This website or domain name is for sale. Bid or buy now.

 

 

How to Overcome a Sales Slump

By Tim Connor, CSP

Everyone sells every day. Parents sell, children sell, employers sell, professionals sell, politicians sell, teachers sell, the clergy sells and spouses sell. Even pan-handlers sell. Each of these don't necessarily sell products or services, but each of them attempts to influence or persuade others. This is the essence of what selling really is. Influence and persuasion. Some of these people sell their ideas, while others sell ideals, morals, ethics, education, their reasons or life style  It is a mistake to think that you won't try and sell (influence) someone today, even if it is only to get a good table at lunch.

First, what are the characteristics of a sales slump. Second, what are the causes that lead up to this situation. Third, what can you do to insure that they are neither drastic or long term and, fourth, what can you do when you find yourself smack in the middle of one.

Let's first define what I call a sales slump. You might think that the only symptom of a slump, is a period of reduced sales success regardless of its nature or length. From my perspective it is not quite that simple. There are a number of ways a salesperson can be in a slump. In order to discuss these we need to look at the elements of the sales process where a slump can occur.

  • First, there is attitude. All external conditions are the result of internal thought patterns or attitudes.

  • Second, there is prospecting. This is having a pipeline full of well qualified prospects at all times (don't forget customers are also prospects). It is the ability to always be in front of a qualified prospect for your product or service. It is the skill of getting information, to be able to constantly upgrade prospects or eliminate them.

  • Third, there is the sales presentation. This includes effective communication skills, product knowledge competence and effective listening. And having a presentation strategy.

  • Fourth, there is the ability to discover, disarm and answer sales resistance.

  • Fifth, there is the ability to bring the entire process to a positive closure by, closing the sale or the relationship. Any salesperson, regardless of their experience or length of service can find themselves having a difficult time with one or more of the sales process issues stated above. Successful salespeople know that selling is a process and not an event. They have learned that their role is to create relationships that lead to sales. It is not, to just move products off the floor.

The key to long term success for any salesperson is to manage all of the five elements in a consistent and positive way. What good does it do, in the long run, to have great closing skills, if you are never in the presence of good prospects. What good does it do to have excellent products and services if you can't get appointments. What good does it do to have a good prospect, if you can't ask for the business. Notice I didn't say ask for the order, but the business.

You can experience a sales slump, in any one of these areas. Regardless of the issue, the results will generally be the same. Low sales. Low margins. Lost customers. Vulnerable to competition. Selling price to get the business, and so on.

If you are experiencing a slump, you can't just look at the big picture. You must look carefully at your approach, strategies, strengths and weaknesses in each of the five categories. You must learn to ask yourself the right questions, if you hope to get accurate information that will help you out of this negative sales period. Knowing the characteristics or causes that contributed to the current situation will also help you prevent future slumps.

What does an attitude slump look like? You feel stressed out or tired. You have lost your enthusiasm for the product/service or your organization. You would really rather go to a movie or take a vacation, than face another prospect, rejection, day or sales call. You have turned the responsibility of your attitudes over to your spouse, competition, the weather, the time of year or anyone else you can find. Selling is a demanding profession. It requires attitude control more than any other ingredient.

What does a prospecting slump look like? You have no idea who you should call or call on today. Your pipeline is empty. You are spending more time with poor prospects than qualified prospects. Your attitude is, if they will see you, regardless of their need or interest, you will see them. You get in your car and it really doesn't matter whether you turn right or left. You are spending more time cold calling than any other prospecting method. You justify less time in front of real prospects with paperwork, solving after sales problems etc.

What does a sales presentation slump look like? You spend most of your time talking and giving information. Your prospect takes control of the presentation by asking questions early. You are asked to give price before you have had an opportunity to establish value. You repeat yourself often during the presentation. You sell only features and not customer benefits. Your presentation is organization rather than customer driven. Your prospect keeps the discussion on the surface, away from real issues, their problems or needs. You are asked to give your presentation in less time than you need to do the entire process justice. You never get control of the sales presentation. The meeting is constantly interrupted by visitors or phone calls.

