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Seasonal Selling

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In late autumn, mall shops start hiring extra salespeople for the holiday season. During the holiday rush, retail salespeople sell far more of their products than in normal times. But retail isn't the only industry with a seasonal aspect – in fact, most products go through feast and famine cycles. For example, car sales go up in August, when the new models arrive. And most B2B salespeople find that their slowest month is December, when decision makers go on vacation. Accountants are frantically busy in March and early April as they prepare tax returns for their customers.

Once you've been selling a given product for awhile, you'll usually get a feel for its busiest times of year. That means you can take advantage of those times and often more than make up for the leaner periods, when it's just harder to sell no matter how good you are.

The most important thing to remember is that it's important to push hard during the busy season. It's natural to feel the impulse to neglect cold calling when you have customers lining up to buy from you, but if you give in to this impulse, you'll find yourself with an empty pipeline at the end of the season and will have to scramble to get your sales rolling again. While you'll probably be very busy during these peak periods, set aside at least a half-hour per day to contact new prospects, be it via phone, email or other channels.

During those times when sales are pouring in, your goals should go up accordingly. Don't wait for your sales manager to set up new goals for you – pick new goals of your own that are in line with your increased customer base. The best way to know how much your goals should be is to check your records from the last busy season and see how you did back then. Your goal for the new busy season should be somewhat higher than your goal from the last season, but not so high that it's almost impossible to reach. Ideally, your elevated goal during these times reminds you to keep pushing instead of relaxing and enjoying the windfall sales.

At the end of the busy times you'll no doubt have a bloated commission check burning a hole in your pocket. Enjoy yourself by all means, but set aside at least part of the extra money into a “famine fund.” Then when you hit the slow season, you won't have to fret about your inevitably smaller commissions. This is even more important when your slow season coincides with extra personal expenses. For example, the B2B slowdown around the end of the year often makes for a leaner holiday season for salespeople if they don't have a little extra tucked away in advance.

Sales managers and small business owners should start planning for busy periods well in advance. For business owners, that may mean hiring more sales reps on a temporary basis. If you decide to do so, be sure to bring them in at least a few weeks ahead of the busy period so that they have enough time to become familiar with your products and selling style before they're swamped. Sales managers may need to work with salespeople to schedule vacations so that the maximum number of salespeople are on the job when things get busy. Managers may also want to work together with sales managers from other teams to be sure that enough salespeople are available when they're needed most.

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