how can B2B businesses deal with them?
Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do
But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues
In a recent survey of B2B businesses we found that:
- Two-thirds of B2B businesses experienced sales slumps over the summer – with July and August identified as the worst hit months
- Of these, nearly 75% reported a drop in sales of 20% – and one in five claimed dips of 40% or more
The summer slump is frighteningly real.
And its most likely coming to your business soon.
Just as the disruption of the unpredictable effects of the pandemic seem to have quietened down, the highly predictable summer slump is set to hit.
But statistics only paint a picture. What you need is to get out of the corner that dropping seasonal sales have painted you in.
And we’re only happy to oblige.
Here’s how B2B businesses can deal with summer slumps.
‘Who the hell parked a slump in my summer?’
Call us reckless, but we discounted extra-terrestrial sales suckers as an outlandish conspiracy theory, and decided to ask the businesses we surveyed for what was causing these slumps.
- Nearly 95% identified customer or prospect holidays
- Almost half also pointed the finger at their own staff’s breaks
- Just less than half also reported a general ‘wahey it’s summer’ drop in productivity – either at the feet of their own staff or those of their customers (and often at the feet of both)
What are businesses doing about the summer sales slump?
Perhaps, most surprisingly, given how widespread and significant the slump is, we found that 42% of businesses are actually doing nothing proactive to counter it.
- About 20% quite literally did nothing (except throw their hands in the air and gnash their teeth)
- Roughly 10% cut back on agency staff, advertising or spend
- And another 10% simply scheduled work to take place before or after the slump
Of businesses that are taking proactive approaches:
- 31% switched activity from sales to admin or planning
- 14% of businesses decided to move their focus from sales to filling their lead gen funnels
- And 10% simply aimed to ‘hit harder’
So, how should B2B businesses deal with the summer slump?
It’s clear that the big, bad summer slump is no fictional bogeyman: it’s real – and two-thirds of B2B businesses have already identified its effects.
But many businesses do not have tactics in place to deal with and counter these effects.
As one survey respondent commented:
‘I’m not sure there are measures in place, but we expect it every year.’
Well, we’ve collectively cracked our heads together, got out there and consulted with our customers and diligently researched during the extra hours of daylight that summer allows.
And we’ve put together a list of best practice for keeping an even keel over that summer slump.
Here are 15 things your business can do to fight back.
1. Focus on appointments
One way to handle the drop in sales – without seeing a collapse in morale – is to change your sales team’s goals.
Instead of focusing mainly on the total amount of revenue that is brought in, the emphasis falls more onto appointment-setting.
And these appointments, of course, could be beyond the slump period.
2. Focus on upselling
If the leads are drying up in your funnel then another option is to switch your focus to building relationships and upselling current customers or reactivating dormant customers.
How about devoting time with current customers to secure referrals?
It’s a highly-effective sales tactic but one that, far too often, gets lost in the wash.
- Nine in 10 buying decisions are made thanks to peer recommendations
- And after a positive experience, 83% of customers would be happy to provide a referral
- But only 11% of salespeople ask for them
We can’t think of a better time to shift your attention to securing referrals.
4. Get creative with outreach
What’s the clickthrough rate on your outreach mails and when did you last test creatives or try and improve on what you currently achieve?
Downtime could be usefully spent creating test templates to deploy when things pick up.
5. Spring clean that database
Your sales database is the – often hidden – foundation of your sales results.
During the extra time that your staff have in a slump they can spend valuable time improving the database by ensuring fields are completed consistently and deadwood is removed.
If your typical prospects aren’t available, then now is a great time to plan to mine for some more.
This could simply be ramping up your prospecting activity to fill the pipeline for more fruitful times, but it could also be getting things in place to expand into new areas. Maybe you have an idea of a new market – or a decision-making segment – that you are currently not hitting?
Prospecting outreach is all about building your pipeline for the future, the activity you do now will result in closed business 3 months from now. It’s the 30, 60, 90 day sales lifecycle:
Opening with prospecting in the first 30 days, pitching and proposing during days 30 – 60, and closing the deals in the last 60 – 90 days.
The idea of stopping the first part of your sale cycle during a “slower period” will only hurt you 3 months later, when you are having to build your pipeline back up.
Now is the time to get the ball rolling and the skittles in place.
7. Minimising schedule conflicts
Although there’s little you can do about the holiday times of your prospects and leads, there’s plenty you can do to avoid scheduling conflicts and overlapping holidays by planning ahead with your team.
8. Minimising disruption
Similarly, your sales team should check when they’ve arranged to touch base with leads and either ensure they are in the office at that time or politely reschedule.
Likewise, unless you are dropping your sales targets and focussing on other goals, then if it takes 15 meetings or demos each month to hit targets, make sure these are all booked prior to or after their holiday.
9. Play the bonus card
If you are committed to growing or maintaining your sales during the slump, you can plan to introduce a special summer bonus for sales to incentivise productivity and activity.
But, if hitting that target is highly unlikely, you could offer instead a bonus for the team member who brings in the most sales that month.
10. Call out the big guns
You are not alone in experiencing a sales slump: it affects your competitors too.
One way to grab attention at this time is to offer a seasonal sale to try and close deals left open and grab the attention of existing and potential prospects.
11. Play the waiting game
As you are expecting to get Out of Office notifications at these times, make a careful note of the date your contact will be back and schedule a call in your CRM.
12. Highlight best practice
By carefully reviewing your team’s performance over seasonal slumps you can highlight the actions and tactics of those who still hit their targets. These best practices can be shared with the team as a whole.
13. Enjoy yourselves
Happy employees are 12% more productive at work, according to the University of Warwick. Maybe these slumps are the best time to plan team events and informal outings to help the team bond and keep everyone motivated.
14. Get aligned
This is an ideal opportunity for sales to work closely with marketing to align messages.
Seasonal slumps can be used to revamp and reinvigorate your social media strategy. Maybe you’re not using Instagram or your Facebook posts are a little uninspiring. With some careful planning you could be prepared with content to engage and stimulate your audience for months ahead.
In the same way planning content for blogs can ensure that there won’t be that last-minute scrabble for ideas or arguments over timings.
15. Get on the case
Take the free time that you have to work on developing case studies, getting testimonials and asking for reviews.
Most customers who have received good service are more than happy to give a testimonial, but often struggle to find the time. It just slips down that to-do list.
You can address this by doing all the heavy-lifting for them and simply sending them a testimonial or case study for approval.
A proactive approach to summer slumps
We expect a slump in summer every year.
But the worst way to approach a challenge is to give in.
Do not stop driving your business forward: hopefully, you can now put some measures in place to minimise the expected slump.
If you’ve got any other ideas or examples of how you take the bump out the slump, then let us know in the comments below.
We’re sure there are hundreds more out there.