Every salesperson falls into a slump at some point. How you dig out determines your greatness.
Sales slumps often start as one big loss. Then it slowly feels like you haven’t heard the word “yes” since grade school. Soon, it looks like your sales funnel is pinched tight at the bottom. Everything is lost, and you won’t ever hit quota again.
Talk about an awful, sinking feeling.
Salespeople can – and must – overcome it.
These 17 proven strategies will help. And remember: It didn’t take one thing to fall into the sales slump. It probably won’t take just one strategy to climb out.
“In order for your business to grow, you have to grow,” says Mario Martinez Jr., CEO, Founder, and Digital Sales Evangelist at Vengreso, and host of the Selling with Social Podcast. “This requires an honest assessment of your deficiencies. Once it’s done, plug the hole!”
Before you can look on the bright side of things, Martinez Jr. says, you need to consider the dark side – what you’ve done wrong recently and where you can improve. Then tap the resources that work best for your development – your sales coach, YouTube videos, online courses, a mentor, etc.
2) Call the doctor
“Treat your sales slump like a medical condition,” suggests Lorraine Ferguson, author of The Unapologetic Saleswoman, sales trainer, coach and associate with Sandler Training. “To address it, you must first determine the cause.”
Like a doctor, ask the basic questions: What has changed in the last month? When did I notice a difference? What are the most persistent, consistent symptoms?
“It’s almost always a basic change in the selling process – like a slip in the number of discovery meetings or no longer establishing clear next steps at the end of a meeting,” Ferguson says. “Selling becomes complicated when we stray from what was a successful process.”
Bottom line: Get back to the basics.
3) Stop the wishful thinking
“Focus on disqualification,” says Dave Brock, CEO, Partners in EXCELLENCE, author of The Sales Manager’s Survival Guide. “Too often, sales people are looking at the wrong deals. They are driven by wishful thinking, or are pursuing deals far outside their sweet spot. These are just a waste of time.”
Instead, Brock suggests you make sure you spend the most time on the right deals – those in your sweet spot and have a real sense of urgency about doing something.
“Your win rate will skyrocket,” and once that starts to happen, the slump will feel like history.
4) Spread gratitude
Slumps tend to make people feel like everything in life is bad – and that’s when it’s the absolute most important time to recognize the good.
Spend the first few minutes of work (or even while still at home) writing three things that you’re thankful for in the job you get to do every day. Consider your fun colleagues, supportive bosses, loyal customers, challenging work, convenient location, etc.
Then thank two different people each morning for something they’ve done for you. It might be the barista at your favorite coffee shop, your spouse or kid for making you smile, a clerk at your convenience store who never fails to wish you a good day, a colleague who always greets you with sincere interest.
Gratitude breeds positive attitudes and outcomes.
5) Aim lower
Set an easy goal you know you can achieve before your mid-day. But don’t make the goal a “yes,” which is beyond your control. Instead, focus on a quantitative goal that only you’re responsible for achieving – X number of calls, emails, prospects qualified, etc.
The key is to achieve your goal because success creates success in your otherwise unsuccessful situation. If you achieve this one goal, you’ll regain confidence. The bonus will be getting a “yes” during your pursuit of the quantity goal.
6) Master your destiny
“Don’t be a prisoner to your history,” Martinez Jr. says. “Be the person who masters your destiny.”
Eventually, it’s time to look on the bright side of your current, dismal situation. Put what happened yesterday off you radar because it “doesn’t make a difference to what you choose to do today,” Martinez says.
One way: Change course and try a different approach to your normal sales activities. Prospect a list you’d normally toss. Visit clients you believe are lost causes. Make cold calls at a different time or day.
7) Prepare differently
Top salespeople – those who hit slumps less frequently and for shorter periods of time – prepare for anything, especially negative circumstances. That helps them avoid slumps, or when they get in one, have the tools to dig out quickly.
You want to think of every negative sales circumstance and systematically construct a way to handle them. Include the actual slump – not just what can lead to it – in your list of negative circumstances. Consider the weaknesses in your product, position, selling style, funnel management, etc.
Try these four steps to get positive power from negative preparation:
- List questions, concerns, objections and circumstances that will have negative effects on your work.
- Create clear and logical responses to them.
- Build ways to get ahead of these negative circumstances, such as knowing and reciting positive stories, anecdotes, testimonials, statistics and facts.
- Keep your ideas and details organized so you can reference them easily when you face negative circumstances or need to rebound from them.
8) Schedule up
Sales slumps mean fewer client and prospect meetings. So salespeople might be inclined to spread out those meetings, hoping to figure out the problem, better prepare, and possibly create more time for prospecting.
