by Dave Mattson
The infamous summer sales slump may be in full swing in your business, but it’s time to turn things around. By rethinking your summer sales plan, you can use a slower market to your advantage. Follow our guide to building a sales plan that withstands summer slumps and turn these notoriously slow months into productive and profitable opportunities.
Use LinkedIn for Referral Opportunities
LinkedIn gives salespeople a network of prospects that can be reached instantly. To try your hand at prospecting on LinkedIn, find potential clients that you think fit your ideal customer outline and see who you have in common. You will find that many times, you have friends or professional connections with these valuable prospects. Use LinkedIn to generate referrals by reaching out to these existing contacts and asking for an introduction to the potential clients. Most people ignore spam or sales messages on social networks, but if the referral comes from a mutual acquaintance, your message will be taken more seriously and considered. These prospects typically have a quicker velocity through the sales funnel and a higher close rate. Proactively seeking out referrals from your professional network is the perfect way to beat the summer sales slump.
Resume Contact with Potential Clients
Revisit opportunities from earlier in the year with potential clients that were not able to commit at that time, either because of a lack of funding or an existing contract with a competitor. Funding may have become available due to budget growth or cuts in other departments. Speaking with your potential clients halfway through the year lets you assess their yearly company budget.
If they are still not ready to commit, you at least have an idea of when and how to approach them at the start of the next calendar year. Make sure you are fully aware of the potential client’s company year and understand how they segment their budget. Some companies do not count January 1 as the beginning of their fiscal year. If this is the case, you may be wasting your time coming to them on the wrong dates with business opportunities.
If the company dropped a competitor, now is a perfect opportunity to discuss whether you can meet their needs better than your predecessor. Find out which aspects of the client–salesperson relationship did not work. Start with what your competitor did wrong to get an idea of how to serve your clients better in the future. The summer sales slump gives you the available time to spend following up with these potential clients to get an update.
Schedule client review meetings during the summer sales slump to prevent your current customers from considering a competing offer. Find out what the clients like about your business approach and if there is room for improvement. Although no salesperson likes to hear that their customers are unhappy, knowing it firsthand lets you decide what next steps need to be taken to rectify the situation. If the client is thrilled with the way you have handled their account, you may be able to get additional business from them through referrals or a bigger budget allocation.
Apply the Monkey’s Paw Approach
There is a sales tactic called the “Monkey’s Paw” method. Put simply, this involves getting the client to agree to a small sale up front. Once you prove the usefulness of your product or service, you can discuss a larger upsell to meet the needs discovered.
The Monkey’s Paw selling technique works great during summer sales slumps because some customers may not be ready to use their entire quarterly or yearly budget. But by establishing even a small relationship with the client, you keep your products or service at the forefront and leave an opportunity open for later contract renegotiations. Get the sale started this year and charge the customer less, and then try for the larger engagement next year. Even if you don’t get the sale during the summer sales slump, you may find some helpful information about first quarter initiatives that allow you to come back to the customer at the beginning of the fiscal year.
Participate in Sales Contests
Staying motivated is hard for sales people during the summer slump. With most businesses holding back from spending the yearly budget, salespeople start to lose their edge. Participate in company-wide sales contents to keep your focus during this slow selling period. When you join sales contests, you tie corporate goals to personal goals, making the work much more meaningful to you. Follow daily updates to see how you compare to other salespeople in the office to activate your competitive instincts, pushing you to work harder to make the sale. Company selling contests during the summer sales slump motivate you to try different approaches and care more about the results of your sales system.
Be Ready to Close the File
The summer sales slump gives you the opportunity to reach out to previous prospects to see if they are still interested in your product or service. But many times, we get an indecisive or unclear answer from those prospects. When you hear the answer, “Let me get a proposal and I’ll be in touch after my boss gets back from summer vacation”, do you immediately put that down as a probable sale? Counting these responses as anything more than denial is a mistake. These prospects have a fear of letting you down or just flat out saying “No.”
As a salesperson, you need to be ready to close the file on these potential customers. Give them the opportunity to say no without feeling guilty. How do you do this? Tell the client, “You may have gone with another product or service, and that is fine.” Then, close the file. Count that as a “No.” Without closing these files, the “Maybe” column of your sales prospects will get out of hand. If that prospect is actually waiting on someone else or a decision to be made before responding, they will quickly reach out to you to make sure you understand the situation. But being ready to accept the “No” prevents you from false hope about a nonexistent sale.
Set Clear Personal Goals
Setting clear personal goals instead of vague statements helps you understand what you need to do to reach those goals. “I will finish the year strong” is an ambiguous statement. Instead, use a statement like, “I will sell $200,000 more than last year.” Once you set your goal, you create an actionable target.
Map your personal goals with financial goals. Know how much more you have to sell to reach the next level of sales commission. This lets you draw up a behavioral plan of action to know how much you have to sell on a weekly or monthly basis to reach your yearly goals. During the summer slump, salespeople often excuse the low numbers because it is expected at that time of year. To keep yourself from falling into this sales trap, decide how many referrals and sales you need per week to reach your commission goals. Visualizing how a low sales month affects your commission goals prevents you from accepting the summer slump as an inevitable part of yearly sales.
To stay focused in your sales process during the summer slumps, make sure you lay out a strong plan before you start prospecting. What are the clear next steps in the sales process? As a salesperson, you should understand where you are in the sales funnel at all times and what it will take to get the client closer to the sale. If it is not clear to you, it is not clear to the client. Creating a checklist of talking points prior to calling makes for more productive conversations with prospects.
Using a combination of strategy, planning, prospecting, and training, you can turn around your slump and reignite your selling capabilities. Do not accept that sales are down and nothing will change. Implement fresh tactics to gain a new perspective on how to beat the dreaded summer sales slump.