Yes, you can do sales prospecting during the holidays.

In fact, if you do it right, it can create significant new opportunities.   I’m not saying the holidays are not a time of year to enjoy, because certainly we all know they are.

As a salesperson, though, you would be foolish to not recognize what is unique about this time of year when it comes to prospecting.

First thing to realize when prospecting during the holidays is that traditional business methods tend to be ignored.

By this I mean that it is not unusual during the holidays for people who don’t normally read emails to suddenly start reading emails.  The same is true of phone calls — many people who normally let all calls rollover to voice mail will suddenly start answering the phone or actually return a vendor’s phone call.

The reason for this is because the holidays in nearly any company creates a shift in thinking and, more importantly, how time is used.  Yes, there are some companies where the holidays are the busiest time of the year and prospecting is not an option, but for most B2B companies, the holidays represent a slowdown in business.

Step one when prospecting is to tap into your referral list.

People are more willing to talk during the holidays, so start off by contacting your current customers and asking them for referrals.  Don’t forget to be thanking your customers for their support this past year and taking time to determine what their current needs are.

After that, though, it’s only natural to ask for referrals — and, of course, while asking for referral, you can politely ask them if they would make the introduction for you.

Second step is to reach out to those on your referral list.

Phone calls with a more personal nature are naturally going to garner more attention this time of year.

Third step is to continue the process by reaching out to other prospects.

What I have found is the people you do reach will be more likely to talk this time of year than at other times of the year.  This includes in particular the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving, the days leading up to Christmas and the very slow time of year between Christmas and New Year’s.

Conducting a phone blitz the week between Christmas and New Year’s will always create new leads for one simple reason. Most companies that week are on a very slow schedule with the vast majority of people taking time off.

With this being the case it means the phone is ringing less and there are fewer emails to handle.  All of this means you could be the person they do wind up talking to.  Many times phone calls this time of the year are very productive because the prospect is pleased to know somebody else is working also.    Does this mean you can’t take time off that week?  No, you still can. But if you’re determined to make your next year’s number, then you’ll want to take a day or two of that week and dedicate that time to calling.

Another critical piece is don’t forget to do an email campaign during this time period.

Again, there are many people who will ignore it, but there are also many who, because their business routine is not normal, will take the time to read your email.

An interesting piece I’ve noticed in my own business is my own website during holiday periods, including 3-day weekends, has traffic that stays on the website longer and more pages are viewed.   I attribute this to one reason — it’s the one time period when senior level people have more time to dig into things they don’t normally have the time to do.  If you’re dealing with senior level decision makers, you will want to make sure your website and content is optimized to take advantage of these critical periods.

Prospecting during the holidays?  You should do it.  You really, really should.

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Copyright 2011, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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