Seven weeks from now the end-of-year clock starts ticking. It starts Wednesday, November 26,  as people traverse the US to be with family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday. What does that have to do with business development?

It means that you have less than two months to take meaningful steps to reach your annual revenue goal. Oh, sure, there are actually 12 calendar weeks remaining in 2014, but that's an illusion. The last five weeks aren't really available for BD activity, at least not in the same way as the rest of the year.

Thanksgiving is the unofficial beginning of "the holiday season." It's also the beginning of the end-of-year mindset -- two more large competitors for your clients' and prospects' time and attention, and two more reasons for them to put off until 2015 anything that doesn't have to be completed by December 31.

Like you, everyone has To-Do items that have actual year-end deadlines. But they also have virtual deadlines having to do with social obligations or preferences. People want to carve out time for holiday socializing, shopping, travel, etc., which means they simply can't afford to allow anyone or anything onto their calendar unless it has a direct bearing on their 2014 success or, at the latest, on their success in January, 2015.

What can you do about this?

For starters, if you aspire to get on anyone's calendar, your topic must have acknowledged business impact that creates legitimate urgency. This is what we call the Cost of Doing Nothing. (You needing to reach your annual BD goal doesn't qualify.)

The easiest way to be welcomed into a shrinking calendar is to be part of the solution by helping your clients get everything done. How much do you know about what your clients and prospects must do before year-end? What can you contribute that will accelerate the pace at which their To-Do list gets eliminated? By phone or email, test your understanding of their challenge: "It seems like energy companies must accomplish A, B, and C by year-end. Am I looking at this usefully, or am I way off base?" If they confirm your perception, ask if the contribution you envision is as helpful as you thought it would be. "Given that, would it be helpful if I [proposed contribution]?" They're either open to such help or not. If so, you have work. If not, take a minute or so to learn why you were off base. 

Once you've figured this out, think about how you might extend this contribution to prospects who logically would have similar year-end obligations. Even if you're not successful teeing up immediate demand, you'll still have demonstrated your grasp of their circumstances and your relevance to their world, both of which will make it easier to get your call accepted in 2015.

You might also consider shifting your own priorities to allow more time to pursue urgency-based sales. Is there any billable work that could be shifted to others on your team, freeing up time for sales activity? If not, which parts of the work you must do personally can be time-shifted, e.g., early morning before regular business hours, or in the evenings? The idea is to make yourself more available during prime time over the next seven weeks.

This is the time of year to ramp up your sales activity. Think of it as a sprint to early December. Who knows, maybe the results will encourage you to extend your seasonal changes and allocate more selling time in 2015, too.

Mike O'Horo