What does a sales resistance slump look like? Your prospect brings up allot of trivial objections. They bring up price early. The prospect expects all their needs and desires satisfied one hundred percent. You can't successfully handle common sales resistance questions. You are not dealing with a decision maker or a person who has significant influence. As soon as you answer one objection, the prospect gives you another. Your prospect keeps bringing up your competition. They react defensively to your trial closing questions. They don't listen. You rely on literature, brochures and corporate materials to answer objections.

What does a closing slump look like? The first thing your prospect tells you at the beginning of the meeting is, that they are not going to buy today. You don't have a tested closing strategy that you have confidence in. You relay on price to close the sale. You fail to use what you have learned during your probing successfully at the close. The prospect suddenly runs out of time. They introduce an entirely new wrinkle into the process at the close. You avoid asking closing questions because of your fear of rejection. You turn the closing responsibility over to the prospect.

Causes of sales slumps.

  • One. Poor training.

  • Two. Poor product knowledge.

  • Three. Poor attitude management.

  • Four. Poor sales records.

  • Five. Poor organization reputation.

  • Six. Poor product quality, distribution or organization support.

  • Seven. An organization vs. customer focused sales strategy.

  • Eight. Sales compensation that rewards results only and not focused activity.

  • Nine. Excessive administrative responsibilities.

  • Ten. Poor territory potential.

  • Eleven. Non-supportive management.

  • Twelve. Poor sales management coaching skills.

  • Thirteen. Organizational culture that encourages the editing of honest communication.

  • Fourteen. Lack of clear purpose, goals and focus.

  • Fifteen. Poor organization and time and territory management.    

If you are in sales, I would encourage you to examine each of these areas in detail to determine where you or your organization needs to improve, so that you can prevent future slumps. If you are in management, I recommend you evaluate each area that you are responsible for including, training approaches, corporate policies, procedures, philosophy, communication patterns, sales reporting, management style, compensation programs and product/service quality, distribution and billing issues that may contribute to poor sales performance.

Let's wrap it up. What can you do to prevent a sales slump, or snap out of one if you are already there.

  • One, conduct a careful, honest self-evaluation of your sales-process strengths and weaknesses.

  • Two, keep a log or record of your successes as well as your skill and attitude development needs. When you feel discouraged, you can review all your recent, as well as long term gains and wins. I call this a good-stuff list. You would be amazed how quickly you can reverse a negative direction by frequently reviewing all of your successes.

  • Three, learn to keep detailed records of sales activity and your results. I am not talking here about your call reports. Even the best and most sophisticated call reports I have seen, do not give adequate information about the critical sales ratios and trends that determine your future.

  • Four, spend a  minimum of an hour a day listening to motivational audio cassettes.

  • Five, plan your year, month, week and day before you get there.

  • Six, review your progress toward your goals daily. Look for areas where you have made commitments, but have not followed through.

  • Seven, be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Don't let yourself off the hook when you have failed to do what you said you would.

  • Eight, when you succeed, reward yourself. It doesn't have to be a two week vacation. It could be a new tie or pair of earrings.

  • Nine, At the end of each day, form the habit of reviewing your day, its gains and losses.

  • Ten, don't beat yourself up because you didn't reach a goal, close a sale or succeed. Learn, that as long as you are learning and getting better, that is enough. Be patient with yourself, but be honest as well. Remember you are getting better or you are falling behind, but you can't stand still 

  • Eleven, ask a family member or associate to act as your accountability. Share your successes and your failures with them. Ask them for an objective opinion of your program and progress.

  • Twelve, don't compare yourself with other salespeople. You are on your own path.

Read other articles and learn more about Tim Connor.

[Contact the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]

Home      Recent Articles      Author Index      Topic Index      About Us
2005-2017 Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc   ▪   privacy statement