Planning for and Surviving Sales Slumps

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Even the best salespeople have the occasional “off” days. But when bad days turn into bad weeks or even months, you're now in a sales slump. Weathering a long sales slump is tough but not impossible, if you take the time to prepare for it well in advance. And once you're in a slump, it helps if you take action right away to get out of it.

Before the Slump Hits

Should a major slump arrive, you can bet you will be suffering both financial and emotional pain.

The wise salesperson can make some preparations that will minimize both kinds of problems.

  • Build up a “rainy day” account during fat months. First, figure out your magic number: how much money you spend on essential bills and purchases every month. If your commissions for a given month are higher than that number, put most of the overage into an emergency savings account. Then spend the rest on something fun, because you've earned it! If you have a slow month later on, your “rainy day” account will protect you from financial disaster.
  • Establish a network. Business contacts are another kind of money in the bank. If your usual sales tactics just aren't working, you can turn to your business network for help. Remember that this needs to be a two-way street; if you give leads to your contacts, they are much more likely to help you in return.
  • Keep your existing customers happy. A few weeks or a month after a sale, call up the customer and ask if everything is OK and if they have any questions about the product. It's not a bad idea to send out holiday cards as well. Satisfied customers will be inclined to send their friends and associates to you, which can provide an extra revenue stream even in tough times.

    Surviving a Slump

    OK, your sales have been way down for days and you're starting to feel like you couldn't sell a hamburger to a starving mongrel. Don't panic: you may be able to jump-start your sales with the following tactics.

    • Examine the “why.” Before you can fix the problem, you need to know what it is. There are two possible causes: external and internal. External causes are ones that are imposed on you from outside, like economic slowdowns or industry problems. They will usually affect your co-workers' numbers as well as your own. On the other hand, if your sales are plummeting and everyone else is doing fine, the cause is probably internal.
    • Cope with external causes. External problems are out of your control by their very nature. If your company or industry has recently gotten a lot of bad press, for example, your sales will be affected no matter what you do. Still, you can soften the blow by meeting the issue head-on. Now is the time to sit down and develop a new pitch that addresses the problem directly. If it's a global issue such as a recession, work up a pitch that focuses on how your product or service can help. If it's an industry- or company-wide issue, talk about how your company is resolving it. If you have friends in the marketing department, they can probably give you some good arguments to use.
    • Resolve the internal causes. Sales is based largely on emotion, so it's not surprising that your personal life can affect your performance. Or perhaps your pitch has gotten stale or you've been relying too long on the same set of leads; if you are bored with your own pitch, prospects will notice! Whatever the cause, blasting yourself out of your comfort zone can help shift your emotional outlook.

      If your usual strategy is based on cold calling, try firing up the social networking tools like Facebook or Twitter. If you normally do lots of e-marketing, get out and pound the pavement with some door-to door calling. Build a new pitch that focuses on completely different aspects of the product. Approach an entirely new market segment. By making radical changes to your technique, you can get your mental juices flowing and generate some energy and excitement.

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