The holidays loom... Office parties, family celebrations, religious celebrations, celebrations with friends... Meetings are cancelled. Decisions are postponed. Too much to do, no time to do it. The sales process turns to sludge.

The holidays can be a frustrating time for sales professionals. Telephone prospecting calls end with no appointment, the prospect instead saying, "Call me in the New Year." Proposals languish. Decisions are on hold.

During the time from Thanksgiving through the end of the year, how do you keep from losing your momentum and how do you keep the sales process moving forward? If you are not able to keep the process moving, January can feel almost like starting over. Instead of leaping into the New Year with prospect meetings and starting new customer projects, you are busy following up with those prospects who said, "Call me in the New Year."

Here are two steps that you can use to keep your sales process flowing, not only over the holidays, but also year round.

1. When prospecting by telephone for new appointments, do not tamely accept that standard response, "Call me in the New Year." Instead, suggest to your prospect that you schedule a meeting in the New Year - and promise to call to confirm that meeting. (In the "old days," prospects would frequently say they didn't have their New Year calendar. In these days of Palm Pilots and contact management software, that doesn't fly. After all, January is only next month!) At least half your prospects will go ahead and schedule the meeting, leaving you with 50 percent less follow-up calls to make in January.

This is what you say:

"Let's pencil in a date and time for January. I'll call you to confirm, and if it doesn't work at that point, we can always reschedule. Is early January good, or is later in the month better?"

This way, you'll have a series of prospect meetings already lined up for January!

2. When a prospect asks you to submit a proposal, then and there set up a meeting time with your prospect to go over that proposal. Ask your prospect when they want the proposal. When they give you a date or time frame say:

"Let's set up a time for me to come by and go over the proposal. Is (fill in date) good or is (fill in date) better?"

It does not matter if your prospect wants to meet in December or in January. The point is that you have kept the process moving forward, you have an appointment to discuss the proposal and you do not have to spend time in January making calls to follow up, schedule the meeting or get a response on that proposal.

Happy prospecting, happy closing, happy holidays!

WENDY WEISS, "The Queen of Cold Calling," is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Her book, Cold Calling for Women: Opening Doors and Closing Sales, can be ordered at Networking Times