It's summertime, and the living is easy — but the selling is hard. Even the most prolific salespeople aren't immune to the summer slowdown.
When prospects are on vacation, calls go unanswered, and LinkedIn connection requests remain pending for days. It's a rough time for people whose job revolves around connecting.
But the worst thing you can do is panic amid a summer slowdown. Instead, check out these 15 tactics to get back on track during a slow season.
A Data-Backed History of Summer Slumps
How will this summer compare to past pre-pandemic summers? To find out, HubSpot surveyed 100,000+ customers around the globe and compared their summer results to pre-pandemic benchmarks.
Here are a few key takeaways.
Good news: In 2021, businesses saw a higher deal closings rate than in pre-pandemic years.
Industries with the most significant growth include Leisure and Hospitality (+44.7%), Manufacturing (+13.65%), and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (+10.62%). Industries with the slowest growth were Construction and Financial Activities.
Having trouble seeing this graph? Click here for a PDF.
Now the bad news. Last summer, global traffic dipped across almost all industries and segments. Unlike in pre-pandemic years, businesses saw less website traffic and fewer qualified leads.
Having trouble seeing this graph? Click here for a JPEG.
June of 2020 was the month with the most seasonal changes or slumps. The industries that saw the largest dips in traffic were Construction (-12%), Financial Activities (-11%), and Manufacturing (-7.2%).
The data is clear — businesses experienced more deal closings but less traffic last summer than in pre-pandemic years. If you notice these trends with your own business, continue reading to learn the best tips for increasing sales in the summer.
How to Bounce Back From a Summer Slump, According to Sales Leaders
Here are 15 tips to get yourself back on track during the summer. Taking action will improve your attitude and, at best, snowball into a steady stream of sales.
1. Prospect, prospect, prospect.
No movement at the bottom of your pipeline? Take some time to refill the top.
According to Colleen Francis, founder and president of Engage Selling, the secret to beating quota month after month is to maintain a consistently full pipeline. This way, even if you miss your number once, you're laying the groundwork to crush quota in the future — and possibly make up for your slow period.
2. Tune into trigger events.
Just because people are on vacation during the summer doesn't mean business screeches to a halt. Paying attention to trigger events and using them as sales openings is a best practice year-round but can be particularly helpful during a slump.
Set up Google alerts for your prospects' companies to keep abreast of any major announcements. If relevant news is announced — big or small — pounce on the opportunity to send a message connecting your offering and/or expertise to the event.
In addition, keep an eye on buyers' LinkedIn profiles and take note of changes. New title? Updated summary? Send a message and rekindle the conversation.
3. Seek referrals.
"I like to call top customers in July to check in regarding the state of our relationship and see if there are other divisions or connections that can use similar help," Dan Tyre, Marketing Fellow at HubSpot, adds.
If your prospects are unavailable, call your customers and ask if they know anyone who could benefit from your product or service. Because you'll be kickstarting your relationship with the referred prospect with a personal recommendation instead of earning trust from scratch, the deal can close much faster.
Since you're calling happy customers anyway, you might as well inquire about their usage of your product or service and ask if they're bumping up against any of the limits. If so, time for an upselling conversation. Remember — sales isn't all hunting, all the time. Farming can be just as profitable (and is often far easier). In fact, half of companies see 11-30% of their revenue come from upselling.
5. Revisit old deals.
Remember that prospect who said it wasn't the right time a few months ago? Well, it just might be the right time now.
While it's unlikely that deals in the pipeline for six months or more will close, it doesn't hurt to give it one last-ditch effort.
Consider sending a breakup email to the prospects you put on ice a while back. This type of message is especially effective at generating responses. Once you get the prospect talking again, you can determine whether the deal is worth pursuing further or if it's time to purge it from your pipeline.
6. Set a goal.
Of course, you have a quota to hit — that's the ultimate goal. But if you're in the depths of a summer slump, it can be helpful to set a few mini goals to sustain a good amount of activity and keep your spirits high.
Maybe you want to make three calls by the end of the day. Perhaps you're striving to present five demos this week. A smaller goal can keep you pushing ahead — especially when the quota seems hopelessly out of reach. You might find that the big number becomes much more attainable after you soar past a handful of smaller hurdles.
Salespeople say that setting goals or receiving clear goals and expectations is the number one aspect of internal sales culture that helps them succeed.
7. Change up your messaging.
Is no one answering your emails or calls? Draw inspiration from the season to change up your messaging. A bit of seasonal humor can go a long way in grabbing buyers' interest.
