ask how they’re doing first, and do everything you can to move the majority of the conversation to being about them—including letting them do a lot of the talking.

I know each of you has been on the receiving end of a waterfall sales call, or friend gushing about a trip to Europe that irritates you enough to want to change the subject to your concerns—don’t be the guy with the end-of-year quota voice. That guy closes ears.

Focus on the prospect, not the numbers—some clients or potential clients are starting to set budget for 2013, or some need to use their dollars or they’ll lose them out of their budget. Some may want to pilot beta-test internally before they do a full implementation. Others are too busy closing out the year and have a number to hit.

That’s why barging into a conversation with sales cannons blazing doesn’t cut it during the holidays—you’re the one who’s going to get killed. Find out what’s on your prospect’s mind before you even begin to afford them a peek into yours. You won’t know where they’re at unless you’ve established trust by listening well and responding genuinely.

As Bob Poole says in Listen First, Sell Later, “people have to buy YOU before they buy anything FROM you.”

Call after the sale: Second dates shouldn’t be late!—I hear lots of clients say they get all the love when they’re prospects, but afterwards they don’t hear a thing. “Sharing is caring” sounds pretty sappy, but connections work best when there are a series of touches, ones that don’t seem artificial. You might:

  • Build trust by talking to them post-sales, post-conference, without an agenda
  • Surprise them with an email that isn’t just your latest data sheet—make it personal
  • Mention an article they might be interested in; provide links to good stuff
  • Send them a Google alert about something relevant, even light-heartedly relevant
  • Retweet a personalized tweet to strengthen the relationship

2) “Me, me, me” never was a good song. When you talk, the majority of the conversation should be about them; that way you can uncover new initiatives. It’s remarkable how much you can learn—strategically—about a business just by giving someone the space to open up. The more you leave openings in your conversations for them to fill in, the more open they’ll be later to considering an idea of yours.

Two pieces of advice from Biz Filings Business Owner’s Toolkit blog:

Send handwritten holiday cards to prospects you’ve deemed legitimate but inactive or stalled. If your roster is too large, pick the top 20 or 30 prospects and start writing. Don’t include a hard sell. Simply wish them well during the holidays and the New Year. Include your contact information in the P.S. (often the first-read part of a letter) and an invitation to contact you with any questions. Depending upon how much contact you had with these prospects, following up with a phone call may be welcome.

Use upcoming social engagements to network. Whether it’s holiday get-togethers through industry associations, family gatherings or your office’s annual Christmas party, keep an eye out for new contacts. If you’re at a cocktail party, offer to be the designated driver or arrange for rides. People want to do business with entrepreneurs who can be responsible while having a good time.

3) Situations change, but relationships don’t have to

One salesperson on my team had a great relationship with a particular client, and then that client’s company was sold to another one. My team member was able to sell the new company because he’d kept in touch with the client. Another client mentioned he was going to be keynote speaker at a luncheon, so my team member decided to attend. After the luncheon, he met lots of other people and was able to point to the keynote speaker and say, yes, I work with him. Relationships (and consequent business) can be contagious.

Plan for the holidays—This is a great time to focus on changes to prospecting and customer service. Consider this:

  • Move to the lighter side, wishing them a happy holiday season, asking if they’re traveling somewhere so you can circle back later and ask how they liked it. Remembering the details is how you get remembered.
  • Closer and closer to the holidays, let them talk. Their priorities are shifting by the hour. Their concerns are all over the place, and we do our best work if we go with the flow. That flow will often turn back to us.
  • If it feels right, offer something of value to them right then—a great CD or film or restaurant recommendation. Then you’re more than just a salesperson. You’re a human being with hopes and dreams and a sizeable gift list, just like them.

Your casual comment may be the very thing that prevents an office outburst or domestic disaster. Play your position with smarts, but play it by the heart. And for that, my friend, you will be remembered.

 

Image source: Flickr

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