Webinar: Why are the summer months challenging for sales teams?
Summer’s coming and “everyone’s” going away! How can you keep your sales team active over summer and why is it so important?
In this B2B Sales Clinic, Ingrid and Richard discuss why the summer months can be a particularly challenging time for sales teams and investigate the strategies you need to implement to ensure they stay on target.
Founders, CEOs, Managing Directors, Sales Leaders, Revenue Leaders and Commercial Leaders.
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Also, you can read interview here:
Good morning, Ingrid.
Morning, Richard. How are you?
I’m very well, thanks. How are you?
Very well, thank you. Gosh, so good to be here again. Can you believe that? This is our seventh one.
I know. Absolutely amazing. Really, really nice to be able to do this every couple of months, actually.
Isn’t it, though? I’m absolutely delighted to be here. And, you know, and it’s just been such a pleasure over that time to be able to do something together where we’re complementary with, you know, looking at B2B sales and the B2B sales channel. In particular. And we’re both specialists in that space. And yet we kind of look at, you know, very, you know, the different ends of that sales process, which is, you know, so complementary and tasty.
True, doesn’t it?
Yep. We’ve got people joining this morning, which is great to see. Welcome to everybody. As he was just saying, this is our seventh webinar and the last one for this year. But before we walk up for Christmas I should talk about winding up. I think that’s really the topic of our conversation today.
So, yeah, very much so. Well, look, you know, for those of you who are already here, welcome. I just really would love to, to introduce, you know, a very special colleague, Richard Forrest, who is one of the founders and managing director of Forest Marketing Group. Who can you believe has been in business for over 16 years? Now, supporting major organizations and enterprises to do more with their sales team, to support those salespeople, to be able to have shorter sales cycles, to have more effective sales meetings, and to spend their time with them at their level of expertise, which is really about the engagement and the and the conversion.
So, you know, just fantastic. And again, I go a long way back. For those of you who don’t know, I used to have a business very similar to Richard’s and now I have the privilege of working with him in this capacity. So I’m Ingrid Maynard. For those of you who don’t know, I’m the managing director and founder of the sales doctor.
So, I look at what happens, you know, from that first meeting onwards to to to the conversion process and then beyond. And I work with B2B salespeople across a range of different organizations to enable them to do more with the resources and the people that they have so that they can achieve extraordinary outcomes faster. So without further ado, I would absolutely love to work getting more and more people here, which is fantastic.
I’d really love to kick off with some questions for you, if that’s all right, Richard.
Sure. Absolutely. And thank you. It’s great to see you again and great to be on this webinar with you. Okay.
Isn’t it, though? I just love it. And so so, Richard, we are like you said, we are coming up to the end of the year. Gosh, you know, it’s almost like the quickening bit. But why is it important to keep the B2B sales team on and busy, I believe?
Yeah, I think we’ve had such a roller coaster. Well, I was going to say a year, but actually, two years and everybody’s trying to get back to the new normal business as usual. And that means in business and in sales, getting back to hitting your sales targets. And one of the fallacies, I think, is around what happens at Christmas and New Year.
And actually, there’s not much point in doing much in the sales arena, whereas actually, I don’t think that’s the case. I think that if you look at it just mathematically, you would if you were to stop your sales activity from one month, all of December, let’s say middle of December or middle of January, you’re writing off 8% of the year.
That’s given the rollercoaster year that we’ve had on everything that’s happening in the market. I just don’t think that’s a good decision and I don’t think it’s a necessary decision either. Not only do you stop while people are away, but there’s that inevitable kind And prior to the holidays, unwind, wind back up once you get back. That really pushes that out to maybe five or six weeks.
If you wrote up all December and January, said look, we’re not going to do anything in the sales arena. And I don’t think there are many businesses that can afford to write that off. But equally, if you’re on target, your results this year and you go, Well, we were going to do nothing for like seven months.
And just imagine what you could do if you suddenly had your sales team active in the market during that period.
I think that the other thing, too, to factoring is the loss of momentum that you get, which is part of that will end up going down. But the clincher for me is that many companies are going to switch their sales off or reduce their activity. And so from a competitor’s perspective, it’s the one time of the year you can almost guarantee your competitor is going to be out of the market.
