Sales and Sales Management Blog

September 15, 2010

4 Steps to Busting Your Sales Slump


It amazes me the number of salespeople, business owners and even sales leaders that I talk to who complain that their or their sales team’s sales are hurting and when asked what they are going to do about it respond with “I (we) have to increase my (our) prospecting and marketing activity.”

Ah, it sounds like they have a grasp on the situation—at least until the next question is asked:  what activity?

Inevitably the answer is some version of “what I’m (we’re) doing now.”

Let’s see, here . . . They are currently doing certain prospecting and marketing activities that aren’t bringing in the business they need, so their solution is to increase the time and energy they are investing in doing the things that aren’t working in order to get them to work.

It sounds to me like they need to invest in a really good psychiatrist.

We Can’t Bust Our Sales Slump Because We’re Insane
We’re all familiar with the old saying that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.  We laughed when we first heard it—and we agreed.  We thought it such a silly idea that anyone would see that something isn’t working and then believe that the solution was to do more of it.

Ha, ha.  What idiot would be that dumb?

Us idiots, of course.

No, we’re not idiots and we’re not dumb.  But just as others have gotten so wrapped up in something that they failed to see the illogic in increasing the amount of time and energy they were investing in activities that weren’t producing the results they wanted, we also get wrapped up in trying to break out of our sales tailspins that we don’t see the folly of investing more time and energy in just doing more of what isn’t working.

We tend to think that a sales slump is simply the result of a lack of activity and consequently, simply increasing our activity will correct it.

That’s not the case.

The Anatomy of a Sales Slump
Sales slumps are generally caused by a combination of factors, any one of which could have been the original tailspin creating catalyst:

  1. Negative Expectations:  In sales attitude is second only to activity.  We tend to get what we expect if for no other reason than our prospects can read our expectations through our voice and body language and if we expect to fail, why should our prospect believe in us?

    Once negative expectations begin to weasel their way into our thinking, it’s hard to keep them from destroying our self-confidence.  Once our self-confidence is shot, for all intents and purposes we’re shot—our activity level falls off dramatically, we expect our prospecting strategies to fail, we “know” that it’s fruitless to try, so even when we do force ourselves to prospect we do so in a half assed manner.

  2. Insufficient Activity:  Although activity isn’t everything in sales, it is the single most important factor in success.  Intense activity can make up for a multitude of other sales sins.  Yet when activity seems pointless it becomes almost impossible to act.  Once the downward spiral begins we tend to get lost in our self-pity and we focus our attention on feeling sorry for ourselves instead of investing that energy in forcing ourselves to act.
  3. Wrong Strategies:  The prospecting and marketing strategies we have been using are no longer effective—either because we no longer believe in them or because they are wrong for our market. 

Busting Your Slump
So, if these are the three factors in a sales slump, the solution should be easy right?  Just change the negative expectations to positive ones, increase activity, and change up the prospecting strategies, and voila, presto-chango, you’re out of the slump.

If only it were that easy.

Busting out of a slump—or beginning to generate business if you are a new salesperson—is difficult.  It takes a great deal of resolve.  It takes dedication.  It takes learning long-term strategies to put your sales career on solid footing.

Here are four steps to getting yourself back on track (or on track if you’re new to sales):

  1. Begin Creating Your Winning Sales Attitude:  Changing your attitude from negative to positive isn’t an overnight process.  It takes time.  It takes effort.  And although you can’t wait to begin to bust your slump until your attitude has changed, you must be actively working to change your attitude while you’re digging yourself out of your slump.  A great place to start is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Get Rich.
  2. ACT:  This is the most difficult to do, but you must force yourself to act.  Fortunately if you’re working on your attitude and changing your prospecting strategies at the same time, forcing yourself to act will be a bit easier.  Action by itself will help clear your head and will begin to slowly bring in the business you so desperately need.  Yes, at first it will literally be forcing yourself to act.  There is no easy way. 
  3. Change Your Prospecting Strategies:  Whether your strategies are failing because you no longer believe in them or because they are wrong for your market is immaterial.  Finding and implementing new proven strategies will help your confidence, will take some of the feeling of hopelessness off, and will give you a new focus.  Just as a change of scenery can revitalize you, a change in prospecting strategy can also.  

    The problem is what strategies can you use that will actually produce the results you want?  Fortunately there are a number of possible strategies that can generate business quickly.  Let me mention a couple here:

    Orphans.  If you work in an established office you probably have dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of orphan files at your fingertips.  When was the last time anyone in your office worked those files?  If you work in the typical office the answer is “it’s been so long ago that no one even knows.”  But you know what?  There’s a fortune in those files just waiting for some industrious seller to mine it.  Now you can’t just start taking files at random.  There’s typically a great deal of information in old files that can help guide you to business.  Look for files that have been orphaned long enough that they might need to place another order or files that indicate they could be prospects for additional products or services.  Since you’re in the file, look for positive financial information—concentrate on those who may need and can afford you.

    Eat Your Way to Success.  You probably take a coffee break and/or go to lunch every workday.  Most of us do.  Most of us waste that time by spending it alone or with officemates.  Instead of wasting that time, turn it into business development time.  Take a client who is a great candidate for add on sales or a prospect—or a great referral partner prospect–to lunch or meet one for coffee every workday.  If you take a potential sale or referral to lunch every day, it won’t be long before your pipeline will be full.

    ‘For more detail on these two strategies as well as ten more proven, effective slump busting strategies pick up a copy of my newest book, Bust Your Slump: A Dozen Slump Busting Strategies to Fill Your Pipeline in 30 Days, available at Amazon as both a paperback and as a Kindle book.

  4. Learn Long-term Success Strategies and Skills.  Most of the strategies in Bust Your Slump won’t work for you long-term.  They are strategies that will increase your business quickly but they have a limited shelf life—how many orphan or dead files can you find?  While these short-term strategies increase your sales and your income, you must take advantage of that reprieve to learn and implement the long-term skills and strategies that will keep you from suffering another slump—or to get your new sales career on solid ground so you never suffer a slump.

You can overcome a career slump.  You don’t have to suffer with crappy sales.  You must, however, take the steps necessary to truly bust out of your slump or to put your new sales career on a solid foundation.  Just getting a spurt of new business isn’t good enough.  You have to attack the attitude and activity issues that are there and then go beyond that to creating or recreating your sales foundation.  If you’re not willing to do that you may as well go ahead and get out of sales right now since there’s really no use in prolonging the agony.

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2 Comments »

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