By Rieva Lesonsky
The New Year is here–the time of year when “best of” and “hot trend” lists proliferate. As you look back over all those lists of what was hot in 2012, take a moment to think about what was hot in your own business last year—and what it might mean for next year.
Here are four key questions to ask yourself:
- What did your customers buy more of and less of in 2012? Use your sales records and other data to see what products and services were hot sellers last year and which ones were less so. See what trends you can spot. Are customers buying more do-it-yourself items, or are they upscaling to costlier ones? Try to project into the future and how these changes might affect your business going forward.
- Who were your best customers in 2012? Was that a change from prior years? Maybe most of your customers used to be college students and now your customer base is skewing younger. Or your customers used to be midsized businesses and now you’ve got a few Fortune 500 clients. What do these trends mean for the future? How can you better serve the new market? What new products, services or sales channels would appeal to them?
- How were most of your sales made in 2012? If you typically sell most of your products in-store, did that hold true in 2012 or did you find more customers buying online? Did wholesale accounts grow while retail sales declined? Did customers who previously bought your service on a month-to-month basis sign up for annual subscriptions? Again, consider what this trend might mean in the coming year. How can you sell more through the sales channels that are growing? Should you pull back on the less profitable channels or eliminate them altogether?
- Who were your best salespeople in 2012? What did they do that your other salespeople didn’t? Assess your star performers’ actions and habits, and develop best practices you can use to train the rest of your sales team. Consider whether sales quotas need to be reset or whether some poor performers need to be let go (there are plenty of hungry salespeople out there right now). Finally, reassess how you distribute client and customer lists. Can you set your top salespeople loose on the prospects, sales channels and products you’ve identified as growth areas?
Image by Flickr user Images_of_Money (Creative Commons)