And if that’s the case, what a great time to be in the market and talking to people. You have to probably reach out to more people to have a conversation with somebody. But you can still do that. I think it’s so important, therefore, to try and maximize what you can do in December and January and not just go to the end of the year.
We’ll stop. Let everybody go on a holiday and come back. Everybody wants a holiday, of course, but why not stagger it? So you’ve got some good consistent activity across the entire summer months.
Yeah, well, just so much that you’ve said, there is just such common sense especially when you said, you know, let’s break it down mathematically by not doing anything for four weeks, you know, over the December-January period, that’s 8% of your year after two very, very challenging years for sales teams anyway. And as you said, you know, the December-January period that.
17% of the year. Can we really afford that? I mean, you’ve made a very clear argument that, no, we can’t afford it, but it’s really about thinking about how to use your sales teams so that you focused on what you can do. It doesn’t mean that you don’t allow people to have time off or anything like that. I think that a lot of people are probably looking forward to this time to do those sorts of things.
So I’m going to come back to you with something that people used to say to me. You know, about December, it was December and January are a write-off. You know, that’s kind of how a lot of Australian decision-makers have thought about it, you know, and with so we might be operating with the people that we might be targeting, you know, it might be a way so, you know, how we sort of think, well, isn’t it true that everyone is away, you know, from December two to near the end of January and you hear that, you know, nothing happens before you know, the Australia Day holiday or the Australia Day long weekend.
So, you know, it’s wouldn’t that be the argument for. Well, it’s not really worth doing the selling. What are your thoughts there?
Yeah, look, I think that’s absolutely the argument for it. I think it is it’s that that expression that you just used is exactly right to send the Japanese the right tools. And actually, I would challenge people on that and say, what if it’s not? And if you think about it and people are definitely way on the holiday, don’t get it wrong.
People do go away. You see the queues of traffic leaving, leaving my city, but not everybody’s away. It’s not as if the entire CBD or metro areas of the main cities are empty and deserted. There are people there at work, and the people who are there are doing so for a reason. And often it’s quiet. And if you think about what people are typically going through at this time, of year, they’re reflecting back on what’s happened in the year, and they’re starting to think about, Okay, what do I want to achieve in the next year, the next 12 months?
And that’s that New Year’s resolution type thing. But business decision-makers do the same thing so that those who are at work and there are few of them, fewer of them feel but there are people at work and are quiet and they’re thinking strategically about the year ahead. It’s one of the times where they can do that. They’ve set their New Year’s resolutions doing the same sort of things in business.
You know what, what issues can I fix during the next 12 months? What processes don’t want to change in the next 12 months? All of those sorts of things. And so if you take the opportunity to reach out to those people who are there, you will find that it’s a, it’s a really easy time to engage with them because they’re quite open to thinking about these things and actually conversations about fixing our problems for them and using your product or service are things that are going to resonate with them.
Does it apply to all businesses? Not, of course, it doesn’t. If your target market happens to be schools you’re probably not going to be able to do much in theory. But most markets, most companies have multiple markets. So there might be schools in one case, but they may have a secondary market focus in that secondary market, the market that is there and keeps things going clearly don’t.
Don’t necessarily talk to retail clients in early January when the sales are on. That wouldn’t be a good thing to do. But focus on those markets where there are people around and keep it going. So I think that the big miss if I can call it that, to go with the big merino is the big problem.
That is December and January arrival. I really think that’s the thinking that needs to be challenged. And there are lots of people who are at work maybe only a couple of days a week, three days a week next week. But they are there. They’ll listen. They will. And they will talk to you.
Yeah, I think you’ve really nailed it. It’s a great time to reach those decision-makers that are using that time where it’s it’s whether or not they’re in the office. They’re using that time where the phone doesn’t ring to think more strategically about the year ahead and what they need to achieve and how they’re going to go about doing it.
