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Make 2012 your best year: Prepare this holiday

Workers in Santa Claus (R) and reindeer costumes (background) clean windows outside of a 31-metre-high building at the Odaiba shopping mall on Tokyo's waterfront on December 23, 2010. The costumes were worn as part of a Christmas promotional event to attract shoppers. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images) KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

I feel like Scrooge about this time of the year. The lack of sales progress in the holiday and pre-holiday season can be maddening. For business-to-business sales people the action tapers off for the 6 weeks between the Monday before Thanksgiving and the Monday after New Year's Day. The business community goes into decision-making, phone call returning, email-responding hibernation and sales people are left to grumble.

Here are 3 things you can do to set yourself in a great position for the next year's sales plan and avoid losing your mind:

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1. Map Out Your Connects From You to Your Buyer -- It's important on your bigger accounts to understand all of the connections between you and your buyer. It's also good to understand all of the internal and external connections that they may have to your competitors, your clients and to each other. This is a technique I borrowed from the old police shows when they were trying to understand the structure of a mafia family they were targeting. Those formal and informal networks are not exactly published on the mafia website. Rather, the investigators have to make all the links through investigation and analysis. By doing so, they were able to understand motives, alliances and potential linkages. Same benefits are true for you. Using LinkedIn and tools like Reachable.com, you can build your own mafia mapping between the connection points in order to plan your contact and conquer sales strategy.

2. Contact Campaign design -- Take this time to create a prospecting campaign for your leads and your slow-to-close opportunities. The goal is to establish a systemic approach to staying connected with your key prospects through sending them on a scheduled basis information and value content that will keep you top of mind and convey your expertise. Mine the internet for interesting websites, white-papers and factoids that are relevant and valuable to your prospects. Then schedule what items you will send to them at what time. An item every 1-3 weeks keeps you top-of-mind and demonstrates your industry knowledge and connectedness.

3. Set your Hunt Calendar -- Your year is not homogeneous, so don't plan it as if it were. There are peaks and valleys or seasonal constants in most industries. The ones that are predictable- holidays, fiscal budgeting windows, trade shows and school year's openings and closings need to be put into the calendar with the relevant activity cycles budgeted in. For instance:

a. Trade shows need 4-6 weeks of pre-show appointment setting time and planning work to be done. Have you laid that out in your calendar?

b. School opening and closing cycles as well as seasonal breaks play havoc with prospects who change meeting schedules at the last minute to react to their own poor planning. Do you have those cycles marked so that you can anticipate the chaos?

c. Product release cycles have ramp up, interest reaction, lead cultivation and selling steps that can be mapped based upon history. Have them mapped them into your calendar.

It is my experience that the "down time" of your business cycle is often under-used, when it is a great time for planning. Hit these three planning activities hard to maximize your productivity during the up time.

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