For example, you might kick off a voicemail with "You're probably on a beach somewhere now, but ... " or, "If you can pull yourself away from the barbecue ..." Of course, the more rapport you have with the prospect, the more effective these blips of humor will be.
8. Remind prospects about upcoming obligations or deadlines.
There's nothing like reminding a prospect about a looming fall deadline to ramp up the urgency. It can be hard to concentrate on — and plan for — the months ahead during the dog days of summer.
If the prospect needs a solution in place by [X] date or an upcoming goal they're at risk of missing, gently nudge them to take action now — before it's too late.
9. Network on vacation.
Sales reps deserve some R&R, so be sure to take some time off from the everyday grind. For maximum vacation restoration, leave your laptop behind and turn your cell phone off.
But just because you've cast your go-to tools aside doesn't mean you have to stop networking. Chat with the people at your hotel, or start conversations with the folks one umbrella over on the beach. You might just find a referral source — or, better yet, a new prospect.
10. Make it easy for prospects to schedule meetings with you.
Summer is often a frustrating time to book meetings. One week you're on vacation. The following week, your prospect is. Add in a holiday weekend, and the back-and-forth scheduling emails can get old quickly.
Consider installing a calendar app like You Can Book Me or Doodle to make it easy to nail down a time. Eliminating friction points in the buying process can boost your merit in prospects' eyes and make them more likely to buy from you.
11. Ask your director about sweetening the pot.
Every business goes through sales slumps, and it's the job of sales managers and directors to formulate a company-wide strategy to combat them. Odds are, if you're having a dry spell, some of your colleagues are too.
Approach your manager about levers you can pull to get more prospects biting — discounts, freebies, relaxed contract terms, etc. Salespeople say that this strategy works, and offering discounts/promotions not only increases sales but also draws in new customers, which is exactly what you’re looking for during a challenging summer pipeline.
To convert new customers during a summer slowdown, the most effective discounts to consider offering are bundling your products, free trials, and loyalty programs (if applicable to your business model).
Be mindful that these options should only be used as a last resort. You should always strive to sell buyers on value, not price or terms.
12. Collaborate on new marketing collateral.
When business is slow, consult with colleagues in marketing about new collateral. As a sales rep, you're in a prime position to identify topics that would resonate with buyers. If you provide marketers with the idea, they can bring it to life. And a new piece of content that effectively attracts or nurtures leads means more prospects for you to sell to down the line.
13. Plan your outreach according to when people are on vacation.
It's common knowledge that summer is vacation time. But certain weeks are more popular than others.
For example, you can almost guarantee an automated reply the week of July 4th. In fact, according to data from Tripadvisor, July and August are the most popular vacation months. With this in mind, reps can plan their outreach accordingly.
14. Take advantage of the summer holidays.
Although the summer holidays can make outreach challenging, they provide an excellent opportunity to market and advertise your business’ products and services. Draw inspiration from the summer holidays to create advertisements that show prospects how your business can benefit them throughout the summer.
You could, for example, pick a date and capture prospects' attention by sending targeted emails for holiday sales.
The list below are key summer holidays to consider:
- Memorial Day: Last Monday of May
- Father's Day: Third Sunday of June
- Independence Day: The Fourth of July
To capture your prospects and customers' attention in an unique way, you can leverage more memorable and humorous summer holidays in your outreach:
- National Donut Day: First Friday of June
- Take Your Dog to Work Day: First Friday after Juneteenth
- National Handshake Day: Last Thursday of June
- Get to Know Your Customers Day: Third Thursday of July
- Talk in an Elevator Day: Last Friday of July
15. Develop an out-of-home marketing strategy.
During the summer, your prospects will spend less time in the office and more time on vacation. Whether your audience takes a flight far from home or opts for a staycation, they will spend less time looking at computer screens and more time looking at out-of-home and direct mailers.
According to a 2021 study by the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, out-of-home advertising leads consumers to discover new businesses and brands. About 34% of consumers in large urban areas say out-of-home advertising influenced their decision to buy a product.
Invest in billboards, bus shelters, mailers, and other out-of-home and direct mail advertising to reach your prospects outside their inboxes and keep your business top of mind during their summer vacations.
Back To You
You might go through a sales dip in the summer, but don't let your shoulders slump. Come fall, the business will be booming once more. Model your disposition after the weather — the sunnier, the better.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2022 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.