We are at the beginning of summer and we cherish this season to offset the harshness and length of our winters. Summer days tend to be more casual, carefree and are usually less stressful. The people you meet on the street seem to smile more and respond in a friendly way as they feel better in warm weather. The sun bakes away our cares and we relax.
My usual summer morning routine includes turning on the television and listening to the weather forecast for the day. It puts a smile on my face as the weather forecaster typically shows people outdoors enjoying themselves. When I awoke one morning, I heard him say, "We are beginning the dog days of summer."
Webster defines "dog days" as "that period between late June and early September when the hot, sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere." During this period of heat and sultry conditions, many of us plan and enjoy summer vacations. From my experience, however, warmer conditions create the "perfect storm" for the excuse-making gene to rear its ugly head in salespeople!
Lower producing salespeople normally rationalize the "dog days of summer" as an excuse for not taking aggressive selling behavior during this time frame and utilize the following three reasons: prospect/customer vacations, the slower pace of business in the summer and the infamous "it happens every year." As an aside, if you manage a sales force and hear any or all of these excuses for poor performance, this is the time to coach your team on ways to raise their intensity.
Unfortunately, there is a price to pay when selling behavior is reduced in this critical time and it is typically experienced in the fourth quarter when leadership is pushing for business to finish the year strong. Now is the time to take corrective action. Sales managers can take the following steps to raise the awareness and performance of each salesperson in this critical period in order to salvage the year:
1. Review the prospecting strategy for each salesperson and raise the levels of prospecting. Focus on 5 key areas: cold calling, email blasts, networking, referrals and business introductions. Elevate the prospecting levels of networking, referrals and business introductions as they have a dramatically higher closing rate.
2. Build a sales template that will reveal the point in the selling process when the sale usually stalls. This "truth serum" acts as an early warning system and will sniff out problems and patterns early so they don't reoccur.
3. Review the top ten behaviors for each salesperson and give a rating, on a 1-10 scale, for each. This will uncover behavioral traps and allow the manager to determine whether the behaviors are consistently applied in the marketplace.
4. Analyze the new business pipeline for each salesperson. This pipeline focuses on the number of qualified prospects each has, at any given time, in their active funnel. Check for the number of sales calls the salesperson is conducting each week. Use your high performers as a benchmark and develop a standard for all to follow based on the number they are delivering.
5. Look for signs of procrastination and excuse-making. Salespeople should have as much intensity in this time frame as they do throughout the year. Catch delaying tactics early on and you can break the cycle.
6. Help your salespeople manage their time by committing to setting behavioral goals. Goal achievement is the number one way to manage time. Have each share success stories about the goals they developed, achieved and turned into a best practice.
If you are a salesperson in a summer slump, ask yourself, "Is the dip in sales caused by beliefs about what is really happening or are they made up to justify unacceptable performance?" The answer to this question should be a "dog days wake-up call." It's time to commit to changing the summer slump to the summer surge! Go conquer your worlds!
• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. firstname.lastname@example.org. Text "SalesTip" to 71813 to receive Bill's biweekly newsletter.