Business to consumer (B2C) advertising has begun the holiday bombardment, yet businesses are bracing for the slowdown that tends to come in the last, most critical, moments of Q4. With quotas hanging in the balance, is it right to succumb to the notion that it is “…just a slow time of year” in the B2B world? This post explores several options for closing the gap and preparing for a quick start in 2015.
Before identifying the often-overlooked positives of a hard final push, consider the rational arguments people make while waiving their white flag:
- Fighting for Face Time: With 18 business days between Black Friday and Christmas, most decision makers have a lot on their plates. From maintaining business operations and annual budget planning to their own holiday to-do list, these decision makers are all asking for the same thing come December 25th – more hours in a day.
- Discounts ARE a Motivating Factor: Even the un-savvy shopper expects something and that something better come at a discount. In a 2014 Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey, 96% of all respondents said discounts will be important to their purchasing decision. Knowing these last minute contracts could mean the difference between quota shortfall and attainment, some decision makers use ‘timing’ as leverage for more advantageous pricing or contract terms.
- Skepticism is at an All-Time High: Placating to buyer’s remorse, businesses are pulling out all the stops as they seek out buyer motivation. Typified by the “Limited-Time ONLY – 24 hour Sale” slogan, consumers feel pressure from all angles, which tends to bleed from their personal lives into professional settings.
- Information Overload: From newfangled espresso-machines and $78,000 Gingerbread houses [true story] to CRM systems and business solutions, invasive and irrelevant communications create consumer indifference. If you cannot find a unique approach to differentiate your offering from the onslaught of product options, you do not stand a chance.
Before throwing in the towel, consider the following B2C selling scenarios as a way to mirror efforts within the world of business-to-business (B2B) procurement. The analogous tactics prescribed below can further your momentum as you head into the December dead zone:
- Big Fish in a Smaller Pond: With some closing-up shop early, a motivated salesperson mightfind themselves in a less competitive landscape. Start by prioritizing your top 10 prospects by industry. Read a recent trade magazine or industry publication and write a brief synopsis on the 2-3 most critical items to consider in advance of the new year. Remember, making this time sensitive is critical for creating a sense of urgency. LinkedIn is an ideal channel for distribution, but make sure to send individual notes to your prospect list first. A few days later, repurpose the material for the benefit of your entire network.
- You are Getting Very Sleepy: According to a Nielsen survey, 90% of buying decisions are made by the subconscious mind. While hypnosis is not advised, sellers should have a well-established strategy for staying relevant. From hosting and attending various holiday networking events to putting forth a steady stream of valuable content through LinkedIn and Twitter, consistent engagement develops sincerity and increases credibility. Even hand delivering a Christmas card or tickets to an upcoming sports event could begin to separate you from the pack while connecting a name with a face.
- Ease over Price: Simon-Kucher polled 1000 holiday shoppers who attributed their purchasing decision based on ease of execution, citing convenience of shopping online, free shipping, and avoidance of holiday crowds as points of differentiation. Take that to the business world, and what you find are decision makers that are potentially willing to forgo the cheapest option for hassle-free solutions that meet short and long terms business needs. In advance of your next prospecting call, identify 5-10 questions that take account of what has occurred in 2014 and what the business is planning over the next 12 to 24 months. Press releases and earnings reports provide great content. Align the overall needs of the business to an applicable solution, and you have a value proposition and motivation to act.
- Forget the Billboard – Pick up Your Computer: An individual’s ability to push content to the masses no longer requires a billboard, TV, or a full-page newspaper spread. Today, social media gives you a voice and a network that can be mined for new opportunities. The fact that 70% of all brands are allocating over half of their digital marketing budget to search and social this holiday season illustrates its potential. Create a strategic social campaign with a well-balanced mix of opinion, synthesized reposts, and personal insights as you hone your voice towards your desired target. An often-overlooked avenue to social sharing is the power of a word-of-mouth reference. The larger your network, the more trust you gain, and the quicker someone will recommend you and your services. As technology and social sharing minimize geographic barriers, your networking opportunity increases exponentially.
So, whether you are just on the cusp of quota attainment or have just surpassed your marks, forego the gym and give yourself an early New Year’s Resolution. Push yourself to debunk the myth that people do not want to be bothered during the holiday season. Capitalize on the opportunities your competitors are leaving under the well-decorated tree and take this “slower” time to identify new and creative ways to connect with decision makers. By cleaning up your pipeline and gaining familiarity with social media, these tactics will get you thinking outside the box. At a minimum, decision makers will know who to call come January 1st.
 Keys to Success for Retailers This Holiday Season: Surprisingly, lower prices is not one of them. Simon-Kucher & Partners