There is, however, an upside. If a slump is used as a tool rather than an excuse, you can climb to the other side of the slump in a better position than when it began. If you’re willing to use your slump as an opportunity rather than a hurdle, the following tips can get you to the promised land.
Sales is a numbers game. It always has been and it always will be. This then begs the question, how many sales calls are you making per day or week? Double them. It is very, very rare that sales will dry up completely. Keep calling until you’ve set 5 appointments. Search LinkedIn groups for prospects. Revisit your buyer persona and rewrite your pitch.
Try a new approach.
The simple act of changing your perspective, and this holds true in all areas of life, can be revelatory. It can uncover leads or prospects you hadn’t considered. Maybe the market has changed and you need to present your marketing material in another way.
Revisiting your prospecting is another way to try a new approach. We rely heavily on inbound marketing lead generation, but when you’ve hit a sales slump, inbound leads may not be enough. My go-to prospecting ace in the hole is finding a cluster of businesses. Since we pursue B2B leads, I check out the directories at office parks. Most office parks and shopping centers have a website with the directory listed. If you filter through those businesses, you can usually find some solid prospects.
Reach out to existing happy customers.
Check in with them to make sure they’re happy with the solution you’ve sold them. See if there’s anything you can do to make them even happier. At the end of the day, businesses are made of people and they like to know you’re thinking of them. Don’t try to upsell them, just check on their current status. If they need more, then sell them more… but don’t force it.
If they’re already happy and satisfied with their current level of service, ask for a referral. You have a high chance of getting one, and referrals close at a much better rate too. If they don’t have anyone to refer, write a case study about their experience with your service or product. A positive case study is akin to a supercharged testimonial and can be a very powerful closing tool.
Automate competitive research.
Though no one likes to admit it, a sales slump may be caused by a direct competitor. There will always be someone trying to build a better mousetrap. One of our clients was very proactive when they discovered that a major international competitor of theirs was going to be in the same area. While they successfully avoided a sales slump, they could have very easily fallen into a substantial sales abyss had they not been mindful of new competitors. Even if there aren’t any brand new competitors, your existing competitors may have improved their marketing efforts, thus eating into your market share.
Another possibility is that a new product that directly competes with your solution has just been introduced to the market. An example of this is the phone book. Once the internet appeared and offered several robust search engines and capabilities, the phone book needed to make drastic changes or suffer the consequences. Though they have since diversified and offer new marketing opportunities, they’ve never really recovered from the impact of the internet.
There are ways to keep up with what activities your competitors are doing. You can enjoy deep understanding of their social media progress and engagement by using a tool like Rival IQ or Klout. Noticing significant changes in your competitors’ strategies and successes can provide a heads up that you might need to make some changes in your approach and in your efforts.
Keep an eye on your sales funnel.
The sales roller coaster is not for the faint of heart. My former boss used to say, “When you close a big sale, give yourself 15 minutes to celebrate and congratulate. Then it is back to work.” He was right then and he’s still right. Many times sales slumps come from previous success. When you are delivering one sale after another it takes time to make sure that everything goes smoothly. This can take the focus away from what got you those opportunities in the first place – leads and business development activity. Depending on your industry, sales cycles can run from a few weeks to many months. When you place your focus on closing current deals, you are not spending time on prospecting and moving fresh leads further into your sales funnel.
To keep the process moving and the funnel funneling, you’ll want to employ some modern software. My favorite prospecting and sales funnel tool is PipeDrive. The interface is a sales person’s dream. It provides enough analysis to satisfy a picky Sales Manager and is easy enough for even rookie sales people.
By identifying the overall funnel activity of the sales team, you are able to identify potential slowdowns and put actions in place to improve your processes. This type of information can make the difference between identifying problems early and alleviating them or identifying them too late and missing your sales goals for the year.
Re-qualify your prospects.
Social media, well done SEO, blogging, and targeted marketing can drive an increased number of “leads” into your sales funnel. That is a good thing.
A slump can come from a drop in leads or sales in the funnel, but it can also come from a lack of perception. Leads that have not been rigorously qualified can lead to wasted sales time. Leads that did not acquiesce the first time around may be in a better position to hear more about your product or service. This particular tip has a 2-fold process. Just because a prospect registered to download one of your company’s eBooks or attended one of your webinars does not automatically translate to a prospect worthy of your time. Do some further investigative research to see if this prospect is a good fit. On the flip side, prospects who are flirting with content on your site may be a perfect fit and this is an opportunity to provide them with case studies about your product or service. There is no magic formula, but there is an intangible sense that a sales person can get. It is important to trust your gut and learn to hone your poker skills.
If you’re not sure about your ability to discern truly qualified prospects or when to reach out, there are tools like Enkata that can help define the risk in your prospects and forecasting. By using a tool like Enkata, you can avoid wasting time with leads that may be adding to your slump and depleting your efforts.
Don’t Abandon Your Process.
Though I’m a firm believer in changing your vantage point to offer a fresh perspective, abandoning your process can unintentionally sabotage your sales. Don’t stop prospecting. Continue to follow up and provide value to your prospects. Continue to learn more about how your product or service can benefit your customers. Stay positive and proactive.
A Note to Sales Managers!
I’ve worked in many sales environments and a deficit in sales causes a strange phenomenon. Tension is exponentially increased and the climate of the sales floor is viciously competitive, not collaborative. It is a lot like watching the nature channel. What’s worse is that many sales managers try to protect their interests by micro-managing the day to day processes of the sales team. This ‘save the day’ mentality breeds an environment of ‘learned helplessness’. Most effective sales people are better with a level of autonomy.
A far more effective method in pulling a team out of the slump is to simply stop pulling. It is vital to treat sales professionals like professionals. Empower them with the ability to make a deal within appropriate parameters, be accountable for their own progress, and make mistakes. Experience is the greatest mentor and it never micro-manages.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely mid slump or nervous that one is coming. Don’t panic. This too shall pass. Employ the methods I’ve mentioned and you will get through it.
“My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.” -Hank Aaron