Stuck in a slump: is it your pipeline… or your attitude?

Slump

My first sales slump happened over a decade ago, and yet I can still remember it like it were last month.

Two months before it happened I closed my first truly big deal. I landed a contract that would put our product in every Enterprise Rent-a-Car in the region. With the timing of the rollout this deal meant I would exceed my quota for both Q3 and Q4. Then, in a moment of blissful ignorance, I committed to my office that I’d match the deal in additional new business in Q4.

Talk about a rookie mistake.

All the things I didn’t do in the first six months on the job caught up with me real quick. I was golden at getting in front of decision makers by chatting up employees at companies during their breaks, which led to my first handful of deals right away. This worked for a few months, and as I closed out my October strong I realized that I had little pipeline heading into November.

What happened? I was so good at getting a warm introduction that I spent very little time using the phone to prospect. Most of my untapped territory were the companies I’d need to do more than chat up someone on break or the receptionist at the front door. They were prospects I’d need to call and compel to take a meeting with me.

Thankfully I closed out some business in November, changed my ways, and managed to turn things back around starting in December.

I’m glad I had this experience early on in my career as it taught me a lot about handling the slumps I’d have in sales. There are some crucial questions you need to ask yourself any time you’re in a slump to help you figure out what’s causing it and how to immediately get back on the right track.

First, is the slump a lack of pipeline or a lack of positive attitude?

Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint which of these is the source. When you don’t have enough pipeline it’s easy to feel like the world is conspiring against you. How you feel starts to mess up your focus. Your calls don’t seem to go as well and you can’t tell if it’s all in your head or not.

Even SDRs can confuse pipeline with attitude and vice versa. If it seems like your account list isn’t responding to your calls and emails, or your leads all seem to be gas stations in Asia, it’s easy to blame pipeline. I’ve seen many reps do this only to find out who they’re reaching out to hasn’t changed, the person in the seat is the one who has changed, and not in a good way.

Start by asking yourself, what has changed in the past few weeks or month? It’s so easy to blame everything besides yourself. Sometimes it is everything besides yourself. It’s important to be able to figure out when things are changing so you can adapt.

Sometimes nothing has changed except you. Your perception, your attitude, and your expectations have shifted while reality has stayed the same.

Prospects aren’t going to feel bad for you when you’re slumping, either. They have their own problems to deal with. Who wants to add a salesperson’s woes to their own plate?

Take an real good look at everything. Your leads, your accounts, your approach, how you sound, how you feel, everything. Ask someone who will give you the honest truth as to how you sound on the phone lately. Try to understand how much of this is pipeline and how much of this is you.

If the slump is mainly a lack of pipeline, what was different before your pipeline began drying up?

Pipeline doesn’t simply disappear. It needs to be consistently generated, and without a plan to steadily make sure you have new opportunities it will dry up quick.

In my case I had a wide open territory that I barged in and found all the easy opportunities right away. Without any experience in the field I had no idea that by focusing heavily on only one prospecting method that I was setting myself up for a fall. And I fell hard.

Thankfully it wasn’t hard to quickly right the ship and keep it sailing straight.

I had to adjust, though. Those first few weeks were tough because I knew I had to make a certain number of phone calls at specific times when I was likely to catch people to have any shot at scheduling some quality meetings. There was no easy fix other than putting the effort in every week, consistently.

Take some time to figure out how you can develop your pipeline on a consistent basis. How many meetings do you need each month? How many calls and emails does it take to get a meeting? Are there things you can do to shrink those numbers, such as targeting specific companies or calling at certain times?

Then map out an action plan and hold yourself accountable. Remember, none of your prospects are going to care if you’re crying about a lack of pipeline. That’s on you.

If your slump isn’t pipeline, then the problem is facing you in the mirror.

This is the hardest one to fix. The good news? There are a few things you can do to help yourself get out of the rut.

1) Start every day with something positive. This could be music, meditation, practicing gratitude, a pep talk – whatever it is, set the tone early and get yourself ready to go. Because you’ll need to be ready.

2) Tackle the hardest thing you have to do today first. Get locked in and get it out of the way. You will feel a lot better about your day knowing you’ve cleared a tough task first thing. Think about it. How are you going to feel if it’s haunting you throughout the day? Will that improve your slump?

3) Warm up before your calls. Go through your pitch or the parts of your presentation you want to nail. Say things out loud. Say them to your Manager or a colleague if it helps. You’re a professional, prepare and act like one. This only needs to be a few minutes, just like any good warmup.

4) Write down victories. And when you pick what you’ll call a victory I say focus on doing what you have to do to be successful, not on the results. I’d rather put in the right amount of effort every day than get lucky from time to time, because I’m going to be around a lot longer when the luck runs out. Remember, this is about consistency.

5) Don’t take it too seriously. Sales it tough. I’ve told people about my “smoke break chat” strategy that I used so successfully in my first job and it horrifies a lot of inside sales reps. I had a blast doing it, and I think that’s a big reason why I was so good at it. Find the aspects of sales you find fun and enjoy them a little more.

6) Make sure this does not happen again. If you hold yourself accountable every single day to do what you need to do each week, which will set you up each month and each quarter, you will never have to do this again.

Am I saying you will never find yourself in a slump again? No, not at all. The slump will be more of a bump, though, because your down times will look a lot better than they used to.

Have you had any strategies to deal with sale slumps? I’d love to hear them!

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