Tips to Overcome Decline in Sales

Tips to Overcome Decline in Sales

In sales, there are several things that demoralize such as a decrease in the value of sales.

Financial implications aside, as a business owner, your self-confidence takes a hit when you can’t sell effectively.

Here are six ways to deal with declining sales.

1. Check your expectations

Could it be that the decline you are experiencing now is actually not a problem?

Sometimes a sales drop that looks like a disaster is actually a correction.

Have you recently gone through a period of great growth? Sales slumps often come immediately after a big sales period.

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Have you ever seen a rookie soccer player break into the big leagues and have a hot first season? Commentators and fans alike were excited by the new talent—and then the player continued his mediocre career.

What actually happened here? The answer is statistics.

Of the total rookie pool, one or two will have had a very good season. Even the average player has a better-than-average set of plays as often as possible.

But then they go back to being average.

The same can happen in business sales. If you had an unusually high sales quarter, was it because of something you did? Or is it random fluctuation?

If your sales slump after a peak period, is there an obvious cause? Otherwise, it might just go back to normal.

This is a statistical concept called “ regression to the mean ,” and it is responsible for many errors.

If you have an unusually high or low sales quarter—but nothing has changed about your sales program, marketing, product, or market—the odds are high that you’ll be back to average next month.

When you look at your sales projections, make sure you ask how your specific strategies and tactics are driving the numbers.

If there is a seemingly unexplained increase in sales (followed by a decline), regression to the average can work.

2. Find the cause—diagnose the decline in sales

Sometimes you will not find a clear explanation. And it doesn't matter. But if you track sales processes and metrics, you may be able to find loopholes that you can improve on.

Back to the basic question. “What could have caused all this?”

Sometimes you will not find a clear explanation. And it doesn’t matter. But if you track sales processes and metrics, you may be able to find loopholes that you can improve on.

Maybe something about your promotion went wrong, or the prospect didn’t qualify properly. Do you have lead issues? Presentation problems? Follow-up issues? Closing problem ?

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There are various potential explanations. To diagnose the problem:

  • Find out at what point in the process a lead cools down
  • Ask lost prospects directly what’s keeping them from buying

For larger products/services, you may have the opportunity to follow up on lost leads by phone or email.

For ecommerce businesses or lower-priced deals, a simple survey sent after a deal is lost can give you a lot of answers.

Here are some reasons you might improvise to increase sales

  • Bad training
  • Poor product knowledge
  • Bad attitude management
  • Bad sales record
  • Poor organizational reputation
  • Poor product quality, distribution or organizational support
  • Organization-focused sales strategy vs. customer
  • Sales compensation that only rewards results and not focused activities
  • Excessive administrative responsibilities
  • Poor area potential
  • Unsupportive management
  • Poor sales management training skills
  • Organizational culture that does not encourage honest communication
  • Lack of clear goals, objectives and focus
  • Poor organization and management of time and territory

Finding the cause can be a big step in dealing with declining sales.

3. How serious? Do analysis

If you’ve found the cause of the drop in sales, how difficult is it to fix it?

If the cause is a minor glitch in your process—for example, a form on your website stops working—the fix can be important and easy to implement.

If the cause is more serious—for example, your marketing message doesn’t highlight the most important benefits of your product and the prospect arrives poorly qualified—you may have more work on your hands.

Understanding the seriousness of the cause can help you determine the next steps.

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Yes, you should continue to sell—but if your marketing is off, you may want to improve your message before you rework the full call.

4. Look for small wins

Maybe you start with a qualified prospect. Maybe you're talking to an existing customer. Maybe you did a little prospecting.

When you plan from adversity, give yourself something easy to achieve.

Maybe you start with a qualified prospect. Maybe you’re talking to an existing customer. Maybe you did a little prospecting.

A small win can help you increase your full workload again. Research shows that small wins increase confidence and productivity because they give you a sense of progress and accomplishment.

If you’re a little nervous when you make a call, collecting a few small wins can help get you back into your rhythm.

5. Practice and practice

Every sales call or meeting is a little different—but there are elements and principles that stay the same.

When was the last time you listened to your own tune?
In a provocative article for the New Yorker , author and surgeon Atul Gawande asks an interesting question—why don’t surgeons have coaches?

He points out that the top athletes in every sport have coaches—people who research their game and point out areas to work on.

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But surgeons and other professionals rarely get this kind of feedback. Once traditional training is offered, they receive relatively few opportunities to improve.

Listening to your own tune is a way for you to train yourself.

Make fake calls with coworkers, or just use a sample lead and make the call yourself. They lock step here?

And make sure you record all of this.

Record yourself on a mock call, then play back the tape. How does that sound? Do you see areas for improvement? Are there things you could explain better, or cues from your dummy prospect (if any) that you don’t understand?

Practice is a great way to improve your overall skills, but it’s especially helpful when you’re trying to deal with declining sales.

Especially if sales are only a small part of what you do—playing back fake phone records can really help you smooth out your promotion and boost your confidence.

6. Keep doing it

You can’t deal with a drop in sales if you stop selling. If you’ve built a few small wins and regained your confidence, it’s time to get back to selling.

Stay ahead of prospects. If your sales slump is the result of an average regression, staying in front of more leads will lead to increased sales.

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