There seems to come a time in every performer’s career where they have a “slump.”
Baseball players have them, golfers, and yes, sales pros too – even the best ones.
So how do you handle a slump, slow streak, or sales drought?
I thought back to my own days as an account executive and new business development rep and how I handled these downturns. I also asked other sales pros how they powered through these tough times because no ONE sales life is like another.
For me, getting through a sales slump always meant working backward to figure out the root cause (sometimes painful to realize), and then the next steps are clear and defining.
Here are Four Sales Slump Causes and ways you can power through them:
Big Wins = Let off the Gas. Most of my personal slowdowns I can trace back to the aftermath of a large win. Sometimes after an intense pursuit and onboarding of a large account, I would get wrapped up in making sure my new clients were happy, everything was going smoothly, and quite frankly, I’d let off the gas from prospecting and business development because a) I had a big win to carry me and b) I was tired!
That’s probably normal, but the aftermath –one month, three months, or six months later, pending the business cycle – was a sure slowdown in wins and revenue. After I figured out that this was a cycle for me, I curbed the effects by doubling down on existing clients while I was in those early stages with new customers: renewing them, growing them, and increasing their spending. This was manageable during the transition time with new accounts and then I quickly moved back to prospecting and nurturing accounts to close.
Depending on your product or industry, you can’t afford to let off the gas, even with a win, or it will bite you and crash a quarter down the road. Figure out if this is what’s happening to you and make a plan to account for those times when your focus is monopolized by the “big fish.”
Chasing the wrong customers or Bad Pipeline. Sales expert Liz Heiman suggests that a “Sales slump is often the result of a poorly managed funnel,” which makes complete sense. Struggling to make progress or close business could be because your funnel is full of bad prospects or weak leads.
Sometimes your customer base can shift, but most often, looking for easier wins or chasing “shiny objects” distracts you from the target customers more likely to purchase from you. The best customers are usually using your competitor’s products and those are often longer and more challenging to convert.
If you’re struggling with a floundering pipeline, take a step back and look at those customers you’ve been most successful with. Are you pursuing them or looking for something easier?
Go back through your pipeline and take a second look. Honestly and objectively pre-qualify those prospects you’re pursuing to see if you’re barking up the wrong trees.
Not enough “good” activity. If you are pursuing the right clients, maybe you’re not doing the right things. Spending your time on the wrong activity or simply not doing enough of the right ones could be the reason your closing rate is lagging. From The Bridge Group, inside sales expert, Trish Bertuzzi says she lives by the advice she once received, “You know what to do so just do what you know.”
Could it be that simple? Yes, but I’ll add my two cents here and say, “do it better” as well. Sometimes we need to double down on not just activity, but the effort we put into it too. Are you phoning it in with lame emails? Are you half-heartedly following up? Our customers need to know how much we want to do business with them and how we value them as people and partners. They deserve more effort than what the “average” sales rep gives. Don’t be average, be better. Be more diligent. Be more purposeful. Be more disciplined in your actions and the activities you put forth for prospecting and follow-up.
A Crisis of Confidence. Sometimes a rough patch lets more Head Trash creep in and we begin to adopt a defeatist attitude about our capabilities. This probably happens to everyone too but how you handle it makes all the difference. Your mindset allows you to turn around everything. “Thinking positive” isn’t just a mantra for cute cat posters; it truly affects your brain chemistry and has a very powerful impact on your outcomes. When you brick a presentation or flop a pitch, it’s easy to start the snowball of negative thinking. One, two, or three losses in a row can lead to a crisis of confidence.
I’ve found, however, that most crisis of confidence is really a lack of persistence or loss of patience. My friend Dan, a seasoned Account Executive, goes back to his customers to reflect on how he really helped them. He carries those stories and confidence into his next calls and also “stokes his fires” with music or books and sets mini-goals for himself.
Another way to overcome this Head Trash is to “double down on the basics,” a suggestion from Kenny Madden, a sales specialist in technology. “I get mad in a good and positive way . . . read, study, and set my self-discipline goals.”
The first thing to think about when you’re experiencing one of these dry spells is to know that every sales pro has been there. Talk with your manager, your friends, or heck, a bartender if she’s a good listener . . . but you need to identify what’s really going on and get to the root cause of your slump. Is it your pipeline, that big win, not the right customer or the right activities? Or, are you letting a few rough calls and losing outcomes creep into your head and corrupt your confidence?
Know what it is, make a plan, and take action to fix it – QUICKLY.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!