If you are a salesperson in the midst of a sales slump, you know you have to get out of it, and fast. Here are steps you can take to minimize the negative impacts of a sales slump and regain your prior success.
We all have sales slumps. There are times when we just can’t find our selling rhythm and we can’t seem to close the sale despite our best effort.
Or each sale that we do get seems much harder than than it ever was before. Sales slumps strike when we are working harder than ever but your volume is down and the pressure is on.
This phenomenon is not unique to sales. In economics, we call it a correction, a recession, or even a depression. For sports, it is a slump or a cold streak. In life, it is a “rough patch” or a rut. And in poker, we call it is a bad run.
While we will all go through sales slumps from time to time, the key is to minimize them when they do occur, and get out of them fast. After all, selling is how you make your living and without sales you are without income.
The problem is, sales slumps have a way of self perpetuating, with the lack of sales eroding our confidence and expectations of positive results. This makes it even more difficult to return to the good form we have lost along the way.
How Does a Sales Slump Start?
Usually a sales slump starts by chance, an unfortunate set of circumstances or bad luck that costs us a sale or two. Why it continues has to do with the self perpetuating nature of a slump.
When those bad circumstances cost us a sale, rather than recognizing the short lived circumstances as the cause, and that it should not last as an impediment to future sales, we quickly start to develop negative expectations.
The external circumstances tend to become internal circumstances because our reaction internalizes them in our mind as expectations going forward.
So what happened to start the slump remains in our mind after the circumstance itself has gone away. It continues to cause the slump even though the circumstance is no longer present.
We are having a sales slump because of the expectation created by a limited circumstance or run of bad luck that remains in our mind long after the circumstance itself.
This is encouraging in that there is most often nothing external creating the sales slump, and if we can restore a positive expectation, we can get out of the sales slump.
It’s not that this is easy, but since it is internal and entirely controllable, it is something that we can get out of quickly.
Here are 3 steps to get back to beating your competition:
Going into July of 1942, Joe DiMaggio, one of baseball’s greatest hitters, was in the midst of a massive hitting slump. His season average was .268. In other words, he was failing to get a hit almost 3 out of 4 trips to the plate. In his career, he had never batted under .330.
When asked about getting out of his slump, Joe said:
“I’m convinced the only way to get out of a slump is to stay in there and keep swinging. Nobody can help you. I’ll bet at least 100 players gave me advice during the season and no two had the same idea.”
I think that this is good advice in two ways.
First, you have to keep swinging. In sales, you have to keep getting in front of prospects, keep presenting. You must keep up all the activities that lead to sales.
Often, the tendency for slumping salespeople is to stop doing the things that make sales. Out of a sense of futility, they stop engaging in sales activities. “What’s the use?” they think, “I can’t seem to make a sale, no matter what I do.”
This extends the slump because by taking yourself out of sales activities, you are decreasing the odds that you will find the success that will get you out of the slump. The more you are in front of customers, the greater the odds of getting a ‘normal’ mix of customers- some that will buy and some that won’t.
By limiting the number of prospects you see, the chances are much greater that you could get a few bad ones and none of the good ones.
I also like how DiMaggio rejected the advice of the other of players that gave him advice. This is important advice for salespeople trying to break out of a sales slump.
If you have been successful, then you know what to do to be successful again. You just need to keep working at it. If you change what you are doing based on the advice of everyone who wants to help, you will end up with a way of selling that may not work for you, and one that would probably be so disjointed as to not have the cohesion required to bring success.
Imagine if DiMaggio had taken the advice of those hundreds of well-intentioned players and made the changes that each of them suggested.
The result would not be the swing that made him great up until that point, and the swing that saw him finish the season batting back over .300. If your “sales swing” has made you successful, it will again. Like Joe, keep swinging the way you know works.
Break Your Patterns
Sometimes a sales slump is as much about about mental fatigue as it is about anything else. Break this fatigue and refresh yourself by changing your patterns.
This piece of advice may sound contrary to my first suggestion that you keep on swinging without making changes to what has made you successful in the past, but it really isn’t.
I’m not telling you to change the way you sell. Instead, change some one thing that will indicate to your mind that things are changing. Wear your watch on the other wrist or get a new haircut. Have oatmeal for breakfast instead of eggs or take a new route to work. Listen to loud music instead of talk radio.
Often times the breaking of one pattern contributes to the breaking of other patterns, including that of poor sales performance.
Give Yourself a Reset
When you are in a sales slump, the pressure really starts to mount. When you are faced with a situation where you have not sold in awhile, it becomes very difficult to see how you will get out of the hole you are in.
Let’s say you normally close 5 out of 10 prospects. You start a month 0 for 10 over the first week and know that to get back to the 50% conversion that you are accustomed to, you will have to sell your next ten prospects in a row, or 15 out of your next 20. That can seem impossible and cause you to give up hope in turning things around in time to reach your goals for the month.
Rather than let the pressure of getting out of the sales slump diminish your motivation, give yourself a reset. By this I mean reset your sales statistics to zero for zero and start the month over. Reset your goals from today forward as if the first week never happened and go forward with a fresh start.
Now you have eliminated the overwhelming challenge of digging out of the hole you are in. You have put yourself in a position to move forward without all the pressure at your normal rate of success.
Sometimes you just need to take the pressure off. Allow yourself to forget the slump by putting it behind you, and start with a clean slate.
If you are a sales manager, you can occasionally do this for members of your team who are slumping. Take the pressure off by giving them a reset. Let them know that you are forgetting their sales slump and evaluating their performance going forward.
I’ve seen many salespeople respond very positively when the manager takes the pressure off by letting them start over. Often, those salespeople reach new heights in performance.
In the profession of sales, we will all occasionally find ourselves in a sales slump. A true professional will recognize it early, take the steps needed to minimize the slump, and turn it around fast.