What an opportunity. And like you said, well, it doesn’t apply to all if you’ve got you to know, if you’re if you’ve got schools as part of your market or that kind of, yeah, no brainer. But also retail and just being mindful of that. But yeah, absolutely agree with that. So. Okay. So what do you suggest then that sales managers and sales teams focus on at this time of the year?
I think I think this December, January to write off stems from in many ways, I don’t make many sales in December or January I don’t think that’s something that we want to challenge. So for me, December and January are all about activity. I’m not thinking about results. I’m thinking about the activity how many people can I introduce my business to?
How many people can I start to engage with? And they may not become a sale until February, March, June, July, but I’ve begun that process in December and January. So I think there’s that, obviously. Is this the prospecting side of things, bringing people into the sales pipeline through proactive activities? Because I think AdWords, online inquiries, phone inquiries do tend to scale down at this time of year.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be proactive in getting out there and talking to people and people, people that you’ve got Prosper and you’ve got proposals out to are also great opportunities to follow and just not nudge them along and get that activity happening. And so I’d be focusing on moving prospects through the sales pipeline and I’d move I’d also focus on getting new people in and having those initial conversations.
Coming back to what I was saying earlier is if your competition out in the market is a great time for you to be there, you’ve got the market more relaxed to yourself. You will be able to talk, to talk to people. You’ll have you have other people in your database you can reengage with as well. So to me, it’s all about that activity and driving, driving activity conversations and building momentum that will yield results in February, March, April, etc. But not judging December and January on how many sales I make actually is let’s see what activity we can bring in that’s going to really boost our sales even once we get past Australia Day.
Absolutely. I think that’s really wise. You know, although a lot of organizations have, you know, longer sales cycles why wouldn’t you? You know, you have them to really focus on activity, not results. It’s about prospecting and getting more into the pipeline. The ones that are there, moving in through the pipeline, following up through eyes, those being proactive.
I think that’s really good advice, advice. And the thing that stood out to me that what you said was, well, you know, if you if your competitors are kind of of that ilk of, you know, December and January is a write-off. Blue ocean strategy. What a fantastic opportunity.
Yeah, exactly. And actually, just two things I would say from our own FMG perspective because we’re calling right up until close to Christmas and we’re back from the 5th of January and January is by far the most productive time for us in the year. And for us setting a point, which is the activity thing, we’re not trying to close sales, we’re doing that prospecting, but we get more sales leads for our clients in January than any other time.
Funnily enough, the second-best time is July, just off to the end of the financial year when I tell people going right to do this. So keep it going in December because people say, Look, I can’t talk now. I’m just wrapping up. Call me in January. You’ve got a meeting, you’ve got a contact. So it is just such a great time for activity.
Oh, gosh. And as soon as you said July, I thought that’s the other time that people go, Oh, yeah, I can see, you know, the end of the financial year started a new one. Yeah, all of those things. Fantastic. Richard. Yeah, that’s really true.
And so maybe I can turn the tables and ask you some questions now too, frankly, doing that and being a gentleman. And I guess one of what I wanted. I’m going to ask you maybe some slightly different questions this time. And the one I want to start with, which is with so many salespeople and customers anxious about face to face meetings what can sales leaders do to support their team in this in this area and to promote that, I suppose?
Yeah, it’s one of those things, isn’t it? So we all had this image, you know, imagines future reality that as soon as there were enough people vaccinated that things would, you know, open up and everyone would embrace it because there’d be all of this pent up demand to reconnect in person and to do all of those things.
It’s the feedback that I’m getting from my B2B sales team clients is that there’s to be anxiety from the sales team about actually going out there to have those conversations again with people that normally had absolutely zero social anxiety. There is that now present. So there’s that. The second part is even when they don’t, their customers are saying things like at the moment they’re not saying, Oh, I don’t feel safe or anything like that, but they’re using excuses like, Oh, save yourself the commute, you know, we’ll just catch up on teams.
So I think that there are a couple of ways to tackle that. One is keeping salespeople So if you’re a sales leader, it’s important to give your salespeople skills to actually start to loosen up those beliefs about that. Remote engagement is the only way that we’re going to connect from this point on. I think they need to be able to meet somebody where they’re at a need to start to change their perspective about the importance of face to face and the importance of that as part of that business relationship.
