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How to respond to a bad sales month

On paper, writers and salespeople have almost nothing in common. Writers are introspective and spend their time observing. Salespeople, on the other hand, spend their days talking to people face-to-face or over the phone. They operate with a sense of urgency and are relentless in forging relationships and trying to meet people’s needs.


However, the more you look at these professions, the more you see similarities rather than differences. Both people are always on the clock, both require thick skin, and both have steadfast determination in the face of inevitable rejection.


More importantly, they both experience moments of plenty and moments of drought. It’s easy to stay focused in the good times, but how do you get through the moment’s when no one is returning your call, let alone buying. The American poet Edward Hirsch may have put it best when he said, “every writer has dry spells…in the meantime, one continues to work, to hope and trust.”


He might as well have been talking about salespeople. There will be days, weeks, or months where you fail far more than you succeed. Months when you miss your quota. Months when your confidence is shaken, and you’ve forgotten what it feels like to close a deal. When this happens, how do you persevere? How do you trudge through your daily activities and stay confident? And if you’re a manager, how do you shepherd your rep out of a slump, offer the right encouragement, and make sure one bad month doesn’t turn into two or three bad months.


So we talked to salespeople just like you about the best ways to break through seller’s block and surviving the slump long enough to come out on the other side. Here’s what we found:


Focus on what you can control


Reddit is one of the most popular online destinations for all types of individuals looking for a community and a place to learn. It’s even a place for salespeople to commiserate, blow off steam, and get great advice.


On a recent thread titled, “How do you deal with a bad sales month?” a couple of users stressed the importance of focusing on what you can control as opposed to what you can’t.


“Process over results,” user abadabazachart said. “And measure everything.”


When deals aren’t rolling in, focus on your daily activities, measure what you do, and compare it to months, you were more successful. Have you made the same number of cold calls? Have you gone through every lead in your CRM? How many visits or meetings have you scheduled or gone on?


When you quantify your days with individual activities and the right sales behaviors, you’ll get back to basics and eventually climb out of the slump.


Fake it till you make it.


We’ve all used this mantra at least once in our professional lives, and it can work wonders in sales. Admit to your co-workers or manager that this month is a bad one, but don’t pout or sulk about it. Keep telling yourself you’re going to turn it around and that you’re going to plan a big week next week and a big month next month. Then, keep saying it repeatedly, and finally, take action to make it a reality.


Above all, keep things in perspective. The fake it till you make it mentality works because you admit you’re struggling, but more importantly you don’t let the struggle own you. Instead, you use it to motivate you to a better week next week. Sales is a mental game. Accept the moment but choose to look to the day you move past it.


Change it up.


Just like rumours, every cliche has speckles of truth, and that’s especially true of this one: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”


If no one is answering the phone, calling you back, or responding to emails, you have to make some changes. I’m not talking about a complete abandonment of what you know or of what has worked in the past. More like, adjustments.


Start with some research. There was a report from RingDNA that says the best times to call are Wednesday and Thursdays from 6:45 to 9 am and 4 to 6 p.m. Start there and see if you have better luck getting someone to answer the phone.


If no one is listening to your voicemails, maybe they’re too long. The Sales Hunter says the optimal voicemail length is between 8 and 14 seconds. Practice leaving voicemails that are quick, to the point, and clear on what you want the recipient to do.


If leads aren’t opening your emails, try sending them at a different time. MailChimp says open rates increase after 12 p.m. with the most active time between 2 and 5 p.m. You may also need to rework your subject lines to be more precise or more conversational. When times are tough, there are so many ways you can give yourself a chance, and none of them involve feeling sorry for yourself or complaining.


Ask for help.


Have you ever wondered why world-class athletes still have coaches? It’s because even the best of the best need help. Maybe there’s a problem with their swing, swim stroke, or mindset that’s preventing them from winning.


The same goes for salespeople. When you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to your manager or coach. That’s what they’re there for. Sit down with them, go over your numbers, and talk about a strategy moving forward.


Then, have that person listen in on your phone calls or watch your sales presentations. In many cases, he or she will see areas where you can improve. Just make sure it’s someone you trust and someone who will be honest with you.


Start small.


One of the biggest problems with a bad sales month, apart from less revenue and commission, is it impacts your confidence and makes you doubt every action you make and every word you say.


To regain confidence, don’t keep trying to land the massive deals. Instead, focus on smaller ones so you can remember what success and closing feel like. Then move on to larger ones when you’ve got your swagger back.


Above all, remember that all salespeople have months where they struggle or months when no one’s buying. Like writer’s block, seller’s block is part of the game. So accept it, keep trying, and take action to move past it.


And if you have a tactic that works for you, tell us about it in the comments.




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