Sales people who are struggling with the economy now or those who just have a poor start at the beginning of a year, often find themselves struggling for the rest of the year to catch up. The good news is, whatever you’re experiencing, we’ve all been there at least once. The bad news is, most of us don’t know exactly how to snap out of a slump, and start making sales.
First – don’t panic! If you’re in panic mode, you can’t be creative, and creativity is exactly what you need right now. Besides, just as dogs can smell fear in humans, prospects can smell desperation in sales people. If you panic, your prospects will sense that you’re desperate, and they’ll avoid you like last night’s leftover Tuna Surprise. Just take a deep breath, stay calm and focus on what needs to be done.
Next, don’t get down on yourself. Think about a time in your past when you were in a similar situation, and how you were able to climb out if it. Focus on that positive experience, instead of focusing on the negative. Put your energy towards what you can change, rather than towards what you can’t. For example, you can’t change the global economic situation, you can change the way you sell through it!
Third, don’t get angry. Anger will be misinterpreted by your clients, peers and managers as being emotional or out of control. When you’re in a slump more than at any other time, you need to be totally in control, and assure others around you that you know exactly what to do. Whenever you find yourself becoming angry, try to be as honest as possible, and focus on solutions and options – not on laying blame.
Last but most definitely not least, don’t quit! The worst thing you can do during a slump is to stop trying. The Chicago White Sox were on the verge of a 90-year slump before winning the World Series in 2005. Yet during that entire period, their team motto stayed the same: “Win, or die trying.” Guess it paid off for them in the end.
Remember: there could be an almost unlimited number of reasons why you’re in a slump. It could be the economy, for example. But even in a poor economy, there are top performing sales people, and those who just scrape by. Admitting that your success is up to you is the first step in getting out of a slump, and getting your career back on track.
To help you snap out of a slump and get your year back on track, try some of the following tips, adapted from the strategies of the Top 10%:
1. Reconnect to your plan.
Review your goals and either recommit to the action plan you set for yourself at the beginning of the year – or create a new one! One client of mine recalculates his plan after every month he doesn’t hit his quota, to ensure his quota for the next month includes both what he was supposed to do PLUS whatever he missed last month. This helps him redefine his actions and gain clarity on exactly how many calls he needs to make, meetings he needs to secure and business he needs to close to get back on track. If you had a really bad month, you could perhaps work your underage into the next 2-3 months to make it more attainable.
2. Get back to basics.
Once, after Tiger Woods had spent hours on the practice green sinking hundreds of puts, a commentator asked him why he was still practicing considering how consistent he had been. Tiger responded: “I don’t like the way the ball is rolling into the cup.” That’s mastering the basics.
As Tiger knows full well, problems aren’t usually caused by something complicated. They’re usually the result of doing the simplest thing just slightly wrong. And more often than not, we know exactly what the problem is. In my experience, for example, slumps are almost always caused by not having enough qualified buyers in the pipeline – in other words, not enough prospecting. If you’re in a slump, start by looking internally, not externally. Remember that the slump is your slump, not someone else’s. Be strong enough to realize this, and take corrective action.
3. Work smarter and harder.
Think of 10 things you could do this week to work more effectively. Then commit to working just a little bit harder until you’re out of this bad spell. So you have to be out of “balance” for a short time. Would you rather that you’re out of balance, or your checkbook? The choice is yours.
4. Get a coach.
Have someone you respect listen to your phone calls, watch you at networking events and evaluate your presentations. This could be a manager, a colleague, a friend or a hired gun. Whoever you choose, ask them to be honest with you, and when they are, do something with the advice they give you.
5. Coach yourself.
Video or audio tape your presentations and calls, and be honest with yourself. Would you buy from you?
6. Change your presentation.
Maybe it’s time to turn your presentation style upside down, or inside out. What you’re doing now obviously isn’t working, so if you want a different result, you have to do something different. Try starting with the end, or in the middle. And while we’re talking about change, everyone should read the cover story of the June 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine: “Change or die.” It’s an excellent article on why change is so hard – yet so necessary.
7. Stay away from life suckers.
You know who they are. The one who lies in wait at the water cooler, just so they can whine, moan and complain to whatever poor, parched soul happens to wander by. The one lurking in the lunchroom way past 1pm to tell you about how nothing is ever right, and they’re always getting the short end of the stick.
When you’ve slept only 4 hours, they were up all night. If you have a stomachache, they’ve got near-fatal food poisoning. When you have a headache, you better believe they’ve got a migraine. Life suckers can’t help you; they have problems of their own.
8. Get to work earlier.
Yes, I know, you’re already screaming at me: “Colleen, I need balance!” Not while you’re in a slump, you don’t. Right now, you’re behind, and you need to do something about it. Only the mediocre use balance as their battle cry during a slump. So suck it up for this short period, and save the balance until you’re back on top.
9. Change your mood.
Listen to your favorite song, comedian or motivational speaker in the car on your way to your next sales meeting. This will help put you into an excellent, upbeat mood when you start your presentation, which will cause you to shine – and your prospect to take a shine to you.
10. Change your environment.
This could be as simple as de-cluttering your office. It’s impossible to feel fresh and excited about what you do if you can’t see your desk. A chaotic work environment will make you depressed to be there, and if you’re depressed to be at work, you won’t snap out of your slump.
Changing your environment could also mean – gasp, yes, it’s true! – taking the day off from selling! If you need motivation, go sit in a coffee shop or someplace with a nice view and read books and articles on positive attitude and self-development. If you need to be re-created, take a hike (literally), and then come back to the office re-energized and ready to take on the world.
Personally, I find that getting away for around 4 days (say, Thursday-Sunday, as I’m doing as I write this to you right now) can dramatically help me to create, re-organize and re-energize. It’s also one of the best ways I know of to avoid another slump in the future.
11. Follow a leader.
Trail the best sales person you know on their calls for a day. See what they’re doing differently than you, and how you can incorporate those ideas in your business. Note that this doesn’t have to be someone from the office. You can learn a lot from watching sales people in other industries, too.
12. Take your boss to work.
Take your boss with you on calls for a week. This will force you to be more prepared and on your best behavior. You’ll also probably receive more feedback than you probably want. Instead of rejecting this feedback, use it to be better.
13. Prove that money can buy a little happiness.
Buy something you can’t afford. This is radical, I know, and not many of you will like this idea or think it’s responsible of me to suggest it. But it works better for me than any other “counter slump maneuver” I know of, so I felt it wouldn’t be right not to at least share the possibility with you.
Of course, I don’t mean racking up all your credit cards to the limit buying gold toilets, and then spending the next twenty years paying them off at 21% interest. What I mean – and what I personally do – is book a first-class trip for 6 months from now. Then, I have to make more sales to earn the money to go. Or book a training class 9 months from now, and again you’ll be motivated to sell more in order to pay for it. I don’t know about you, but for me, the “coming into work early” and all the other hard tasks on this list get a whole lot easier to embrace when I know that I have a trip to Hawaii coming up in a few months, which I really don’t want to cancel.
Having a slump is not the end of the world, so long as it’s short, temporary and you know what to do about it.
Know what motivates you. Be disciplined – it’s the one thing that separates the best from the mediocre – and stay focused on those activities that you know will pull you out of the slump. And remember to keep it all in perspective. You are responsible for your slump, and only you can change it. But you can change it, and once you accept the fact that you can reverse your fortune, you’ll already be on the road to recovery.
Believe in yourself. I know you can do it.