Gettler: Ten sales tips for the Christmas season

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This article appeared in the October, 2009 issue of CRN magazine.

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Gettler: Ten sales tips for the Christmas season

Christmas, that special time of year, is the space for reflection and giving, for spending time with family and friends.

That also makes it a perfect time for companies to reach out to their customers with a sense of mission and higher purpose. Christmas is a unique opportunity for marketing.

Unfortunately, many resellers forget that. Like the Grinch, they steal Christmas. But the lesson for resellers is that the Grinch was transformed when he realised Christmas was about more than just gifts and get-togethers.

Ursula Paddon, co-owner of Go To Market which trains resellers in marketing and sales, says Christmas represents a special opportunity. "It gives us a social, festive context and also gives us the opportunity to work with value-based messages,'' she says.

But in this climate, how does a company do it without spending too much? Here are 10 easy methods that cost next to nothing.

1. Christmas Party:

Just about every company has one but few use it as a marketing tool. It is typically a get together with cheap wine and food. But it is also an opportunity for resellers to build better and closer connections with customers. They need to take the time out to thank customers for their business, and make a clear statement about plans that would include those customers.

2. Christmas Party invitations:

For most, it's a case of checking the database and whipping out emails. To turn it into a marketing opportunity, all the sales reps and management team need to hit the phones and invite people to come along. The personal touch is a marketing plus.

3. Christmas cards:

Again, companies tend to do this in an ad hoc way with managers sitting down and scribbling names on to a list. Done effectively, the Christmas card is an opportunity to build meaningful connections. Hand written cards with comments of special importance to the recipient are important, maybe a reference to a certain deal or conversation. Paddon says sending emails or cards en masse is impersonal.

4. Customer satisfaction surveys:

Christmas is always a perfect time to run these surveys because it is a checking point in the calendar and probably the one time of the year when many people might connect up. This makes it the ideal time to assess whether customers were happy with the level of service, whether there were any problems and how to lift your game. It is also the perfect opportunity to outline plans for next year and identify what the customer's plans are. With that information, the reseller could approach the customer and find ways of working together.

5. Give something back:

One of the best ways to create a values-based message is to work in with a charity or non-profit organisation at Christmas time, even invite them to the Christmas function. The smartest move would be to ensure the charity or non-profit was working in an area relevant to customers. A reseller servicing schools and universities, for example, could choose a charity focused on the education sector. The same could be said for one with customers in the health care sector. It is a way of moving beyond a purely transactional relationship to one based on values and engagement, fitting in perfectly with the spirit of Christmas. Resellers could also bring charities in to try-and-buy offers:

"Download this special before Christmas and we will donate X amount to the charity of your choice".

Working with a charity is also a good PR move. Learn how to write a good press release.

6. Christmas is also a perfect time to build connections with prospects:

While many resellers will only invite existing customers to their functions, smarter ones will invite potential customers. Even if they don't come across at first, it is important for building relationships.

7. Run competitions:

This is a common marketing tool designed to generate brand interest. Perhaps a competition around completing surveys, or doing the most downloads in January-February. To generate business in the quiet time, prizes could include tickets to the cricket, outdoor cinemas or restaurants.

8. Contact with knock-backs:

Christmas is the perfect opportunity to get in touch with every organisation that went the other way, thank them for the initial contact and tell them you look forward to keeping in touch.

9. Promising and delivering:

In the lead up to Christmas, everyone is frantically trying to squeeze four weeks' worth of work into three and finalise things for the year. It is important not to over-promise and under-deliver. Customers will not forget if you make that mistake.

10. Work with distributors:

In this economic climate it is a good time to sit down with resellers and plan ahead. Whereas many resellers have an adversarial relationship with distributors, Christmas is a good time to work out ways of working together and combining forces to deliver better outcomes and more business at both ends.


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