Mediocre business owners and salespeople start planning for the next year in December. The problem with that is that December is busy with holiday parties, gift buying and end-of-year tax planning. It's the season for fun, frolic and reconnecting with your network. There’s little time left for planning.
If you're sick of your current business results and ready to make 2015 your best year ever, your planning needs to start right now. Here are seven tips for getting a head start on building a successful enterprise next year:
Related: Beat Burnout But Score Results
1. Sort contacts in the database.
Are you really going to send another holiday card to a client you haven’t spoken to in a decade?
Sort through your database and label each person as an A, B, C or D prospect. The A people are cream-of-the-crop clients. They've referred you business over the last 12 months. Your B people are clients who haven’t referred anyone this year but have in past. They are worth holding on to.
C people have not yet referred clients but have huge networks of potential connections. And the Cs are the one who might just refer someone if you simply reached out.
D stands for "delete." The people have entries in your database that are collecting cobwebs. Delete them. If someone hasn’t sent you a referral in a few years, it’s time to delete his or her listing.
2. Call clients.
If you want a successful start to 2015, then start today to call clients in your database. Divide up the list so that you're making 10 to 20 calls a day. Simply say that you are updating your records to send out holiday cards.
While you are at it, why not ask for a birth date so that you can update your contact records with a reason to reach out next year. Offer a friendly reminder as well that you appreciate their ongoing referrals.
3. Update the website.
When was the last time you revamped your company's website? Does it collect cobwebs, too? Is there a blog on the site? Does it have a call to action? The best business websites have lots of content (perhaps on a blog) and a call-to-action button (offering a free downloadable guide or book for anyone who leaves a name, email or phone number).
4. Review the last 20 sales.
Where did your last 20 customers come from? Do you have a system in place for thanking people who refer business to you? This could be as simple as having an assistant send along a thank-you note to show your appreciation.
Knowing where your sales arrive from is essential to determining where your marketing dollars will be spent next year. Are you paying for a lead service that's producing no leads? Are your mailers working? How about that newspaper ad? Track your last 20 sales for a better understanding of which way to reinvest your profits next year.
5. Create a dossier on the competition.
Who are your top three competitors? What do they do better than you? Spend a few hours researching your competition. Check out their websites, product offerings and even consider posing as a secret shopper to see what they're up to.
As the owner of an independent real estate firm, I keep a dossier for each of my larger competitors. I update it annually as this process prompts me to step back and discover what they're doing right. Believe it or not, your competition is probably doing something better than you, so figure out what it is so you can make adjustments for the New Year.
6. Review expenses.
Pull out your profit-and-loss or credit-card statements, checkbooks or all of them. What are you wasting money on? You're probably paying for subscriptions to technology, marketing programs or social-media add-ons that you're no longer using. While you’re at it, take time to see if you can negotiate for more favorable terms on cellphone, Internet and energy bills.
You want to start January off with a bucket full of qualified sales leads to conquer. You don’t want to spend the month whittling down your expenses. The time to do that is now.
7. Hire and fire.
Fall is a great time for determining if everyone is on the right seat on the bus at your organization. If there are employees who are not cutting it, you need to fix things now or cut your losses and ask them to leave.
Once mid-November hits, you are considered a scrooge if you let go of unproductive employees, so start determining who are the A players who will move forward with you in January. Hiring now gives you two and a half months to get ready for an awesome start to the New Year.