Closing the sales year with a bang is nice, but getting a jump-start on business development for next year is even better. Here’s how.

How “done” are you? Some companies have unused budgets you need to grab (although that is a less likely scenario than in previous years). Are you resting on your Q4 laurels? Still chasing that last deal for 2012? Or are you thinking ahead?

Here’s a business-boosting suggestion: Spend 75 percent of your time cooking up great business for next year. You’ll start the new year with lots of qualified business.

No one wants to begin a project in December, and it’s almost Thanksgiving here in the United States. Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November, but this year there are five Thursdays in November, so it seems really early (which should feel like we have more time, but doesn’t). Retailers love it—there are more shopping days until Christmas.

Your Sales Schedule: This Year and Next

The last quarter of the year is 25 percent about closing business for this year and 75 percent building a robust pipeline for next year. It’s exciting to reach out to current clients and also to find new relationships (I always make time to prospect). Clients are finalizing their budgets now and have asked me for estimates. How cool is that?

I’m scheduling daily calls with prospects and asking at least two people a day who they know that I should meet. They’re introducing me, and I’m getting more meetings. Yes, I’m following my own process and actively building a qualified pipeline for 2013. My challenge is following up on all of those great referrals. I’ll take that challenge every day.

Close What’s Closest to Cash

Referral conversations take time. Once in awhile a client asks: How soon can we start? More frequently they tell me they’ve slated our referral program for Q1 or Q 2 because they have other priorities. This thinking baffles me: clients say that the biggest challenge their sales teams face is gaining access to decision makers. What do referrals do? Get you instant access to exactly the person you want to meet with a referral introduction. What priority could be more important than addressing that problem?

Set Strategic Sales Goals

The close of each quarter presents the same challenge over and over—close business for that quarter and meet our sales goals. Yes, we have goals to meet, but that thinking is not strategic and doesn’t give us the time or permission to build a longer-term sales pipeline.

Sure, we need to address the tactical, day-to-day sales business, but we need to think ahead, too. Whether we work for a company or for ourselves, it’s the difference between working “in the business” verses “on the business.” We need to do both all the time.

Qualified Leads, Better Business Development

What are you doing to build a robust pipeline? Does your pipeline consist of only qualified leads? How “done” are you? (Be truthful.) For those of you in the United States, stick that prong in your turkey and make sure it’s done.

We have so much to be thankful for—family, friends, great clients, and supportive colleagues. I thank all of you for listening to my rants, sharing my ideas, commenting on my blogs, agreeing with me, disagreeing with me, and overall sharing the best profession there is—the profession of referral sales.

Happy Thanksgiving—wherever you are.

Comment & Join the Conversation

What’s your greatest end-of-year sales challenge? How are you meeting your Q4 goals? What does 2013 look like (no chilly, slow-poke Januarys here). Comment and contribute to our collective success.