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Overcoming A Selling Slump

Improve your sales in any economic conditions.

Forget tough. Today’s competition is fierce. Sales are down for many businesses, for a variety of reasons. So what should you do? Wait for the phone to ring? Wait for things to turn around? Cut prices? Price so low you can’t make a decent profit? Worry to the point where your lack of confidence is written all over you when you’re interacting with your customers, employees and co-workers? Of course not.

When it comes to worry, keep this in mind: Worry is like moving on a rocking chair. It keeps you going but gets you nowhere.

Below are methods and mindsets to put you in the right frame of mind and get you back on track if your sales are down. If you have been one of the fortunate distributors who have been meeting or exceeding your business goals, remember the Number One Rule for successful businesses and sales pros today: Never get too comfortable where you are. Your competitors are vying for the business of your customers, and new competitors are emerging daily—many from non-traditional sources boasting new business models that challenge the status quo. The moment you think you’re ahead of them, they will have the advantage.

Eliminate Negative Thinking
Fretting and worrying will not help you when your sales are down. They will hold you back. You cannot excel at anything unless you keep yourself in the right frame of mind. This requires balancing your ability to be realistic and objective, controlling your emotions and working harder.

Excessive worry will block you from functioning effectively and keep you from putting your best foot forward. If you begin thinking that you won’t make a sale, then you probably won’t. If customers sense your apprehension or pessimism, then they’ll look toward another provider who thinks, acts and talks like a winner. Get on the phones and start dialing. Spend more time face to face with customers. Ask for referrals from happy customers. Building relationships is key. Call on past customers who have stopped doing business with your company. Find out why. Sound optimistic and convincing. Act like a winner, even if you haven’t won the race for a while. Just like a thoroughbred that wears blinders to keep his eyes on the finish line without getting distracted, forge ahead on blind faith that you’ll succeed. You will.

Go Back to Basics
Do the activities that produced results when you first got started. One of them was staying on the phones until you made a connection, booked an appointment or made a sale. Great salespeople instinctively know they must spend time “dialing for dollars” to existing and potential customers to get out of a negative sales period. If there aren’t enough incoming calls, there must not be enough going out! Save your paperwork and prospecting activities for after 5:00 p.m. The most successful equipment salespeople always have that habit—even when sales are strong. Muster up the discipline to spend several hours on the phone each day to help generate business to get you out of the quicksand and onto solid selling ground.

Become a Chameleon
When its environment changes, the chameleon’s biological process enables it to adapt readily to its environment. Unfortunately, for human beings, it’s not quite so easy. But the longer you resist the changes that are occurring in our business environment and the fact that you need to sharpen your skills, take risks and do things differently, the longer it will take for you to see sales results. Accept “what is,” adapt like a chameleon and forge ahead. Reinvent your business. Do what your competitors are not doing.

Tap into Your Creativity
It’s not uncommon to get stuck in a rut when sales are down. So if you’re hearing, “I’m not interested,” get interesting! Think about changing your approach when interacting with customers. Stop trying to sell, and start “helping.” Ask more questions to learn how you can help with their challenges. Talk to customers in terms of what’s important to them. Tell them about similar businesses you are helping. Differentiate yourself from your competition and let customers know what’s different and great about your company. Look at what successful businesses are doing in the industry. Find out what’s working for them and determine how you can apply it to your business in an even better way. Bring creative ideas and solutions to your existing customers too. They’ll thank you for it.

15 Tips for Emerging from a Selling Slump

1. Have a winner’s mentality.
2. Focus on the fundamentals.
3. Embrace change and adapt.
4. Develop a creative sales approach.
5. Speak confidently about your capabilities.
6. Become a master communicator.
7. Make yourself seen at customer sites and trade shows.
8. Ask confidently for referrals.
9. Develop new relationships.
10. Manage your time and contacts more efficiently.
11. Write down your goals.
12. Take advantage of training opportunities.
13. Collaborate with your sales team.
14. Obsess about providing a great customer experience.
15. Have a sense of humor.

Sound Sharp
How do you sound when you’re talking to customers? Do you sound confident in yourself and positive when offering your knowledge and conveying the value of doing business with your company? Do you sound empathetic to your customers’ problems and that you genuinely want to help them? Do you sound like you have their best interest at heart? Your customer can tell if you do.

