Not long ago, I thought I would enjoy a nice run to work off some extra Thanksgiving pounds, when I clumsily slipped and fell down the icy steps to my front door. Thankfully, the result was merely a deep bruise, and not anything serious enough to keep me from my upcoming ski vacation. The doctor ordered a week’s rest. Sulking in front of the TV, my wife remarked, “Well, at least this happened in December.”
She was right. Although we sometimes feel pressure to close those last few deals, the truth is that most of our customers simply aren’t around at year-end. And after about December 15? Forget about it.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should take the month off, too. So besides chasing those few remaining deals stuck in your customer’s procurement departments, here are some ideas to make the most out of the month to insure that January doesn’t wind up like the frozen tundra.
Get a grade. Contact some of your select customers, and ask them to give your services a specific grade (A-F.) This isn’t a “How are we doing?” phone call, or a veiled attempt to try to upsell. It is an opportunity to truly hear what your customer thinks of you post-sale. Listen closely: An “A” is terrific. A “B” sounds good, but generally means there are at least a few problems. And a “C?” That means you are failing, and the account is at significant risk.
After listening, ask: “What can I do between now and January so that the next time I ask, you give us a B?”
Your idea here is to accept their grade, but then aim for reasonable improvement. This shows that you are listening, and that you truly value their business.
Close the book. While the memories are still fresh, capture the activities of the past 12 months. Break down each month: How many meetings did you have? What were your busiest travel periods? What months enjoyed the newest customer wins? The answers might surprise you. At the very least, they will help you draft a thoughtful plan for success in the upcoming year.
Sharpen the saw. To once again borrow from the late Stephen Covey, this is a great time to introduce yourself to something new. Attend a seminar. Read a new book. Even re-read a favorite (I generally revisit Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People once a year.)
Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy holiday parties and college bowl games as much as the next guy. But as the winter days get shorter, use this end of year downtime wisely on pursuits we rarely have time for throughout the year. That way, you can kickoff January with a new sense of energy, purpose, and opportunity.