I think that there’s that. And that’s not an easy or a, you know, a one workshop effort. It really needs to be something that sustains so that people develop new ways of communicating. And there’s a degree of the psychology behind some of that. So absolutely influence is, is one of the skills that really needs to be cultivated there.
So there’s that. The other thing is that I think for some sales leaders, it’s a great opportunity to realign their sales team and restructure it so that the approach is in line with what the market’s telling us. And if the market’s telling us now that perhaps face to face isn’t the way to go for further time, that’s not going to be permanent.
We know that. But for now. So how do I instead of having, you know, 80 people, 80 cars, 80 sets of registration, 80 sets of parking ideas, whatever, all of those expenses, how can I repurpose my sales team so that it’s far more aligned with the way that the market is responding at the moment? I mean, you know, there was some McKinsey data last year and that was last year talking about a 70 to 80% and I know it’s up statistics, but 70 to 80% of B2B decision-makers will continue to prefer online or remote engagement going forward because of the expense primarily of travel and to of rescheduling and scheduling appointments.
And then when things go, you know, in and out, you know, just that that hassle and the third concern with safety. So I don’t know whether that really holds true today but let’s just put that aside for the minute and say, okay, well if that is what it is, I think we need to make the market where it’s set and so perhaps reskill your team so that they their online or their remote engagement skills are really finely tuned so that they’re far better at reading people in this environment than they would have, you know, I mean, I know we’ve all been doing it, but doing it and being skilled at it and two different sets of
reality. And the other thing is phone skills. I think that inside sales teams will really come into their own in the next year as well. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of organizations started to really bolster their inside sales teams as a very cost-effective way of going to market because it significantly reduces the cost.
And so when margin goes up and that’s what businesses really have to try and recover from.
I think it’s interesting. Wouldn’t say they’re about being skilled at something because face to face, salespeople are skilled being face to face because that’s what they practice and that’s what they do all the time. Telephone salespeople are skilled at the on the phone because that’s what they do on the spot all the time. The two groups don’t necessarily cross and translate and zoom teams or online meeting is a good medium, and we need to learn that skill in the same ways we’ve learned face to face.
We’ll find and get sales teams using that to the really interesting point and with many teams now, I guess they’re looking forward to the break. They’re looking forward to being able to regroup over Christmas and New Year. What could you suggest? I don’t know. I gave some something from my perspective, but I know you’ve got lots of ideas on it you suggest that they could do over this time that’s going to set them up for the best start to 2022.
Yeah, I was really thinking about, you know, about this before our session and again, one of my clients was saying that you know, the number one very rewarding sales teams for the high performance and giving them extra time. So for example, and this is not in Victoria, this is over in Adelaide. So one of those businesses was really thinking about, you know, because you’ve got this, this phenomenon as well called the great resignation.
So it’s absolutely an employee’s market at the moment. And so if you’re thinking, ooh, you know, we really need to kind of retain our sales talent because we need them for the new year and it’s really important to, to innovate, you know, support them to do things that are going to, to nurture their soul, to make them feel a lot more like themselves.
So that is when they come out. No worries, Paul, great to see you here. We know that when they come out of this place they start to feel a little bit more centred and confident within themselves because that needs to be the springboard. So things like encouraging them to take time to catch up with family and friends to encourage them to do things that are nice for themselves, to nurture themselves, to rest to relax and not necessarily be so on.
So I know we’ve talked about, you know, salespeople using this time, but we’re also talking about staggering change. So when they do have some downtime to really make a downtime, because I think that there’s going to be a lot of pressure to perform in the new year. Absolutely.
Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right that it’s going to be everything’s on from January 9th. Yeah. Yeah. I’m going to take you on a completely different tangent with my last question for you if you don’t mind. I know you read a lot. I know you’re an avid reader and you’ve got some favourite books and things.
What holiday reads, if I can call them that, can be a holiday or holiday reads. Could salespeople do you think salespeople could get hold of keeping their grey matter sharp to give them something to think about in that in their break if they if they’re looking for some extra education and maybe just a repurposing opening of their minds?
