This is the question I have asked many business owners. The answers I receive are concerning.
Why Do Businesses Do This?
For more and more businesses it is becoming a normal business practice to avoid launching any large marketing campaign or accepting meetings for sales push after Labor day..or the first Monday in September.
Here are two perpetuating reasons businesses pull back in the fourth quarter of each year from aggressively doing business.
- Most of the time the reason for the pulling back from aggressively doing business in the 4th quarter has to do with the business’ budgetary shortfalls which came as a result of having to pay higher than expected prices for goods and services in the first part of the calendar year.
- The second, and the most frustrating reason, has to do with the businesses sales groups not being able to get anyone to schedule a meeting to hear a sales pitch. Usually the consumer will postpone or reschedule the meeting until their new budget year which will generally result in the price for the item or service being pitched to the be much higher. This generally forcing the business to go over budget in their spending in the first quarter of their business year which starts the tradition of avoiding the 4th quarter. So, to keep from having to go through the rigamarole sales groups will schedule all of their sales campaigns to be completed by the first of September.
This reasoning is a Lose-Lose for everyone.
Avoid The Reality
I have lost count of the budget planning meetings I have sat in where the senior staff manager would bark out statements like…“Let me remind you, everything related to marketing, sales or purchasing of anything, or everything, is to be done between January 1 and Labor Day. We are not going to waste our time attempting to get anyone’s attention to buying our service during the forth quarter”
Then again, I can’t remember how many times I have sat in an hour long pitch meeting where at the end the customer says…This is awesome, but it will be January or February before we can make a decision.
So why do businesses do this? What purpose does it make for businesses to only plan to do business for 9 months out of the year?
Manage the Process
There are a number of logical reasons for the traditional slowdown in business during the 4th quarter. Things like holiday vacations, business financial reviews, and weather issues all can get in the way of business flowing normally during the 90 days before the new year. However, these issues are also manageable issues.
Many businesses today are not addressing the need for their operations flowing consistently year around. When I ask a business owner why they do not maintain an aggressive operations during the 4th quarter of each year it is not unusual for me to hear, “I’m not sure, we just have always done this.”
Granted, October through December is when consumer spending in the B2B sector drops off and there usually is a slight dip in the B2C sector for spending on services.
However, every business should be able to aggressively manage through this time of year. The fact remains, managing a business to a point of it shutting down for 90 days each year is not advisable.
Get Ahead of The Process
Obviously, not all businesses shutdown during the forth quarter. Some businesses instead have their slowdown or shutdown in the first quarter. The retail businesses, for example, usually are hopping during the 4th quarter but then have to nearly shutdown in January through February to conduct their annual inventory.
Fortunately, there are still some businesses who successfully deal with the slowdown period of their business operations. Their success usually comes as the result of having a very strong operation management team who look for solutions instead of bowing to traditions. Having a very sound operations will also lead to a business’ ability to buck tradition.
What To Do?
Unfortunately, nearly every business who comes to me for help is struggling. I find their struggles are because they are directly related to them missing opportunities. These missed opportunities are not necessarily the ‘big sales’, but opportunities missed towards preparing the business to go for the ‘soft sale’ during the slow periods of the year. It seems many businesses intentionally miss these opportunities to keep from breaking their traditions. This is where most businesses have to change.
Here are three suggestions I offer businesses who need to break the tradition of the ‘Seasonal Slowdown’ during the 4th quarter.
- Continue to accept requests from vendors or service providers to hear their pitch. If the service or product is needed to keep the business sound but there are budgetary restrictions in place, I suggest you cut the deal with conditions the product is purchased, or the service starts in the first quarter. This will be the first step to breaking the tradition.
- Change the type of sales meetings your business has in the 4th quarter to being more ‘customer relation’ type functions. Invite clients to join you as their guest for a learning experience or seminar where the new products or services for the new year are being introduced.
- Use the 4th quarter to retool, retrain and educate your staff on dealing with challenges. Have the in-house operations personnel spend a day with a sales person or account rep. Have the sales person work in operations for the day.
Instead of taking the advice from those who say..don’t fight tradition…take action to doing something productive during the seasonal slowdown.
The businesses who continue to shutdown their business in September of each year will one day soon find when Januarys comes around their customers have moved on to doing business with businesses who break tradition.
Things are changing in the business world..and if they are not…they should be.
Let me know how I can help.