How to Convert Your Summer Sales “Slump” into 4th Quarter Success
By: Jason Rager
I’ve recently been hearing a lot of clients and prospects talking about how their prospects and customers “don’t make decisions in the summer” or how “summer is our slow time.”
While some deals might slow down in the summer due to vacations, I don’t believe in the notion that decisions aren’t made over the summer.
Contracts may not be signed as frequently in the summer, leading to the impression that nothing is being decided, but if anything, I’d argue the opposite: more decisions are being made.
Prospects have the mentality of making a short list of initiatives to be considered for the remainder of the year or are starting to outline their options for the following year.
With this in mind, it means that the conventional key performance indicators (KPIs) we use to determine sales success or even progress won’t work. Tracking your revenue or overall pipeline in the summer – while still valuable for the course of the year – will be harder to make an impact on in the summer if fewer projects are able to be identified or moving into an active phase.
Let’s look at some options to combat this stagnation of the pipeline. Here are seven ways to convert your summer sales “slump” into 4th quarter success.
1) Measure new customer interactions.
By taking your KPIs beyond revenue specific metrics, you’re able to track tighter progress. The summer is a great time to identify your high-value targets (HVTs) and begin the process of learning their buying systems. This should be a list of companies that fit the profile of your top 20% of current customers that you think over time could be added to your portfolio.
Typically, with my clients, these are not “easy” accounts to close, but by beginning to introduce ourselves during a “slow” time of the year, we are in front of them prior to the next major round of decision-making. Measure how many you have broken into and what the math of sales looks like there (i.e., how many calls/emails/total touch points it takes to get to a meeting with these HVTs).
If you are able to keep a predictable influx of highly qualified accounts for the next 6-18 months of sales, you can help to reduce the scramble drill that many companies go through to hit their sales goals towards the end of the year.
This raises the issue of one of the largest pitfalls that we’ve talked about on the COACT blog in the past: “I’m too busy to grow my business” (or another common variation: “We’ve got more business than we can handle”). Never! This is the best time to focus on business growth.
Improve your portfolio, pick up customers that will provide better margins, or take a longer-term approach to your sales calls. Remember: someday, sales won’t be as easy to come by, and having built a consistent, reliable process for staying in touch with companies that fit your Ideal Client Profile can help minimize the reductions in revenues during any market corrections or slowdowns in your industry.
What does a true business growth process look like?
If you’re in a market correction phase in your industry, then the lens should change to growing market share. The market may not be spending as much, so finding ways to grow your share of the pie is critical.
When the market begins to ramp up spending again, your share of the pie is still bigger. This is what I like to think of as pre-emptive snowball growth. Think of the flywheel from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. This takes momentum and focus and not accepting that summer is “slow” in your industry.
This focus allows you to maintain a level of discretion in the customers you take on and not capitulate to taking any sale you can get.
2) Improve your discoverability.
The “slow” times are when companies start to do their research for the next major initiatives, and as any salesperson will tell you, it’s much better to be in early on any given deal. So, with that in mind, we need to make it easy to be found online.
A vast majority of prospects are doing more and more research upfront before engaging with potential vendors. If we want a shot at these opportunities, we need to make sure we can be found as part of their research process and then become a resource as they’re building their plans.
This is a great time to reevaluate your brand and your customer/prospect engagement with it. Do you need to reallocate spend to the most successful initiatives? What are those? Why does that effort cause the most business impact? Focus on developing content and campaigns to meet your customers where they are.
3) Evaluate your current customers for opportunities to increase your share of wallet towards your total business.
The summer is a great time for broader business discussions with current customers. Do you have a new product or service you’re launched? Have there been major industry changes? When was the last time you talked to these customers?
Taking the time to do some research and add value to your current customers is a great strategy to add incremental growth. Not only does it lead to more overall revenue, but in my experience, it drastically improves your customer retention rates.
For business growth, there are three key areas:
- Sign new customers (of course).
- Improve your customer retention or reduce the churn.
- Grow your existing customers.
4) Follow up on old proposals and with old customers/prospects.
Consciously reconnecting with an old prospect or customer can be just the ticket to help pull yourself out of the summer funk. Timing is a crazy thing in sales and maintaining an open line of communication with your market will keep you in front of deals you gave up on.
I’ve seen it many a time: a project that was lost gets put back on the table, but now that it’s an urgent project, the list of people being considered gets reduced to the one person who continued to follow the deal and work with the customer.
Nothing provides a shot in the arm to a company like a quick win on a deal you’d thought was dead.
5) Communicate the impact of a good summer on your year-end goals to your team.
Keep your eyes on where you want to go. Where are you at for the year? Do any adjustments need to be made? Communicating the answers to these to your sales team is important and can help refocus the summer efforts.
Don’t accept the “slump”; sell through it as a team. It can make the difference between shattering a goal for the year and breaking even.
6) Evaluate and clean up your pipelines.
Summer is a notorious time for inaccurate pipelines. If you’re not careful and mentally disciplined, deals that you already lost might stay stuck in the pipeline because it’s easier than following up (see #4 for the value of this!).
Get your metrics back on track; improve your accuracy.
7) Get your mind right.
Really, all of these tips can be wrapped up into this one. The summer slump is really just a mentality that has been culturally adopted in sales.
Don’t let complacency creep into your system; get ahead of 3rd and 4th quarter because it can make all the difference.