Hone Your Communication Skills
Master the art of influencing customers to buy from you. You can win over today’s tough customers and get results faster by understanding and applying the concepts and theories in the art of influencing people. Recognize the importance of applying a consultative selling approach. Ask the right questions and use words and phrases that influence customers to buy from you. Memorize responses to objections, and learn how to eloquently articulate the benefits of your products or services.

Get Visible
Visibility is as important as ability. Physically calling on customers and attending industry events are critical to your success. Attend events where you can meet potential customers, learn more about what is occurring in your industry and build strong relationships. Be selective where you spend your time and money, but remember that visibility is important.

Reconnect with Your Advocates
Visit customers, suppliers and industry contacts who are advocates. Don’t be shy. Graciously and confidently ask for referrals and more business. Don’t tell them how tough business is. It’s tough for them, too! Tell them about the customers who are delighted with the quality of the equipment and service you deliver. Tell them in detail how you and your company have exceeded expectations for a particular customer and that you can do the same for them. The efforts you make to maintain strong business relationships can pay off for you when you need it the most.

Spend Time Forming New Relationships
Calling on new customers (even those you believe are loyal to your competitor) will help you get out of a slump and move you toward long-term profitability. While results rarely happen overnight, if you keep calling on potential customers and work hard at building relationships, one day you may be the one who will get their business.

Organize or Agonize
Manage your time and maximize your productivity. Have you been making the best use of your time? Have you prioritized your to-do’s each day and done them first? Are you spending the majority of your time in sales-related activities? Are you using the software tool to track and control your calls and record important details about clients so your can build relationships? Are you organized? If you don’t have effective organizational skills, get organized. Your alternative is to agonize over why your sales are not where you want them to be.

Slow Down to Speed Up
Have you lost sight of your goals, or worse, failed to set them? Big mistake! Even the most sophisticated professionals set goals. It is a method of making things concrete. It’s a sure way to focus your energy if sales are not where you want them to be. Get into a non-business setting where you can think clearly and there will be no distractions. Sit down and write down your goals, and what action you’ll take. Establish your priorities, and set goals so that you’ll move forward. For example, “I will make 10 phone calls per day to existing customers, and 20 to potential customers.” “I will visit three customers a day.” “I will study what is occurring in the material handling industry and check out my competition on the Web for a half-hour each day.”

Write them down and look at them each day. Make sure your goals are specific in nature, as opposed to something as generic as “increase business.” Review your goals regularly, such as every 30 days, to analyze your progress. And while you should strive to achieve all of your goals, it makes sense to revamp them if needed.

Invest in Yourself
Spend more time and energy on learning new skills and self-improvement. Take a refresher course on presentation skills, or take advantage of training offered by MHEDA. Bring in a sales expert to provide customized training for you and your sales team to provide critical skills on sales communication, time management, territory management, building relationships, responding to objections and advanced selling strategies. Make it a priority to be dedicated to continuous self-improvement and focus on improving your skills. It will pay off more than you could ever imagine.

Brainstorm with Your Sales Team
Analyze the “Best Sales Practices” from your top sales producers and share the information with the entire sales team. Talk about business that was lost, and what you could have done differently. Talk about what works! Urge everyone to redouble their efforts and do what has worked in the past to increase business and everything they didn’t have the time to do when times were good.

Outshine Your Competition
Portray a higher level of professionalism and service in every aspect of the business process. Listen more; talk less. Become the “go-to” person for help, and position yourself as an ongoing and valuable resource to customers. Help them even when there’s nothing in it for you. End each encounter with these words, “I really appreciate your business. Is there anything more I can do for you today?” Develop an obsession for providing a consistently great customer experience.

Alleviate the Pressure
Being in a selling slump can be challenging, but it doesn’t last forever if you work smart. Laugh a little. Let your customers see you smiling. If you can get your customers to laugh, your chances of increasing business will be tenfold.

There is no mystical, magical secret. It comes from hard work. But if there were a secret, it would be simple: Believe in your company, your equipment, your people and yourself. Then, make your customer feel that same belief.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Christine Corelli Meet the Author
Christine Corelli is president of Christine Corelli & Associates, Inc., located in Morton Grove, Illinois, and on the Web at www.christinespeaks.com.

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