Whether you’re a B2B or B2C there are likely to be ups and downs in your sales cycle. This may be due to your product being unavailable at particular times of the year (such as fruit for exporting), or because your customers do not have a need at certain times.
Whatever your individual circumstances may be, having a plan in place for those seasonal dips will help you find ways to turn them to your advantage. This is particularly true in the sales world, where you will often have times of high demand, followed by a quieter period.
Making sure you plan and get proactive, doing the right activities at the right time, will go a long way towards helping you maximize your sales success across the whole cycle.
And a short seasonal downturn can actually be one of the best times to step back and evaluate what’s happened, to adjust your strategy and plans if needed, and then get yourself in great shape ready for the next up cycle.
So what steps can you take, both individually and as a team?
1) As an individual
If you work in sales then the chances are you may use any seasonal downtime to take a vacation. And that’s important too. Take a deep breath, truly relax and make sure you return refreshed and energised to get stuck back into hitting your goals.
When you’re back, or even before you go, take some time to re-organise yourself, your processes and improve your effectiveness in general. Here’s some ideas how:
- Clean up
Look out for any clean up that needs doing in terms of database management, list prioritizing, sorting clients into segments, cleaning up past projects, etc.
- Get organised
Read up and put in place some new methods for organizing your day. It’s a great time to try something new. Read our blog on ‘Hacks for modern sales execs’ for more ideas.
- Review and refine
If you’re using an ABM (account based marketing) approach, then go over your list and refine it.
- Update your goals
Analyse your past performance and reset and adjust your goals as needed.
- Keep in touch
Stay in contact with your clients. Socialize with as many of your contacts as you can, keeping those relationships warm and engaging. Use this downtime to make visits and work on your social profiles. Use social media to connect with your clients and pipeline contacts. This may also be a good time to chase for some referrals from your existing clients.
- Learn from other team members
Another great idea to help you with your work is to use any downtime to get to know other team members better. Particularly those working in customer services who are in contact with clients on a daily basis. Why not sit with them for a day and listen in on their work, and think who else it may be beneficial to shadow for a day.
2) As a team
When everyone’s busy making sales there often isn’t much time left to focus on issues like team building, or even training. So set up a training schedule ahead of any downtime that will help your team enhance their skills, on both the technical side but also when it comes to their ‘soft skills’ – things like communication, problem-solving and those skills that help when it comes to working closely with others. If you plan it well, then this will have a positive impact on your overall success rates.
As a team leader, also make use of the time to sit down with your team to strategize, brainstorm, plan – and have a little fun too! All of these elements are equally important in helping to keep them motivated, focused and aiding them to succeed in their work.
3) As a business
From a top level perspective, time is money so you’ll want to make sure that any downtime is used to its maximum potential. A drop in sales is never nice, but when you know it’s coming and plan in certain activities then you can use that time to help ensure your next sales cycle is stronger than ever.
Review your business goals and objectives, along with undertaking analysis of your past performance. Look for new ways to enhance your work during downtimes. Such as:
Pricing structure: Is it still right, or do you need to consider offering different pricing or purchase options at these times?
Location: Could you use the time to diversify into another area and catch more sales there?
Products: Are there any new products or bundles that you could plug during slower seasons?
Buyer personas: Do you know which buyer personas may be more active in these times?
Buddy up: Are there any strategic partnerships you could form that may help increase sales or offer a new route to customers?
Market evaluation: More broadly, are there any other markets you could aim at winning?
Target clients: Could you go after a different vertical, niche or industry?
Sales process: Are you doing everything you can to maximize your sales process during slower times?
Suppliers: Could you use this time to contact your suppliers and try to negotiate better terms, or to check for other options?
From a business point of view, one of the most critical aspects of any downtime is your finances. Make sure your cash flow will support you through these times and ensure you’re on top of your numbers.
Marketing during downtime
Marketing is always important, especially when times are good, as those peak times will inevitably be followed by a dip. But there are still things you can be doing during the downtime to help push up your results and make the most of the time that’s freed up.
- When sales are slow pool your resources and analyse and revise your marketing strategy. Look at the figures and decide what worked, what didn’t and how you will move forward.
- Have marketing, sales and customer services sit together to work on ways to enhance the current process. Brainstorm new ideas, new content you could produce and new workflows.
- Comb through your website and check for accuracy, user experience, flow of content, etc.
- Plan a photo shoot with the team. Have their photos taken individually but also think of potential stock imagery you can put together for your own uses online. It’s always much stronger and more authentic to use your own images than bought ones. Use a professional photographer who will have ideas too for this kind of shoot.
- Work on building up your case studies and getting testimonials and reviews. Every customer who has received good service will be happy to give a testimonial, but it’s always an issue of time. Turn this around and prepare the case study or testimonial in advance, then send it over to them asking if they’re happy for you to use it. In nearly all cases the answer will be yes.
- One of the main advantages of using content marketing as part of your marketing mix is that even in downtimes the content is available and produces leads. In a B2B company, hits to the website will typically be higher on weekdays but be lower in December and over the summer months. But no matter what season it is, your content is available 24/7/365 and is working for you generating leads. Use any slower times to build up your content.
- Nurture your list and database. Don’t stop marketing but be sensitive to the time of year. If you know most people are on holiday then reduce the frequency of your emails. You never want to be seen as spam and loads of emails from you sat in their inbox upon return from holiday are unlikely to be read anyway.
- Think what events you could offer to accelerate your pipeline or generate more leads. For example, a summer bbq at your office which you invite neighbouring companies to. Events don’t always have to be a serious, military operation, especially if your downtime matches that of your clients. So try and offer something a bit more fun and use it to deepen your relationships.
The most important thing is not to get discouraged if sales are slow. Look at the facts and plan ahead. Make the most of the seasonal downtimes so you’re ready to hit it hard when the next period of growth begins.