Ten months ago you most likely started the year with optimistic revenue projections. Now that fourth quarter sales are in full swing, it's probably clear whether reality is meeting expectations. If you require significant fourth quarter sales to achieve your goals, you may still meet your initial projections.
“There's still time to ensure strong fourth quarter sales," says Shlomo Bregman, founder and CEO of Bregman Success LLC, a sales training and marketing agency. “Many consumers are primed to open their wallets at this time of year. As a result, I've seen companies earn as much revenue in the last two months of the year as they have in the previous 10 months."
In addition to ensuring a positive year-end, strong fourth quarter sales set you on the right track for next year, believes Bregman. “A healthy fourth quarter creates hope and optimism within a company and more often than not leads to a strong start to the first quarter of the following business year."
Many companies' fourth quarter sales are the highest, even though there's less sales days than other times of the year, adds Manny Medina, CEO of the sales engagement platform, Outreach. “In order to have stellar fourth quarter sales, it's important to line yourself up for success."
Consider these seven strategies for helping to ensure that your fourth quarter sales end on a high note.
1. Examine current sales figures.
In order to improve on fourth quarter sales, it's a good idea to take a close look at your current numbers, suggests Eva Rosenberg, a tax education expert and author of Small Business Taxes Made Easy.
“Update your accounting and compare your current profit and loss statement with last year's at this time," says Rosenberg. “Then determine how much more you need to earn this year and early next year to meet the targets you'd like to reach."
2. Focus on month-end, rather than quarter-end sales.
Once you have current sales figures, determine how much more you're projected to make for the year and break that amount up into months and weeks, advises Fred Gewant, chief revenue officer for Adaptive Insights, which produces a performance management business-to-business software.
“If you look at every month-end as a quarter-end that will change the performance of your sales organization," says Gewant. “When you manage sales on a monthly versus quarterly basis, there's a level of accountability and focus that keeps performance aligned with sales goals."
3. Follow up with unsold customers.
One of your best bets for healthy fourth quarter sales is selling to customers you've already vetted and presented with your sales pitch prior.
“Make a list of all of your unsold prospects from the past year and follow-up with them," suggests Bregman. “Start with the most recent, because you'll have a better chance of closing with them."
—Mike Schultz, president, RAIN Group
Brock Blake, CEO of the lender Lendio, agrees. “When time is of the essence, look for low-hanging fruit. Call back prospects from the previous quarter, offer an incentive or a rebate, or send out a mailer or email blast to build sales momentum."
Before you approach existing customers, get clear on their prior objections to buying, suggests Bregman. “Most customers have specific objections and reasons they articulate for not proceeding with a sale, such as high prices," he says. “Compile a list of the most common objections and then craft responses that will help customers move past those objections."
4. Market and sell existing overstock.
“You can often immediately boost fourth quarter sales by running a promotion on products that have been in less demand than you originally projected," says Robert Ellis, CEO of Massage Tables Now, an e-commerce company that sells massage equipment and supplies. “Attempt to make a small profit or recoup the original capital invested in order to move old inventory and make room for products in higher demand."
Instead of just promoting products you know will sell this time of year, use this buying market to clear what James Thomson calls “stale inventory or overstock." He is a partner at Buy Box Experts, a marketing agency for online sellers and author of The Amazon Marketplace Dilemma: A Brand Executive's Challenge Growing Sales and Maintaining Control.
“We find even small price discounts this time of year will motivate customers to buy practically anything, allowing you an easier time clearing out inventory in those dusty corners of your warehouse," says Thomson.
5. Add value to your product offerings.
Mike Schultz, president at RAIN Group, which provides sales training and consulting, suggests increasing fourth quarter sales by offering clients extra value. “Many businesses will discount, but the trouble with this tactic is that it trains buyers to expect discounts," says Shultz, who is also the author of Insight Selling. “Giving customers something extra surprises and delights them and trains them to expect more."
6. Improve your marketing efforts.
With the race to Black Friday on, Thomson encourages brands and retailers to improve their SEO optimization.
“Better product titles, bullet points, search keywords images and short educational/product demonstration videos help create higher visibility," says Thomson. “This puts your products ahead of the millions of options yelling for attention and drives customer conversion."
7. Keep an eye on the new year.
Medina cautions that it's easy to get so focused on achieving strong fourth quarter sales that you might deplete your product pipeline and find yourself in a tough spot starting quarter one.
“Of course you want to close as much business as possible in the last quarter, but also keep an eye on the new year," he says. “We've found it useful to think about how our product can help customers start their year strong. Then we build messaging and campaigns around that."
Thomson recommends also stocking up for right after the holidays. “Remember that people often don't receive all of the gifts they want, so there are often sales immediately after Christmas as people buy items for themselves."