Give Yourself a Break and Bust Out of a Sales Slump
Last month I had coffee with a friend I had not seen in a while. She had read my book about cultivating the sales mind-set and wanted to pick my brain about how to break out of a sales slump.
Kerry is a marketing strategist who, after spending more than fifteen years working for a large firm, decided to go out on her own. She told me that business had seemed to fall into her lap out of the gate but that recently, given the demands of her current clients, she has had difficulty staying on top of business development. She also complained that the little business development she was doing was not producing the desired results.
During the first half of our coffee chat, she spent a considerable amount of time beating herself up for the situation. She questioned her abilities not only in the area of sales but also in the area that she had hung her hat on for so many good years—marketing. She said she was considering a return to the large firm, where things had been more predictable.
I told her that if she indeed wanted to go back to a more predictable environment that she should do so with her head held high but that she should leave to move on to better things—not to escape the failure of not being able to sell. She agreed with me on this point and asked me for suggestions about how to break out of the sales slump.
Here are the suggestions that I gave her:
1) Relive your past successes on the screen of your mind
Put together an inventory of your past successes in situations when, despite things being stacked against you, you came out on top and made the sale. If it helps, tell stories to a friend and then write them down. Play these mental movies on the screen of your mind as you start your day. Instead of starting your day by questioning your abilities, you will start your day by proving to yourself that you are perfectly capable of helping your clients to solve their most taxing problems.
Take time out in between client discussions to relax and defuse any negative self-talk. By relaxing your body and mind, you will become more present and less uptight. Prospective clients will sense tightness. You are less likely to be the type of person that your clients want to do business with if you are uptight and testy.
3) Do something certain to reinforce positive self-image
At the start of each day, in addition to reliving your past successes, put yourself in high-probability situations, situations in which positive things are likely to occur. Maybe you have a half dozen past clients who really benefited from your work. Ask them if they would like to go to breakfast to talk with you about their current situations.
4) Use your mental faculty of reason
In sales we are in the game of helping our clients to make informed decisions. In most buying decisions, there are more factors outside our control than within our control. Look at your clients’ and prospective clients’ decisions logically, and find a way to use that information to improve your future interactions with prospective clients rather than beating yourself up.
5) Take action
There is no denying the need for action: You cannot improve your results by sitting behind your computer all day and allowing self-pity to take over. Take a bit of time to reflect and make a plan, but then very quickly get out there and execute the plan. A professional athlete will tell you, point blank, that the only way to get out of a slump is to play. In sales we must do that too.
As I gave Kerry these ideas for breaking out of her sales slump, she diligently took notes. I could tell that, although she was skeptical, she was committed to trying anything to decide whether the life of an independent marketing strategist was right for her.
Yesterday I got a call from Kerry. She was bubbling with delight. After a couple of weeks of following my suggestions, she landed a new client and two of her existing clients rehired her to build upon the work she had done previously. Although I took some pride in having helped her to get through the slump, I assured her that the answers had been within her.