How To Overcome A Sales SlumpWRITTEN BY CHRISTINE CORELLI
Article Date: 04-01-2007
Copyright (C) 2007 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
A decline in sales can make your dealership vulnerable to the competition.
Sales are down for many dealers due to changing markets, fierce competition and slow housing starts. And it’s very easy to place blame there. What should you do? Use some of following methods to get into the right frame of mind and get you back on track.
If you’re fortunate enough to be meeting or exceeding your sales goals, you may still wish to review these methods to be sure you stay on the right track. Remember 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.
Eliminate Negative Thinking – Fretting and worrying will not help when sales are down. They’ll 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. And, it will block your creativity – something you need more than ever when sales are down. Consider this: Will worrying or negative thinking change the outcome of what will ultimately happen? What if everything you’re worrying about works out fine? What if you would have an abundance of opportunities to win new business if you were to take a stronger and more creative approach to sales or take a risk with a great new campaign?
If you begin thinking you won’t make a sale, you probably won’t. If customers sense your apprehension or pessimism, they’ll look toward another provider who thinks, acts and talks like a winner.
Get on the phones and start dialing. Spend more time with face-to-face customer contact. 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, forge ahead on blind faith that you’ll succeed. You will.
Become a Chameleon – When its environment changes, the chame-leon’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, the longer it will take for you to see results.
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.”
Talk to customers in terms of what’s important to them. Differentiate yourself from your competition. Look at what successful dealerships are doing. Find out what’s working for them.
Sound Sharp – Think about how you sound when you’re talking to customers. Do you sound confident in your self and positive when conveying value to customers? Do you sound empathetic to your customers’ problems and like you genuinely want to help them? Do you sound like you have their best interests at heart?
Or do you sound like every other person who sells your product or service? If you do, find a reason to call other than, “Can I help you with anything?” Or, “Are you ready to order now?” Or, “Have you looked at the brochure we sent?”
Go Back to Basics – You remember what that means: it’s doing the activities you did when you first got started that gave you results. One of them was staying on the phones until you made a connection, booked an appointment or made a sale. Great sales people 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. So if your phone’s not ringing ask yourself: How many calls am I making? If your phone is quiet, it’s because you’re not making enough calls.
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. The best salespeople know that whether business is down or soaring high, they still need to get on the phones and hustle or for sure it will fall off.
Hone Your Selling Skills – Your ability to influence others is not only an art, it’s a science. 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. Use a consultative selling approach by asking the right questions and using words and phrases that influence customers to buy. Memorize your responses to objections, and learn how to clearly articulate the benefits of your products and services.
Get Visible – Physically calling on customers and attending industry events are likely activities that helped you get established. You may need to go back to those practices to get up and running again. If business is down, make more face-to-face appointments, attend networking events, meetings, trade shows, chamber of commerce functions or association functions where you can meet potential customers, learn about your industry, build relationships and form strategic alliances. Be selective where you spend your time and money but remember that visibility is important. It’s often the face-to face interaction that bonds a relationship. There’s just no substitute for knocking on doors.
Reconnect – Reconnect with your advocates. When sales are down for a long period, visit customers, suppliers, and industry contacts who know you and love you. Don’t be shy. Graciously and confidently ask for referrals and more business. Don’t tell them you’re in a slump. Tell them about the customers you have who are saving money, increasing productivity and receiving quality products and services from your firm. Tell them how you 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 most.
Form 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 don’t always happen overnight, if you keep calling on potential customers and work hard at building relationships, when the time comes for them to buy, you’ll be the one who will get the business.
Maximize Your Productivity – Here are a few hard questions to ask yourself if you’ve been in a slump: Have you been working efficiently but not effectively? Have you been very busy without getting results? Then you haven’t been effective. Have you been spending too much time going after small accounts, without consistently striving to get business from larger accounts? Are you spending too much time reading non-business e-mail instead of calling on customers and prospects?
Remember the 80/20 Rule: “Twenty percent of your customers will generate 80 percent of your business.” Are you going after the right 20 percent every day? Have you thrown in the towel too soon? Would just a few more times at bat give you the home run? Are you making the best use of your time? Have you prioritized your to-do’s each day and done them first? What percentage of your day have you spent in non-sales related activities? Are you organized? If you don’t have effective organizational skills, get them. Your alternative is to agonize over why your sales are not where you want them to be.
Create Sales-Service Excellence – If your sales are down, maybe it’s not because of changing markets or increased competition, or because you haven’t been working hard enough. Maybe it’s because not everyone in your company recognizes that they, too, are in sales no matter what their jobs are.
Maybe they don’t realize they play a strong role in developing the reputation of your dealership, helping you get repeat business and establishing high levels of customer loyalty. Is it time for a culture change at your dealership? If so, change it.
Reset Your Goals – Have you lost sight of your goals, or worse, failed to set them? Big mistake! Even the most sophisticated executives set goals. Setting goals is a way 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 are no distractions. Write down your goals, and what action you’ll take on each. 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 study my industry and check out my competition on the Internet 1/2 hour each day.”
Even the most sophisticated business professionals set goals. Write down your goals and look at them each day. Make sure they are specific, as opposed to something as generic as “increase sales.” Review your goals regularly, such as every 30 days, and analyze your progress.
Invest In Yourself – Spend more time and energy learning new skills and self-improvement. Bring in a sales expert to provide customized training for you and your sales team. Don’t wait for the annual sales meeting. Do it now if sales are down. Take a refresher course on sales training, enroll in an advanced sales training program, or take advantage of training offered by Associated Equipment Distributors.
Whatever you do, make it a priority to be dedicated to continuous self-improvement and focus on improving your skills. It just might pay off more than you could ever imagine.
Outshine The Competition – Portray a higher level of service in every aspect of the business process. Listen more, talk less. Provide more knowledge, offer more ideas and help your customers more than your competitors do. Become the “go-to” person for help, and position yourself as an ongoing and valuable resource to customers. 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 turning out your best performance with every encounter, with every customer, every day!
Alleviate The Pressure – Being in a selling slump can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. Laugh a little. Let your customers see you smiling. If you can get your customers to laugh, your chances of making that sale will improve.
There is no magic secret to sales success. It comes from hard work. But if there were a secret, it would be simple: Believe in your company, its products, its people, and yourself. Then, make your customer feel that same belief.
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