Have you noticed? Temperatures are rising, which means summer is about to make its big entrance. For most of us, that’s entirely good news, because summertime means things like vacations, cookouts, and maybe even some time at the beach with a good book. For salespeople, though, the advent of summer is likely to be a bittersweet development, one that leads to an unnecessary drop in annual income… because of the Myth of the Eleventh Commandment. Most salespeople, whether they admit it or not, act as though there’s an Eleventh Commandment that reads as follows: “Thou Shalt Not Expect Anything Significant to Happen During the Summer, In as much as Thy Clients and Prospects Are Likely On Vacation, Preparing for Vacation, or Returning from Vacation.” There is no Eleventh Commandment—or if there was, it never made it down the mountain with Moses, and that means it doesn’t count as a Commandment and isn’t binding. Below, you’ll find some tips you can put into practice right now, as the so-called “slow months” begin. They’ll help you avoid the income drought that observance of the (mythical) Eleventh Commandment always seems to produce.
- Don’t make half-hearted commitments.
Salespeople often find themselves falling behind on their yearly goals during the summer months. Why? First and foremost, because they fall into the trap of making half-hearted activity commitments to themselves during this period. They don’t take full responsibility for identifying the new actions necessary to support their income goals. So yes, some people are indeed going to be on vacation during the summer months. That means that, on any given day, you may not be able to get in touch with as many people as you usually would… if you were to do exactly what you usually do. So change your plan! If it usually takes you sixteen dials to generate one new scheduled appointment, set a new daily activity goal. During the summer months, you might make a personal commitment to make twenty dials every working day, because experience has shown that that’s what you need in order to maintain your pipeline at the level you want. A lot of salespeople let the daily dial total drop to eight, or four, nothing at all… on the theory that July and August somehow don’t count when it comes to prospecting goals! That’s a classic example of a half-hearted commitment.
2. Focus on giving rather than getting.
David Sandler was an avid advocate of the proposition put forth by Ralph Waldo Emerson on “compensation,” a subject near and dear to the hearts of all salespeople. Emerson’s essay on this topic dealt with the dualism of the human condition: there is no effect without cause; no ends without means, no shadow without light. Emerson goes on to suggest that the universe is in perfect balance. What you get out of life is equal, measure for measure, to what you put into it. Translation: there is no getting without giving. Unselfishly giving to others—friends, family, colleagues, customers—whether in words or deeds, creates a deficit in nature that must be filled. This role holds true in the summer, just as it does during the other months of the year. Since you may have a bit more time on your hands during these months, you now have some time to spend with existing clients. Add value to their day! Summertime is the perfect time to conduct a semi-annual review of key accounts. Take the pulse of the business relationship. Look for ways to improve it. Make sure they’re happy with what you’re providing… and if they’re not, figure out what you need to do to fix the problem. Each and every day of the year, there are numerous opportunities to give—a helping hand, words of encouragement, advice and counsel. When you contribute to others, others contribute to you. When you help customers meet their needs, they help you meet yours.
3. Do your homework.
Summertime is the optimal time of year to peruse your company’s records and find out who buys what, when. Don’t assume that all of your clients slow down on purchases and purchase decisions during the warmer months. Check the data. You’ll probably find that some people are actually more active buyers during the summer. Identify these people, and then make a point of calling on them.
4. Look for possibility.
If you only focus on roadblocks, you’ll only see shadows. If, on the other hand, you shift your focus and look for paths over, around, or through the roadblocks, quite often you’ll find roads that lead you into the light of new opportunities. During the summer months, for instance, you can choose to call on leads you might have overlooked at other times of the year, opportunities that, for whatever reason, didn’t fall into the “low-hanging fruit” category. These leads might take a little longer to cultivate, or might require a little more research on your part. Now’s the time to set up a plan of action for creating a business relationship with potential customers you did not make a top priority when you were busier. If, by temporarily suspending your disbelief and taking action, you are able to realize only a portion of what you set out to accomplish with such leads, you’ll still be further ahead than you would have been if you had done nothing!
5. Develop a sense of urgency.
If you are looking for motivation when it comes to carrying out items one through four, above, consider this. Some of your marketplace competitors may still be stuck in the limiting belief of the Eleventh Commandment… but you can’t assume that all of them are! It’s only a matter of time before someone you’re competing against figures out that the “slow months” are actually months of opportunity in disguise. Make a personal commitment to get to the decision maker before they do!