By Tom Waters and Ben Abel
Bank Associates Merchant Services
Sales planning is intricately related to time management and resource allocation. The time and money available for marketing to prospects is limited, and spending too much energy during a typically slow sales season can lower morale and waste time. Depending on which department of a company you consult, however, you will find varied opinions about peak and valley sale seasons.
A sales manager will likely focus on pushing efforts to the limit, year round, to maximize a deal count. A marketing manager may try to make better use of budget dollars by timing campaigns in accordance with prior sales trends. A retention department may use a high season of client inquiries in creating contracts or pricing. How are merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to appropriate their daily, weekly or monthly schedules if such cyclicality exists?
Some would argue that certain months are significantly more productive while others are incredibly difficult to obtain approvals. Some managers view December as a ghost month. Others say that if your pipeline is strong enough and you have developed enough commitments in the fourth quarter, you will close as many deals as any other month. We polled GS Online's MLS Forum to seek ISO and MLS opinions on sales seasonality.
It is generally agreed that the sales process encounters significant barriers in December. DSLaszig said, "retailers were busy with high season" and "winter conditions made it especially tough on road warriors." However, she recalled a former sales manager who would proudly herald new approvals with encouraging words: "See that? Nobody told her/him that it was holiday season!" This manager embodies the school of thought that a strong pipeline and true diligence will expose opportunities despite any potential seasonal obstacles. User Diego also recognized December's unique sales pattern: "December sales will be lower just like the December volume will be higher. For me it's all about the number of work days in the month." The December volume growth is an industry expected phenomenon as a result of higher holiday sales traffic and tourism. Diego's expectation of slowed sales seems to result from the extra holiday days that occur in December.
Mbruno suggested that traditional prospect industries may suffer in December, while other niches can flourish. "Probably not landing a ton of restaurants/retail stores, but B2B can be great right now." This idea may seem elementary, but it stems from an advanced sales concept. By rotating your prospecting verticals based on likelihood for best timing, you can effectively maximize productivity throughout the year without losing any steam.
Cardplayer bolstered mbruno's perspective: "What kind of month you have in December is not a matter of the sales manager's opinion; it's about who/where you prospect. If your primary offering is targeted at Main Street retail and restaurant, then of course December is going to be a bust … this is the busiest time of year for those guys. Nobody is going to switch their processor unless they're in a pickle; some you may get to sign with a January conversion; most are just too busy to care about it right now.
"A good sales manager helps his team refocus their pipeline when the leaves change colors …so they're not posting a goose egg in December trying to sign retailers, but are getting back to the guys who were too busy to talk to them in the summer, and are now ready to make a switch during their slow season."
The general consensus is that the high amount of prospect vacations, coupled with the busyness of retailers, will reduce sales in December. This is a basic fact stemming from the smaller pool of candidates for sales during this time. There is some redemption in qualifying other business types such as industries that find their low season in December. That, coupled with the slowed contact ratio of outbound calls, makes the last weeks in December a prime window for closing out the year and preparing for the new one.
Tom Waters has been dedicated to the merchant service sales profession since 2001. Currently, he is responsible for cultivating relationships with entrepreneurs in information technology, accounting, sales and marketing in his role as Sales Director of Bank Associates Merchant Services (www.bams.com). Using fresh and matter-of-fact training methods, Tom has contributed to the success of thousands of agents, affiliates and clients. He can be reached via email through email@example.com or via phone at 347-651-1065.
Ben Abel is Regional Director at Bank Associates Merchant Services. Since joining the team in 2006, he has risen through company ranks with a paradigm that his success was measured by the success of those around him. Ben is a dedicated, pioneering trainer whose methods of merchant services consultation have helped many agents expand their portfolios in terms of processing volume, deal count and profitability. He can be contacted at 347-866-9571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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