Do you find that targeting new clients somehow slips unintentionally to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list and your business’s New Year’s resolutions?

Well, make 2017 the year that you turn this around! To help you transform good intentions into real actions, here are my Twelve Sales of Christmas Tips to ensure your sales funnel is always full of the type of leads you want:

1. Target your existing clients to see how you can help them more. A good way to kick-start this is to pick your top six clients and call them all. You can look to sell them additional quantities of the same product, promote your add-on services or introduce them to a new product in your range. Keep a light touch and don’t go overboard – you don’t want to be too persistent.

2. Get networking! Why not set a goal to attend a couple of networking events each month, with the intention of speaking to five new people at each event? Or think about where your ideal client hangs out to have some fun – perhaps the golf course or the local gym?

3. Treat yourself when you’ve taken on a new client. Reward yourself with dinner out at your favourite restaurant, a day at the spa or even that new book you’ve been promising yourself. Remember: what gets rewarded, gets repeated!

4. Optimise your customer database. A successful sales pipeline depends on good data, and having a relevant and regularly updated customer database lies at the heart of this. You can use it to keep in touch with clients, and perhaps send them an email newsletter too!

5. Ask your clients for referrals. The key is to be as specific as possible. Don’t, for example, adopt a generic “Do you know anyone who you could recommend me to?” approach. Instead, make a list of all the companies you’d like to meet, then approach any existing customers who might have a contact at those new prospects and ask them to introduce you. Using the LinkedIn recommendation process is also a great way of being introduced to new business contacts.

6. Get to know your (business) neighbours. Take a drive or walk around your area and see which companies are in your neighbourhood. Then, call in and introduce yourself! The change of perspective can be refreshing – you never know, you can find business in the most unlikely of places!

7. Get to know new people over a coffee. Why not change your lunch-break habits and make a goal of having a coffee or a snack with a new person each week? They don’t have to be ideal clients but they could be ideal introducers. Share ideas and any possible leads, helping you to create a network of your own.

8. Improve your (online) print reputation. By writing relevant articles or blog posts that your clients might want to read, you increase your authority within your industry. Once the article or blog has been published, promote it by sending an email to your mailing list inviting them to read it.

9. Volunteer to speak at events where your ideal clients hang out. If you’re exhibiting at a trade show, why not volunteer to hold a talk there? This will increase your credibility and drive traffic to your stand. And if you’re aren’t exhibiting, you should still submit a proposal for a workshop or showcase. Another great speaking opportunity is to hold talks and workshops at networking group events.

10. Be consistently brilliant at what you do and deliver the best possible service. Your reputation is worth its weight in gold and word-of-mouth recommendations are too. As words travel fast, do everything you can to make sure that all the talk about you is positive!

11. Join relevant trade associations. Know which trade organisations your clients and prospects belong to and join them. Not only will they keep you up to date on what’s happening in the industries you sell to, they’ll also provide you with a great opportunity to meet relevant people on a regular basis.

12. Use a Sales Matrix to stay ahead of the competition. Make sure all your clients know everything about what you do and what you sell. By using a simple chart, you list the main features and benefits of your products or services and then share this with your clients as an effective sales tool.

Bonus tip 13. Take some time out this Christmas. Use the festive break to think about 2017 and what you want to achieve – this will help you shape your sales plan for the coming year!

This isn’t an exhaustive list and there will be many other ways to help you build your network and your sales pipeline – but they are tried-and-tested ideas that work for almost all businesses. If you concentrate on just three of four of the tips on the list at any one time, you will find it easier to become a successful prospector!

The key is to make looking for sales leads a regular habit – set aside an amount of time each day to meet new people and it will become second nature!