But the opposite often helps salespeople propel themselves out of a slump: Fill your schedule with as many meetings as possible, with just enough time to give one client or prospect all the necessary attention before moving to the next.
It only takes a few consecutive successful meetings to reignite the fire. Like it’s been said, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” It’s the only way out.
9) Stop trying to close
When salespeople are in a slump, one, panicked thought usually tops their mind: Will I ever close a deal again?
So a slumped salesperson starts to focus singularly on closing a deal. And that continues to elude him or her.
Instead, when in a slump, pivot to helping more customers and prospects. Focus more on their issues. Go so far as to turn back from deals that aren’t a right fit for prospects.
The pivot to helping often creates a change in the tone of your interactions with prospects from pushing for a sale to pulling to assist. And that more likely leads to closing.
10) Switch the shift
“Mind your mind,” Ferguson says. “It can do a number on you if you start to feed it the negative.”
Take on simple, positive habits – listening to uplifting music on your way to a sales call, steering clear of toxic people, tuning into inspirational podcasts, beginning each day with a positive affirmation.
“The affirmation I like most is, ‘I am a money magnet. It just finds me!'” Ferguson says.
11) Ask for help
This might be the hardest advice for most salespeople to take: If you’re in a slump, ask for help.
We get it: You salespeople are thick-skinned, self-sufficient entrepreneurs. You don’t need help.
But there’s no reason to be a martyr in your sales slump. Your colleagues, manager and/or mentor have survived slumps. They likely will have new perspective on your old problem and can give practical advice on how to rebound. Or they might just listen and say the right words to rebuild your confidence.
12) Get coached
Even when salespeople ask for help, they may not immediately get insight specific to their current situation – or worse, they may not accept the feedback they requested.
In some situations, salespeople in slumps want to go one step further than asking for help: Ask for coaching. Have someone you respect – a colleague or boss with sales expertise – listen to your calls, watch you network and evaluate your presentations. Commit to taking and acting on the honest advice they give.
And if you don’t have a go-to coach, do some self-coaching. Use video or audio recording to get your calls or presentations on tape. Review those, or ask friends and family to take a look, and ask, “Would you buy from me based on what you see and hear?”
13) Focus on the vision, not the circumstances
Anyone facing a challenge struggles to see beyond it – especially salespeople in a slump. That’s when it’s time set your sights differently.
“Live in a vision, not in the circumstances. A vision is hard to beat,” Martinez Jr. suggests. “Just because you are in a slump today doesn’t change the fact that you have a dream to catch.”
Refocus on the goal – whether it’s a quota, a reward you’ll give yourself when you succeed, career movement or the satisfaction you anticipate.
14) Work earlier and/or later
Don’t get us wrong. We’re proponents of balance. But a slump is no time for balance.
The act of arriving earlier or working later can change your perspective on how to achieve things. It’ll give you a leg up on the day, competition and lagging numbers.
Yes, you’ll work longer, but you’ll have more opportunities to connect with prospects, take care of customers and plan a different strategy. You need to plan and act in different ways because the old habits are likely what put – and will keep – you in the slump.
15) Do what you do best
Salespeople are often pushed outside their comfort zone to achieve goals. When you’re outside too long, some failures are bound to happen – and a slump can follow.
Sometimes it’s best to step back into your comfort zone, where you’re totally in your element and can succeed with one hand tied behind your back. Go ahead and get in that zone: Do something else – relevant to your job or not – that you’re really good doing.
Maybe it’s video games, running, cooking, crunching numbers, playing cards or writing poetry. Put yourself in a good mental place – where you’re “killing it” – and sales success can follow.
16) Be the mentor
Similarly, try helping other people who need teaching or mentoring (if they need it or ask for it, of course).
When salespeople are in a slump, they usually feel like they aren’t good at anything. But if you step up as a leader, teacher or mentor, you’ll probably realize you know and are good at more than you believed. Coaching or mentoring will reignite your self-esteem.
In sharing your knowledge, you might even recognize something you’ve let fall by the wayside. And if you get back to task on that, you could rebound from the slump.
17) Spend beyond your means
Sales expert Colleen Francis suggests buying something outside of your current budget when you’re in a slump. Of course, she’s not suggesting you rack up credit card debt. The idea is to give yourself extra incentive to earn more money. So you want to purchase or plan something that’s a reward as well as an extravagance.
For example, Francis books a top-notch trip for six months out. Or she’ll sign up for training that she’s excited to attend in a place that’s new to her. That makes the tougher strategies – such as going in early or changing routines – a lot easier to execute.