Small Business Sales: Busting Through a Sales Slump

Steve Strauss, USA Today Small Business Columnist and Author

Smiling businesswoman sitting at desk with laptop computer and looking at camera.

When I started my first real business, a law firm, I stumbled upon a great way to get clients and make sales: I would put on free legal seminars for the public. People would come to my seminars, get free help with their landlord problem, money issue, or whatever, and then many would hire me.

It worked like gangbusters … 

Until it didn’t.

Sales Slumps Are Inevitable

That was the first sales slump I had encountered, but not the last. It taught me a valuable lesson: that tried-and-true tricks we all use to make sales grow stale. I had to invent a new strategy, but that’s another story.

The point is, if you are in business for yourself for any length of time, you will hit a sales slump. Indeed, the question is not if but when, and further, when it happens, what should you do?

What You Can Do—7 Steps To Rebuild Sales

Once you know slumps are inevitable, you need to act. Here’s how to start.

1. Take a Moment to Reflect

When sales slow down, many people panic. While understandable, the emotion is misplaced because that won’t solve anything. Instead, remember that all businesses have cycles. So, rather than panicking, take a breather and think. What is causing this slump? Is it part of your normal sales cycle? Is it a temporary hiccup in the market? Or is it part of a trend? 

Understanding the root cause will help you chart an appropriate response.

2. Analyze and Fine-tune Your Sales Process

As you reflect, take a close look at every step in your sales funnel, from marketing and finding leads to selling and sealing the deal. Pinpoint the most likely culprits and adjust as necessary. For me, I realized that my seminars had pretty much run their course. I needed a new marketing strategy.

Small tweaks can make a big difference.

3. Tap Into Existing Customers

While it’s crucial to seek new leads, do not forget your existing customer base. It is often said (because it is true) that it is far easier and cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to reach out and get a new one.

Why is that?

Well, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Existing customers already know you and like your business. Also, you do not need to educate them about what you do or sell, and you don’t need to get noticed above the din. They already know you.

So reach out to those loyal folks and see if there are any additional needs you can fill. Cultivate those relationships and provide top-notch customer service. Also, ask existing customers for referrals, and watch their word-of-mouth referrals bring your sales back to life.

4. Double Down on What Works

What makes your business unique, special, different, and better? In a sea of competitors, what makes you stand out? What special benefits do you bring to the table? How are you different from the competition? Whatever that is, that is your “X Factor.”

Communicating your unique “X Factor” to the market will enable you to attract a new audience.

5. Old Dog, Meet New Tricks

Don’t be shy about seeking inspiration, expanding your knowledge, and learning some new tricks. Dive into books, podcasts, webinars, and anything else that feeds your sales soul. Maybe it’s finally time to get a SCORE counselor, or take a Mel Robbins or Ramit Sethi class. 

The more you invest in yourself, the brighter your sales light will shine.

6. But Don’t Forget the Basics

Sometimes we get so caught up in the latest trends and tech that we forget the power of the fundamentals—things like listening, networking, connecting, showing that we care, and solving problems for customers or prospective customers. So, consider dusting off the fundamentals playbook.

These timeless techniques are often the key to sales breakthroughs.

7. Stay Positive and Persevere

Finally, remember that this entrepreneurship thing is a marathon, not a sprint. Bumps in the road happen. As such, the final piece of the puzzle is to maintain a positive mental attitude and keep moving forward. Sales can be a rollercoaster, but remember that every ”no” brings you closer to a ”yes.”

If you believe in yourself, stay focused on your goals, and keep that determination burning, your next sale is likely just around the corner.

To learn more, check out “Re-engage Customers: Text Templates to Reconnect and Boost Sales” and “3 Ways You Can Delight Customers and Fuel Referrals.” Or visit our resource center for small businesses at Index by Pinger.

steve strauss portrait

Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is often called “the country’s leading small business expert.” A best-selling author and USA TODAY’s small business columnist, Steve is a thought leader, global speaker, spokesperson, content creator, and author of 18 books.

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