It's summertime, and the living is easy ... but the selling is hard.
Summer can be a slow season for salespeople. Prospects are on vacation. Every email a rep sends seems to gets an automated out of office reply. Calls go unanswered. LinkedIn connection requests remain pending for days. It's a rough time for people whose job revolves around connecting.
But if you're in the midst of a summer slump, the worst thing you can do is panic. Your selling power hinges on your mindset. Letting yourself succumb to despairing thoughts such as "I'm never going to close a deal again," or "No one's going to pick up the phone today" works against you in the long run. Your negative expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Instead of lamenting your sad situation, take the following 13 steps to crawl out of your slump and get yourself back on track. Taking action will at least 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, 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.
According to NoMoreColdCalling.com, referrals are approximately 50% more likely to close than other types of leads. Unfortunately, salespeople don't seek referrals nearly as much as they should.
If your prospects are unavailable, call up 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 having to earn trust from scratch, the deal can close that 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).
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 for deals that have been in the pipeline for six months or more to close (53% of closed-won deals wrap up in the first 30 days according to Implisit data), 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 -- the ultimate goal. But if you're in the depths of a summer slump, it can be helpful to set a few mini goals as well to sustain a good amount of activity and keep your spirits high. Maybe you want to make three connect calls by the end of the day. Perhaps you're striving to present five demos this week. Whatever it is, a smaller goal can keep you pushing ahead -- especially when quota seems hopelessly out of reach. You might just find that the big number becomes a lot more attainable after you soar past a handful of smaller hurdles.
7) Change up your messaging.
No one answering your emails or calls? Draw inspiration from the season to change up your messaging. A bit of humor mixed with a dash of seasonality 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.
Okay, it's a bit of a buzzkill, but 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 you know that the prospect has a drop-dead date they need a solution in place by, 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. And isn't networking the basis of every strong sales process? Chat with the people at your hotel, or strike up 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 next, your prospect is. Add in a holiday weekend, and the back and forth scheduling emails can get old in a hurry.
To make it as easy to nail down a time as possible, consider installing a calendar app, such as You Can Book Me or Doodle. Eliminating points of friction 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. Just 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.
You know that objection you hear over and over and over? It would probably make a great basis for a blog post or ebook.
When business is slow, take time to 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.
According to survey data from Ask Your Target Market, July -- and more specifically, the second week of the month -- is vacationers' favorite. Eleven percent of respondents planned to be out of the office in June, and 36% had August vacation plans. With this in mind, reps can plan their outreach accordingly.
You might go through a sales dip in the summer, but don't let your shoulders slump. Come fall, business will be booming once more. Model your disposition after the weather -- the sunnier, the better.