Most small businesses face a sales slump at least once in a while. These revenue dips can occur for many reasons. Sometimes the overall economy goes into a tailspin, while seasonal dips are common in many industries.
But slumping sales can also mean you have internal issues you need to resolve, such as marketing efforts that are no longer working, inconsistent follow-up, customer service problems, or dozens of other possibilities. Whatever the source, sales slumps can linger on – or become progressively worse – and solutions can seem frustratingly out of reach.
And it’s easy for some business to become paralyzed in the “new normal” of a fast-paced, technologically-advanced and highly competitive marketplace. Customers seem to continually want more, for less.
Under these conditions, business owners need to develop a system for success and stick with it. Merely being reactive to each blip can cause you to go off in too many directions at once.
Sales slumps present an opportunity for renewing and refocusing a sales effort.
Here are seven ways to sidestep sales slumps and make your business stronger for the year ahead:
1. Review your sales process. Customers make purchasing decisions differently now than they did five or ten years ago. They seek information from more sources – both online and offline – and comparison shop on just about anything. That means your sales processes might need some changes as well. Examine your sales process for flaws and gaps that might have crept in. For example, are you gathering and distributing leads effectively? Are sales people armed with up-to-date materials and information? Are you following up inquiries quickly and effectively with information that’s valuable to customers and spotlights the unique benefits of what you sell? Establish uniform steps that sales people can follow consistently.
2. Look beyond top line revenue. Focusing only on top line numbers can frustrate a sales team. You should also look at what’s filtering down to the bottom line. For example, making sure you keep existing customers happy and return business robust will yield a better ROI since new business is more costly to attract. Make sure your sales process includes cross-sell and upsell of additional products and services to customers. Make it your goal to increase the value of your average sale over time.
3. But also keep prospecting. Strike a balance between serving existing customers and looking for new ones. When a business gets to a certain size, business owners and their employees sometimes feel like they can relax and that they are past needing to prospect all the time. Don’t fall into this trap. While it is important not to neglect existing customers, you always need to be on the lookout for new customers in anticipation of the peaks and valleys throughout the year.
4. Step up marketing. When sales subside, some businesses cut back on marketing costs. That’s probably the opposite of what you should do. But don’t just throw good money after bad if what you are doing isn’t working. Test and learn by trying new channels, approaches and messages. For example, try shifting more effort to digital marketing and email and see what happens.
5. Instill a “can-do” mentality. If you really want to kill sales, create an atmosphere of “learned helplessness.” Unfortunately, many business owners do just that and don’t realize it. To prevent “learned helplessness” stop blaming the economy, the weather, the competition or other things out of your control, and set a positive tone going forward. Empower sales people to close deals within parameters, and be responsible and accountable for their own progress.
6. Remember your roots. If you want to drive a business into the ground, forget what you did that made the business successful in the first place. Remember what made clients and prospects fall in love with your company; then go back to that.
7. Plan ahead for seasonal slowdowns. Planning ahead for seasonal slowdowns can help pull you out of future ruts. Anticipate specific months or times of year when sales trend down and feed the sales funnel before these occur.
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