Ideally, you should approach prospective clients when they are ready to buy. Here are some time-line tips for some key verticals. By Lisa Hyatt Smith
May 24, 2010
Ideally, you should approach prospective clients when they are ready to buy. Here are some time-line tips for some key verticals.
By Lisa Hyatt Smith
With a little insight and attention to the calendar, you can approach prospects and clients when they are likely to be in a spending mood—and stay out of their hair when they are less likely to buy. So when are the best and worst times to approach clients in various verticals? Here’s a sampling.
GOVERNMENT: Clients tend to spend big on technology between June and September, as their budget cycles typically operate on a July 1 rather than a December 31 year-end cycle, explains George Van Horn, senior analyst for IBISWorld. “If you’re selling something that is more of an investment or capital good, you probably need to aim for late winter or early spring to ensure clients have sufficient budget resources,” says Van Horn. “Operating expenses and maintenance of current services are probably routine budget line items. So, even if you call after the budget was defined, you still have a good chance of finding a receptive ear.”
EDUCATION: In both higher education and K-12, budgets are usually set in the fall for the following fiscal year. “However, large systems, such as an integrated administrative application suite, may come under special funding cycles and don’t follow any particular cycle,” says Michael Zastrocky, research VP for Gartner. Purchases are made in mid- to late spring for technologies that will be used in the fall. “If the technologies are new and require faculty training, the cycle would be earlier,” Zastrocky adds.
PROFESSIONAL SERVICES: For accountants, avoid tax time and the end of the year. Late April or early May is a better time to talk to them and get them thinking about potential improvements to their businesses, says Van Horn. To identify the best time to approach other professional services prospects—management consultants, architects, law firms, and so on—you’ll need to understand the seasonality of the clients they serve, and steer clear when they’re busiest.
FINANCIAL SERVICES: “Opportunities to sell solutions to financial services clients are directly tied to an institute’s budgeting cycle, planning and approval processes, as well as internal bandwidth and regulatory demands,” says Rodney Nelsestuen, a senior analyst at TowerGroup. Clients will start to earmark technologies in May or June for the following year. By late summer, ideas are being proposed. Plans will then be approved in November or December. One word of caution: “The worst time to approach financial services clients is during a major enterprise change, like a merger or acquisition,” says Nelsestuen.
RETAIL: “Due to the all-encompassing push for Christmas, most retailers are virtually in lockdown from September to December,” says Jeff Roster, research VP at Gartner Inc. “The first quarter, January to April, is a good time to approach retailers, especially if they had a good Christmas season.”
Regardless of the industry you’re targeting, be sure you understand the local market characteristics as opposed to bigger industry conditions, and pay careful attention to budget cycles. IBISWorld’s Van Horn suggests approaching prospects three to four months in advance of budget time lines to ensure that they are actually in a position to consider IT expenditures and investments.