Every year around this time I notice a disturbing trend that costs businesses a lot of money: a shift in focus from selling and excellence, to visioning and planning. People start looking ahead; they think about new goals, new milestones, new priorities. It's an almost palpable sense that "next year will be different" and "next year will be the big year."
In the process, customer service slips a little, an order is delayed or a proposal might go out that's not as polished as it could be.
Taking the focus from sales and customer service and putting it entirely on planning costs entrepreneurs around the world hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) every time.
Let's be clear: Planning and vision are essential components of a thriving business. You won't get where you want to go if you don't have a plan to get there.
Problems occur when entrepreneurs plunge exclusively into planning instead of taking a more measured approach that allows them to excel with current clients and draw in new business while simultaneously planning.
Let's have a look at some numbers: Black Friday is the biggest sales day of the year in the U.S. Adobe Analytics calculations showed that in 2017 Black Friday sales in the U.S. alone hit record highs of $7.9 billion, with Cyber Monday generating a record $6.59 billion for online retailers around the world (led by the U.S.).
There is so much potential for business success between now and Dec. 31, no matter your industry. Have a look at these U.S. Census Bureau figures to see how sales ebb and flow across various industries and months of the year.
Your year might not have gone to plan so far. That happens. You may have had personal circumstances to navigate. Maybe your industry pivoted and you had to play catch-up. You might have had issues in your team, with your tools or had a wobble with your mindset.
That's all OK. It doesn't mean that the rest of this year has to be a write-off. Here are seven tips to help you finish 2018 strong -- because it's not over until it's over.
1. Review what you have (or haven't) achieved so far this year
How has your year gone so far? What went really well? What didn't? What patterns have you been repeating in your business? Have these had a positive or negative impact? Do you feel like you're standing in your own way or is there something else? Do you need extra support, training or tools?
Every time you note something that didn't go to plan, ask yourself why and then learn from that. Be objective and use these notes to tweak the way you operate going forward.
Remember: Do this alongside continued selling and excellent customer service. Nurture the customers you already have while reviewing past performance and making decisions about the future.
2. Analyze your income streams
What offers have you been promoting this year? What sold well? What didn't? What did your launch or promotion process look like? Have you received any feedback of your offers or sales methods? Why do you think certain things got great results and others didn't?
3. Ask your customers
If you genuinely don't know why something didn't sell, ask your audience.
Don't overlook the simple power of direct communication: Make it a practice to ask your customers what they need and why they don't buy something you've offered. The responses you get might not always be comfortable, but the insight can be invaluable.
A few months ago I celebrated the biggest-ever multi-six-figure launch of my small business mastermind. When it was over, I reached out to those who didn't buy, asking them why. The responses were incredibly helpful. I learned about my customers' thoughts and objections, all of which I'll be weaving into my sales copy next time around.
4. Tighten up your messaging
Are all of your business communications infused with a strong message? Do you bring your personality out when you're promoting your business, or do you keep your "professional" mask on? Do you celebrate your values, share your opinions and show up in an unfiltered way?
If not, you're missing a trick. People connect with other people, so if you present yourself as a distant, faceless entity, you're creating a barrier between you and your buyers.
5. Look at your own input objectively
How do you feel about selling your products? What sales tactics do you use? Do they show your products off in the best light? Do you put your all into sales? Once again, ask yourself what worked throughout the year, what didn't and what you can tweak going forward.
If selling feels weird and uncomfortable to you, look no further to find out why nobody's buying what you're offering. You need to feel passionate about your product and get comfortable selling. If you don't genuinely love it, why would anyone else?
6. Make sure you believe in what you're doing
Do you believe in yourself as a business leader? Do you believe in your mission? Do you believe in your products? Do you believe in the promises you make to your customers?
If you don't, this is where you need to start. You need to fall madly in love with what you do, because that is what makes an offer compelling. Start by digging into why you do what you do and why the world needs it so badly.
Once you believe so passionately in your offering and how much it's going to help people or organizations, that passion will seep through everything you do and will draw in your customers.
Need more convincing? Simon Sinek's legendary "Start with why" TED Talk is a must-watch.
7. Take inspired, strategic action
The best plan in the world without action will sit on your desk like finely crafted ship will lay idle in port without wind ...
Make a plan, commit to it and put it into action. Decide boldly what you want to achieve before the end of the year. Be clear. Be focused. Break it down into tiny steps. Schedule those steps into your calendar.
And get moving. That's all there is to it. It's not innovative, it's not shiny, but it works. Decide what you want to do, then do it.
Set yourself up for an amazing 2019 by finishing this year strong.
You've got this, now go do it!
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.