Already been ghosted by a few prospects this holiday season? You’re not alone, and it might not be because they’re not interested. Planning, budgetary shifts, and vacation are all reasons we lose track with prospects at the end of the year -- but it matters how and when you follow up in January.
To help, I’ve outlined five tips for re-engaging with prospects and clients after the new year. None of them lead with a hard sell, and each of them centers around offering value to your prospect. Incorporate these tips into your Q1 sales strategy and see what they can do for your number.
5 Ways to Re-Engage with Prospects After the Holidays
Reconnecting with existing clients
1. Ask How You’re Doing
January is the ideal time to upgrade, renew, and cross-sell to existing customers. A simple voicemail or email saying, “[Prospect name], I’d love to talk to you in January to learn what we did well last year and how we can better serve you in the new year.”
This is a great way to cap the year and ensure you haven’t left any issues unresolved. Once your client is on the phone, learn what they liked about your company last year and ask for areas where you can improve. Use their answers to share new features, upgrades, or next steps. That way, you’re never trying to sell to them. Instead, you’re listening and offering additional services that will help them grow.
Don’t have a new product or feature to promote? Focus on renewals. If the client is happy with you, ask, “Can we talk about renewing your contract and earning your business for another year?” If their review uncovers gaps in service or features, ask, “What can we do to make this right and earn your business for another year?”
2. Identify Their Priorities for the Year
Get a sense of client marketing cadence, trade show schedules, and product/feature roadmaps for the year. When you know what clients have prioritized, you can plan outreach accordingly and offer what they need before they know they need it.
If a client schedules a series of marketing events in the Midwest, you’d know to call them a month or two before their first event to say, “I know it’s important for your company to expand its reach in the Midwest in 2018. In anticipation of that growth, and your upcoming events, I’d like to talk to you about X service that can help.”
By planning your sales around their calendar, you’ll increase the likelihood of success and become an integral part of their priorities for the year.
3. Learn Their Hiring Plans
Talk to a contact in HR/Recruiting to learn your client’s hiring plans for the year. If their response is “We should have four positions in our customer support team filled by Q2,” you’ve discovered a few things. First, you know customer support is a priority.
Second, you know there’s an executive pushing for these new hires. Now it’s your job to learn why customer service is an important focus, how invested that executive is (i.e., can you speak directly to the decision maker), and what other initiatives they’ve devoted resources to this year.
When you know what positions a company’s hiring for, you can anticipate your next move as a salesperson. If a client is changing trucking vendors this summer and they need to have new folks onboarded by then, time your sales outreach appropriately to ease or enhance that onboarding process.
That way, instead of rehashing needs your client had in Q4, you can discuss fresh strategies for the new year and position yourself as a forward-thinking ally.
Reconnecting with prospects
4. Position Yourself Ahead of Competitors
Prospects who have anxiety in Q4 usually don’t have anxiety in Q1. I use that as an advantage to position myself as a partner and expert in their yearly planning. I give them space at the end of Q4 and ask about pain points and challenges once Q1 rolls around.
For example, if a prospect was swamped with end-of-year paperwork in December, I’d follow up in January and offer solutions like, “You know, I talk to a lot of teams with similar problems, and I’ve been able to reduce their annual paperwork by 50% with our solution.”
Because I didn’t overwhelm them in Q4, and because I’ve proactively followed up in Q1, I’m uniquely positioned to offer solutions that will save them from the same fate next year.
This also makes it harder for competitors to poach their business. I’ve already become a valuable and solution-oriented part of the prospect’s planning and decision-making processes.
If I already understand the strategic initiatives my prospect is focused on for the year, I’m well-positioned to continue as a partner and vendor.
5. Reach Out to New Hires
Many companies hire aggressively at the first of the year. If a deal stalls in Q4, I use January to breathe new life into it. How? I schedule meetings with new hires. The easiest meeting you can book is with a new employee because they’re so eager to provide value to their company.
Ask your champions who they’ve recently hired, and target departments where your deal is stuck. This is also a smart way to reach influencers. Many times, the title for a new hire hasn’t caught up with their actual duties. You might reach out to a marketing manager who’s really acting more as a director -- without the title or red tape associated with their role.
Say, “I know you just started here X weeks ago, but I’ve been talking to a few folks on the [insert team name] team, and I’d love to know if this is relevant to your job.” Because your prospect is new, they’re looking for solutions not objections. If they hear anything promising, they’re likely to jump on it.
As a bonus, new hires are often treated like a guest visiting Grandma’s house. They aren’t challenged as much as veteran employees, so you can make bold demands through them.
But remember, you don’t want to work around your champion. It’s best to ask, “I know you just hired several engineers, can you tell me which department they work in?” If your champion isn’t willing to help, it’s likely the deal is already dead and you should move on. However, if they give you the contact information for these new hires, it can be the oxygen necessary to bring your deal back to life.
If a deal is truly dead, be honest and unafraid of purging those accounts/deals throughout the month. Free up your time and pipeline to welcome new deals full of promise in the new year.