Yeah, absolutely. I think I think that the Christmas break is a terrific time for people to just, you know, start to relax. But that doesn’t mean that we can, you know, that we have to go soft. And so for some people, it’s the only time that they get to really have, you know, an opportunity to really read or to catch up on their reading.
And while I’m a big fan of, you know, escapist fiction because it’s a really nice wine break for us, there are two books that I would absolutely recommend. Any sales leader or salesperson reads. The first one is Legacy by James Curr. I mean, this copy, you know, for me, you know, has been, you know, impact highlighted, written because it’s a really terrific book about culture and high performing culture.
And when we think about our sales leaders, you know, facilitating that going forward, they really need to to think about how they’re going to enable their teams to come back together to to foster a high culture because they’re going to have all sorts of things happening, remote working some people in the office, some people never returning to the office or bringing people together at certain periods during the year, whether that be monthly or bi-monthly or whatever So how do you do that and what are some of the principles?
This book is absolutely brilliant for that. And the other one, which my clients, you know, sorry, I’m such a nerd. Christians are the answer by hell Gregersen. And this is something that I like. I mean, I talk a lot about salespeople being very skilled at leading conversations and kind of controlling the conversation through the formulation of really well-thought-out, deliberate question asking in order to achieve an outcome by the end of their interaction.
And so this really talks about the neuroscience behind, you know, what questions actually do to add to our brains or we’re asking, but also for the person who’s being asked the question and why that’s so powerful. It also talks about leadership going forward and that, you know, leaders in the future don’t have to have the answers all the answers.
What they do need to be really skilled at is asking better questions in a way that helps people to change the way that they think, to change some or challenge some of their belief systems and also to shift perceptions so that they’re their mind to. It has nothing.
I’m a great fan of questions or the answer. I read that a long time ago, and it’s such a great book for salespeople. It’s one that you can keep going back to and just because somebody did mention that maybe my book would be a good Christmas read as well. Oh, we had one hand to promote, but yes, good idea.
Shameless plug. And absolutely. If anybody wants a copy, please let me know. But I think I think they just said to wrap things up together. From what we’ve talked about today, there are a number of activities that salespeople and sales teams can do over the Christmas break. There is prospecting, talking to, and nurturing customers and leads and people.
You’ve got proposals for these reading books to help you. Who’s that? John, I think. And thank you, John. Reading books and shopping in mind. And getting ready. I think it’s really important that people have downtime at Christmas and New Year’s time for family and for friends, too. But it doesn’t have to be a time where you shut off all your sales activity.
And by sales activity, I mean, how do I become a better salesperson? How do I get better at online meetings? How do I improve my questions? How do I find more prospects for all of those things? It’s a great time to be doing all of those things over Christmas and New Year.
Yeah, absolutely. Great stuff.
So I think so. I don’t.
Know. I was just saying thank you.
So I think we’ve come to the end of today’s session as always. The time comes right quickly. I know that one of the things that we talked about when we decided to do this was we want you to be short and sharp, no more than 30 minutes not going on for an hour. And we’ve, we’ve managed to do that all the way through the years.
So I’d just like to say thank you, Ingrid. It’s been great co-hosting these with you for the last year and will be back next year in February. I think we’ll confirm the date for probably the second, second Tuesday in February. We’ll have our next one and so if I don’t see you before then, have a great Christmas and New Year.
And to all the people who’ve attended today, have a great Christmas and New Year, go ahead there and keep that sales activity going, whether that’s, you know, the salesperson or your team because you’re the sales manager. Let’s make the summer a really, really active sales period for everybody.
Yeah. Second, all of those things that you’ve said and you know, thank you for all of the comments, too, from everyone. You know. You’re welcome, Jordan. And thanks to Ruscha’s Idem for the Gold Coast, talking about the Golden Nuggets it’s their absolute pleasure. And Richard, I love these sessions and look forward to many more.
Absolutely. Thank you very much. Thank you. Everybody will see you next year. Have a great Christmas and New Year. I’ll see you in the new year to you.