Yes, Virginia, there is a small business Santa Claus. “Santa” comes in the form of customers with money burning a hole in their pockets. They have funds they want to, or need to, spend before midnight December 31. These customers are ripe for the picking, so hurry and make those all-important, highly lucrative, sales calls you can only make at the end of the year.
What kind of customers are so eager to spend their money now? Surprisingly, quite a few. If your small business sells primarily in the B2B (business-to-business) space, these next few weeks can be a great time to increase your coffers.
Here’s something many small business owners overlook: many business customers and clients have funds they want to — or need to — spend before the end of the year. That money could end up in your cash register.
What type of business customers are eager to spend money now? Those who have:
- “Use it or lose it” budgets – Large corporations, government agencies, educational institutions, or non-profit organizations often have budgets they must use before year end. In some large organizations, if they don’t spend all their allocated dollars this year, their budget next year may actually be cut. No one wants that.
- “Lower my taxes” approach – “Accelerate expenses, delay income” is a basic tenet of year-end tax planning. Many small businesses and sole proprietors who’ve had a profitable year are willing to make useful purchases right now to lower their 2016 taxes.
- Co-op dollars – Some businesses—retailers, resellers, equipment installers, and any company that sells products manufactured by others—can receive “co-op” money to use for cooperative advertising or promotions. This money, too, often disappears if they don’t spend it within the calendar year. Especially if your business is in the marketing space—advertising, promotions, public relations—you may be able to get a piece of this.
All of this means you’ve got some highly motivated prospects out there. But those opportunities disappear on January 1. In fact, you’ll have to act sooner than that. With many people leaving their offices the last week or two of the year, you need to act now.
- Make a list – Identify which past customers are most likely to have budgets or co-op dollars they must use by the end of the year. Focus your efforts on those customers. What have they bought from you in the past? What might they need now? Do a bit of legwork before you contact prospects.
- Visit customers in person – The holidays give you a perfect excuse to drop in on your customers. Bring them a present—it doesn’t have to be anything expensive. You can’t really go wrong with a box of chocolates or even a Starbucks gift card. While you’re there, ask whether they have any budget dollars they need to spend before year’s end. Tell them you can help them out.
- Call – You’ve also got a reason to pick up the phone and call clients: to wish them happy holidays. After chatting with them about their holiday plans, bring the conversation around to what they need to buy before December 31.
- Email – If you have a large number of customers in this spend-it-or-lose-it category, craft an email and send it out. Offer special end-of-year discounts to motivate them. Follow up with a phone call.
- Suggest they use “co-op” funds – Remind customers they may have dollars available from vendors. Co-op funds can usually be used in many ways, not just for placing ads. Suggest your customers buy your products as promotional giveaways, just as long as you can add the vendor’s name (think of placing stickers on the product or adding a letter in the package).
- Keep track of what worked this year – If the end of the year crept up on you, don’t panic. Create an end-of-year customer segment for your email newsletter, CRM, or whatever other method you use for customer engagement, and take notes so you’re not scrambling around this time of year in 2017. And ask customers when their fiscal year ends. That’s always a lucrative time to make sales.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2016
This article originally ran in USA Today on December 7, 2016