Thursday, October 23, 2008

Holiday Mode

by Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, October 23, 2008

Have you ever watched a 100 Meter Dash where the runners seem to slow down just as they reach the finish line? You discover that the winner actually set a world record for the race but as you watch the replay, the runner did in fact slow down the last yard or so (meter or so for those so inclined). What could the runner have accomplish had he or she run THROUGH the finish line rather than coasting to the win? One could only imagine.

December 31st of each year is not quite a finish line because in sales there is no “finish”, it simply continues throughout the year. Yet so many people in sales set December 31 as the “end” and January 1st as the “beginning.”

The Thanksgiving decorations and products begin appearing as early as July followed almost immediately by Christmas decorations and products showing up on the shelves. The mindset begins to shift immediately from the first 7 or 8 months of the year to the last 4 or 5 months that include Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year, College Bowl Games, the Super Bowl and in our area Mardi Gras. Those holidays engage us for as many as 6 months.

Everyone in sales understands the sales pipeline theory. The imaginary pipeline involves sales agents inserting lead generation activities into one end of the pipe. Telephone calls, personal meetings, mail-outs, brochures, etc. It is a constant and uninterrupted “feeding of the pipeline” and eventually successful sales start to emerge, or for the more successful agents, continue to flow from the other end of the sales pipeline. If nothing is fed into the mouth of the pipe, nothing flows from the end of the pipe.

Enter the Holiday Mode of thinking for a great many sales people. The pending holidays tend to take the edge off lead generating activities and people and families get into the “holiday mode” of thinking. The focus shifts from conducting mail-outs, telephone calls, face-to-face meetings, etc and more on scheduling family outings, purchase of gifts and, let us not forget the parties. Is it just me or do people seem to get more tense and distressed during the holiday season than at any other time of the year? Why is that?

Let me put my spin on it and this is nothing but spin, no research, no study, just an opinion. Let’s look at income taxes. If you are like me, I tend to put it off until I absolutely MUST do something in order to meet a deadline. In the mean time I either consciously think of what I SHOULD be doing or subconsciously (including dreaming) thinking of what I should have done days, weeks or even months ago. If your mind is not clear of “need-to-do’s-that-should-have-already-been-done activities”, how can it focus on the things that need to be done at this very moment or tomorrow? There is a guilt feeling as a result of not doing something. These feelings compound, they build on each other. They are like having a page of half-circles each representing an incomplete job. The more half-circles, the more depressed we become. Not only are there things we need to do in the future, there is an entire page of activities left completely or partially unfinished. How does that make you feel? Depressed, inadequate, discouraged and even a failure. But it is the Christmas holidays when everyone is supposed to feel good.

Enter the “monkey wrench!” What else happens during the holiday season? We spend more money on “stuff” and “activities” than we normally spend during the rest of the year. Some of this spending has been planned; most has not. While spending increases, income for salaried individuals remains stable but for people in sales, no lead generation, no additional sales, decreased sales, decreased income. In fact, sales typically and routinely decline due to the seasonality of the sales business. The thought process goes like this, “Everyone is thinking of spending time with their families over the holidays, they are not thinking of buying or selling real estate (or whatever it is you sell) so…..why bother?” That is exactly what most sales people do; they begin to shut down their sales generating activities about mid-October and do not restart until well into January of the following year. In the Southeast Louisiana area, this shut down is extended into March and even April while people gear up for Mardi Gras.

It’s called the “holiday mode” in sales; it would better describe the attitude by calling it the “holiday slump”. Now enter the 80/20 rule. In this case, 80% of the people do what 80% of everyone else is doing and if that 80% of our market is in the holiday mode, they also get into the holiday mode. As a result - sales drop, anxiety increases because income decreases while at the same time expenses increase. Then when the 80% get charged up to start doing those activities they should have been doing throughout the “holiday mode” season, so is everyone else. As a result, there is no market share shift in YOUR direction because you have being doing what 80% of your competition has also been doing. No one seems to realize that whenever you STOP doing something with the idea of STARTING it again in the future, it takes time to restart and to reenergize your business. Therefore even if you set a restart date of January 15, chances are and history shows, you really don’t get started on January 15 you only get ready to get started. In the mean time your pipeline of potential sales has completely dried up. Therefore you must start pumping in the leads and culturing them until the leads begin to produce sales and that does not happen over night.

The “holiday mode” happens every year as certainly as the sun rises every day. If you want to be part of the 20% of our business who easily does 80% of our business it involves being steady for 12 months; not just 7 or 8! That is the rule! Work 12 months of the year. If the market IS seasonal in nature and if the market tends to slow during the holiday season, does it slow because it is the holiday season or because 80% of the agents in the business slow thus slowing the market? Great question don’t you think? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? It doesn’t matter! If you continue to feed your pipeline, 12 months a year, results will be forthcoming 12 months a year. Even if the market does slow, real estate is being bought and sold. If that is true, and it is, then why shouldn’t those sales be yours? If you are in the “holiday mode” the sales could be right in front of you and you would never be aware enough to realize the opportunities.

The sad part of our business is that there are no surprises. There are models that have been proven to work. All one really need do is make a study of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, written by Gary Keller, Dave Jenks and Jay Papasan and then implement the model. The model, however, involves not giving up or taking off during the holiday season.

Let’s go back to the 100 Meter Dash (or 100 Yard Dash for us old timers). If you as a real estate agent remain focused during the holiday season and continue to perform lead generation activities, it would be like getting a 20 meter head-start at the beginning of the 100 Meter Dash when it begins shortly after the holiday season. If you want to be an industry leader, learn to be a leader during the holiday season and you will excel the rest of the year not to mention winning the 100 Meter Dash!