Once again, ‘tis the season. No, we’re not talking about family, festive celebrations and football. We’re referring to that black hole of the business calendar when everything goes dark. Yes, it’s the holiday season, and all those great contacts you’ve been cultivating in recent weeks have given you the standard Christmas kiss-off: “Call me after the First of the Year.”
As you know, two or three weeks can be an eternity when you’re in the midst of reeling in a prospective new customer or client. How do you keep those mid-December business leads engaged on into the New Year? Here are some tips:1. Last call of the season. With only nine days left ‘til Christmas, you probably have only one more chance to have a substantive conversation with your prospect. While you may have to resign yourself to closing the deal in January, you can still do some things to make that a likelier outcome.
Pepper your conversation with comments about family and holidays plans, and ask about theirs. Remember, sincerity rules; if you sound like a salesman, your words will ring hollow. Psychological studies indicate that, around the holidays, people are much more open and willing to share personal information, so take advantage of this chance to really get to know this potential customer.
2. Follow-up. After you’ve gotten the aforementioned “holiday kiss-off,” send an email reiterating what you’ve previously discussed, and promise to follow-up.
3. Hallmark moment. Capture your prospect’s snail mail address and send a card. Unless you’re armed with some specific information about their faith, make it a generic “Happy Holidays” card. Buddhist, Christian, Jew or Muslim, the recipient will be impressed by your thoughtfulness.
But be sure to include a personal note mentioning that you enjoyed your previous conversation, and reference any family members or holiday plans they discussed with you. This reinforces the fact that you were listening and will feel like a sincere gesture.
4. Holiday mode. Depending on which day of the calendar Christmas falls, all denominations are pretty much in business-holiday mode in the four-to-seven days prior to the 25th of December. So gauge accordingly, and send a holiday email prior to Christmas. Offer a free download as a gift –with your company’s compliments- of a white paper or case study from your website. Remember, anything you send after December 21st and prior to January 3rd is pretty much a lost initiative.
5. Catering to your client. If you are dealing with a prior client or a customer with whom you have a bit of a personal relationship, you’ve got a little more latitude to make a nice gesture without looking like you’re overdoing it. Send them a bottle of wine or some modestly-price business-related item. If you’ve got branded company products like hats, T-shirts or other promotional items, that’s great. People always love free swag.
6. Survey & feedback. Send out an end-of-year email thanking your prospects for the opportunity to communicate with them, and include a specifically-tailored survey that asks them the issues they wish to resolve and the goals they’d like to attain in the coming year.
7. Free B2B advice. Email a fun, fast list of ways to be productive and secure new business over the holidays and into the New Year.
8. Throw a party (or Happy Hour). Do you cater to locally-based clients and customers? Throw a party or extend an invitation to a social event that you’ll be hosting. Keep the business talk to a minimum at these gatherings. Focus on providing a genuine good time for your guests and build a genuine bond of goodwill.
9. Check-list & Follow-up. Don’t overdo. When cultivating a new prospect –especially over the holidays- there’s a fine line between being genuinely sincere and alienating your point-of-contact.
- Send a follow-up “thank you” note after your last pre-holiday conversation.
- Send a personal holiday greeting, preferably, by standard mail.
- Issue a valuable, free offer to an eBook, white paper, or some other resource of value, via email. Do not put a time limit on the offer. Provide a discount code to enable the offer if necessary.
- Promise to follow-up after the holidays
- Give your prospect and his or her staff time to get re-acclimated. Follow up with a phone call or email no sooner than the second work day after the New Year’s Day holiday.
Always remember, sincerity rules. The more that your holiday communications and follow-up contact with your prospective customers are genuine, thoughtful and based on their needs, the more they will be impressed and respond to your subsequent reach-outs.
Happy Holidays! And here’s hoping that your only “Christmas Kiss-off” is underneath the mistletoe.