Opinion: Prepared Performers Shine in Fourth Quarter

A picture of Sobel University President Jered Sobel

Now that we are in the fourth quarter, you might think many salespeople are taking extra time to relax and rejuvenate for the next year. Until the snow melts or shows start in 2023, those salespeople may think they will have slower traffic, fewer sales and less productivity.

These assumptions are not true.

The fourth quarter is when prime athletes leverage their preparation and work during the first three quarters. Prime athletes use the fourth quarter to show off their abilities to perform as everyone else shirks from the spotlight. When the game tightens, and every possession counts, top performers use their heightened abilities to excel.

Slower consumer traffic should not mean fewer profits, sales or less productivity. Those who have used the year for business development, personal development and to optimize time management will find themselves in a great position to capitalize when others will not.

Here is what top performers can do in the fourth quarter and how those who have not made the leap can use many similar skills.

The first topic is business development. Top performers understand the work they do in the spring and summer impacts the winter. Following up regularly with spring consumers can help generate purchases this winter. A consumer who may not have felt confident purchasing an RV six months ago may see the best inventory selection available now and anticipate future price increases. For those consumers, waiting any longer may not make sense. RV winter storage costs will be less than the price increase on the same RV come the spring.

Salespeople who maintained those consumer relationships will be able to make quality sales calls in the fourth quarter. Those who were “too busy” to follow up with an “unlikely to purchase soon” lead will be twiddling their thumbs this quarter, hoping opportunities will walk through the door.

The potential sales business is accentuated for those who have capitalized on the hotly developing RV market over the past decade. If following up after the sale was expected, then consumers who have enjoyed the RV lifestyle and your business’ service quality are great doors to knock on.

Following up requires more than a birthday email or call. Although those are nice to get, salespeople need to provide real value after the sale. Are we helping consumers enjoy the RV lifestyle by giving them regular tips and tricks to maintain their RV and make their adventures great?

For example, a salesperson at a longtime client of mine refuses to follow his spouse’s recommendation to retire. He has made enough money, but the sales profession can be too much fun after building a book of business over 20 years in the same location. Half the customers walking through the front door ask for him by name. They all get his monthly newsletter and enjoy having a long-time professional helping at the dealership. He has no slow time, just the fourth quarter.

Like this salesperson, many clients use their newsletters to develop a book of business outside their dealership. These salespeople target markets and bring RVs to the end users. They host consumer rallies and cookouts, prospect business and develop referral networks spanning their entire town. These salespeople do not wait for the dealership to bring in business; they develop their own high-return market.

The second topic is professional development. A manager can instruct a sales team how to prospect a business or build a target market. However, if the skills to execute are not taught, follow through will not happen. Professional development should occur all year not just in the fourth quarter. As obvious as it sounds, if we wait until winter to do sales and product training, salespeople will lack the skills needed to perform that winter.

Two specific techniques exemplify this and can increase fourth-quarter sales.

Consumers with trade-ins can learn why waiting longer is not in their best interest. The longer a consumer waits, the larger the gap between a trade-in and new RV.

A salesperson can explain to the customer, “Your purchase price is currently based on the current marketplace, with labor and materials from this last year. At the same time, your trade-in is set at the current market price, and the difference between the two is what allows for the RV you selected to fit into your budget. As we move to the end of the year, and these units switch over to the new model year, the retail price will increase significantly. That price continues to increase with normal inflation over the course of the year. At the same time, your trade-in becomes an entire year older overnight Jan. 1 and will significantly decrease in trade value. Can you see how the longer you wait, the more you will pay for the same purchase?”

With the proper follow-up and training, salespeople will find this an easy conversation. The discussion helps customers understand their purchasing value in today’s market.

Product training should be ongoing and current. If no consumer is walking through the front door, proper product knowledge and training provide pickup opportunities from other sources.

For example, a salesperson might say, “I see you are in with that (insert their service RV). Those are built so well; I am sure you are here for something minor. But tell me, have you ever been out and the wind kicks up out of nowhere, and you find yourself fighting with a parachute of an awning, scrambling to get the vent cover down before that rain hits? You know, the new RVs are built with sensored-power awnings and vent covers that automatically go down as well. Would you want to see what that looks like?”

The salesperson now can execute the dealership’s sales process and help a customer easily decide to upgrade based on current availability.

I could write books on examples like these, but there is one critical fourth-quarter skill which renders all these techniques useless: time management.

Building a client base through bring backs, repeat business, referrals, networking, prospecting, target marketing, orphan owners and service are effective ways to succeed in the fourth quarter. If you do not create time through the year to perform business development, your results will fall flat.

Professional development through training on principles, processes, techniques and products must be scheduled and followed through on, or we cannot expect results.

The fourth quarter is where top performers use their heightened abilities. They capitalize on the client bases they build, the skills they developed, and on ongoing knowledge they never stop seeking.

Slower traffic should not mean less productivity.

Jered Sobel serves as president of Sobel University, a company providing training for management, salespeople and consumers across North America. He is best known for designing the industry-standard onboarding sales training manual and co-authoring the consumer guide to purchasing an RV. Among his previous work experiences are roles as a dealership salesperson, a general sales manager and hiring dealer staff.

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