Ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut? That routine which has you doing the same old thing for too long rendering you incapable of seeing the wood from the trees. Now imagine that your business is stuck in a rut.
When you started your business you most probably had great ambitions and wanted to build something that you could be proud of and maybe even leave to your kids one day. To get to that position where you can hand over a profitable business takes a fair amount of work and for the vast majority of us, many, many years. But what happens when your business starts to stall and you seem to be growing at a far slower pace than usual, or even worse, not at all?
For the rest of the blog we’ll walk you through how you’ll know you’re actually in a sales slump and what you can do about it if you are before it becomes an irreversible trend.
How can you tell that you’re in a slump?
A slump is generally referred to as a decrease in performance over a period of time. A slump does not happen overnight and is probably found in your profits and revenue – at least, that’s what Adrian Miller, a business growth advisor, sales trainer and content marketer, says. And if it’s profit and revenue, it’s probably your sales.
Although your phone may still ringing and the orders are coming through, you may have noticed that your business has plateaued somewhat. A common reaction by many small business owners may be to lay the blame solely at your sales staff’s feet, which may be the correct assumption. However, what if there is more to your business’ stalling revenue than meets the eye? Here’s what you need to ask:
Are your sales team proactive or reactive?
Take a look at your business and check to see how proactive you are at procuring new business. Is it a high priority or is your main priority looking after your current clients? If your priority as an owner lies in only looking after your current clients, then your sales staff are more than likely to be order takers rather than order makers.
Of course it is an essential part of any business to grow and maintain your existing client base, but the big issue is if your business is solely reliant on a few big clients with little or no new business coming into your sales funnel. This leaves you vulnerable if, and when, a client relocates, goes out of business or simply decides to no longer use your services. You need a backup plan and your sales team is your safety net, but not if they’re only order takers.
Order takers are not the type of sales rep you would want in your business if new business is your priority. Order takers are generally defined as a person with a sales title yet they do not sell anything at all. They get their orders through current clients or walk ins, and are generally content with this status quo. They are rarely, if ever, out on the road or on the phone working hard at making new connections.
It must be remembered that sales is about the acquisition of new clients, not just the maintenance and renewal of existing clients (1). If your team are a majority of order takers then there may be a few causes:
- It may be as result of who they are and their personality (read lazy)
- They simply don’t follow an effective sales process
- It may be as a result of poor sales training
- It may be down to how you’ve structured your compensation plans
What steps can you take to turn around your sales slump?
As with anything in business there are no quick fixes, however if you really want to turn around your stagnant sales and get your business back on track you’ll need to follow these few tips:
1. Change your compensation plans and add rewards
By changing the way your staff are compensated will make an immediate shift in their attitudes towards prospecting for new business. If they are incentivised – and rewarded – to generate new business your team will realise that waiting for business to fall in their lap is not the smartest move for them if they want to improve their earnings.
2. Train your staff on effective prospecting
There are a ton of resources, both paid and free, available for your staff to upskill themselves in the art of selling. You need to make training easily accessible, and if you can afford it, pay for them to attend. However upskilling should not fall solely on your shoulders, it should become a cultural shift where constant education is a habit not a once off thing whenever the boss cracks the whip.
3. Review your account list
Go back and review your contact list of previous clients and find out which ones your staff haven’t talked to in a while. This is something that can be done on a regular basis and can really help you when times are tough. Remember these contacts may have slipped off your radar a long time ago, but it can’t hurt to reconnect with them to see where your business could possibly fit in.
4. Employ an effective lead generation strategy
It does no good blaming the sales staff and making them work harder when you do very little in the way of marketing your business. By employing an effective inbound marketing strategy that generates leads straight into your sales system you will greatly improve your sales staff’s morale. Imagine they arrive at work every day and a new lead is waiting there for them to follow up on – we’re pretty sure your sales team will thank you for that!
5. Relook your business model
While we realise you started the business with a plan in mind, the fact of the matter is your model may be outdated and people no longer want what you’re offering. Although the thought of that sucks, it will be worse if you realise this too late. You need to take a good hard look at what it is you offer and see where you could move with the times and offer something that customers will need from you.
A great insight from Adrian in the video below stresses that having great customer service does not cut it anymore. As she said “No-one is going to say their customer service is poor” and “Great customer service is not being different”. This is very true in my opinion, and with the market as competitive as it is you’ve got to go over and above everyone else. This could take the form of a niche offering that none of your competitors are doing which gives you some advantage. You have to ask yourself how and why your business and your service is different.
Don’t take my word for it through, check out what Adrian had to say in the video answering a question from a printing business:
A slump in sales can happen at any time and can be as a result of a few issues and not always solely your sales team’s fault. Taking steps to avoid a slump takes a collective effort from the owners of a business, the managers as well as each individual sales staff.
To avoid a slump look to:
- Relook your current business model and modernise it if necessary.
- Change your culture to focus on acquiring new business not simply look after existing clients.
- Having great customer service is longer good enough. Offer something more.
- Hire order makers not order takers.
- Incentivise your sales staff through their compensation to create new business.
- Constantly educate your sales staff and encourage them to constantly upskill themselves.
- Look to improve your marketing to assist the sales team with lead generation.
Have you ever been in a sales slump? What strategies have you taken to get yourself out of one? We would love to hear your stories!
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**Video was first seen on the Infusionsoft Blog