Using slow sales periods to your advantage
When in a slow sales period, use the time to your advantage: focus on your sales and operation planning, mapping out your buyer journey, and reviewing your sales messaging, collateral and cadences.
Summertime brings relaxed schedules, vacations, and every sales rep’s angst: aligning stakeholders and getting contracts signed. Read: slow sales.
It’s not uncommon for sales to take a downturn in July and August as well as in January and February but can also happen any time of the year. Let’s face it— sales fluctuate in every industry.
But even when sales are slow, it doesn’t mean you can’t make progress. Slow sales periods are an ideal time for those in sales leadership and sales enablement roles to evaluate current processes and prepare for the upturn.
In this sales and marketing roundup, we focus on planning you can do when sales are slow, to prepare for the busier sales periods ahead.
Slow sales = sales and operations planning time
Sales and operations planning is never a set-it-and-be-done process. Rather, it requires ongoing effort, synchronizing functions across an organization to achieve a company’s goals. It’s an involved process— perfect for when business isn’t operating at a frantic pace.
If you’re unfamiliar with sales and operations planning, Dave Lavinsky discusses the benefits of it and best practices to follow in his post, The Keys to Effective Sales and Operations Planning, published on SalesHacker.
Key aspects of sales and operations planning include:
Product review. Analyze the health of your current products and forecast future demand based on past results, seasonal and market trends. If you are launching new products, examine your pipelines and review for possible cannibalization of existing product market share.
Demand review. Make appropriate adjustments to your demand plan based on your sales forecasts and upcoming new product launches.
Supply planning. Create a supply plan that is aligned with the demand plan. Evaluate capacity across your organization, particularly finance and operations, and determine if you have adequate inventory to meet projected demand. If not, start planning for alternative scenarios, such as bringing on an additional supplier, additional employee training and skill enhancements, or even hiring more staff. Your goal is to reduce short and long-term risk to ensure supply keeps pace with demand.
Financial review. Analyze actual vs. forecasted financial results, to develop a set of financial baselines to improve demand, supply, and product review accuracy.
Pre-sales and operations planning. This phase involves a series of meetings with different stakeholders to gain consensus on the overall vision and address gaps in the company’s plans.Team leaders should be looking at key metrics such as revenue, profit margins, and inventory in addition to targets and budgets.
Executive sales and operations planning. The grand finale of the entire process, all teams meet to collectively evaluate forecasts, processes, recommendations, “what-if” scenarios, and potential risks.
With effective sales and operations planning plus cross-functional participation, you’re well on your way to better sales and budget forecasting, increased transparency between departments, and an improved buyer and customer experience.
Mapping out buyer journeys
And speaking of buyer experience…the experience a prospect has with your brand during the purchasing process greatly influences if they become a customer. The content you leverage and when you leverage it, how you tailor your conversations, the quality of your sales materials and how you empower your buyer— all this combined makes for a comprehensive buyer experience.
Understanding a buyer’s journey is helpful in planning your upcoming sales and marketing campaigns, but did you know buyer journey models vary by companies? Colin Campbell breaks down the different models in his post, What is the Buyer’s Journey? (And Why It Matters)
Knowing when to use a model and how the framework influences sales, can help sales teams provide the right buyer resources at the right time.
Inbound Buyer’s Journey Model
The Inbound Buyer’s Journey model is best suited for companies with a primary focus on acquiring new business vs. growing existing customer spend. The model consists of three main stages, awareness, consideration and decision.
Image credit: Hubspot and IMPACT
In the awareness stage, the buyer is truly about discovery – they are aware of their problem and are eager to find content to further define the problem and solution requirements. What a buyer in this stage needs most:
- Educational blog articles
- Ebooks, whitepapers, checklists or guides
- Industry reports
- Slideshares and explainer videos
When the buyer enters the consideration stage, they are more middle-of-the-funnel, can now articulate their problem, and seek to educate themselves more in order to make purchasing decision. At this stage, they are seeking more specific and technical blog articles, comparison whitepapers or ebooks, webinars, and product feature videos.
Both the awareness and consideration stages lead to the final stage, decision. As you would guess, this is the bottom of the funnel and the buyer is now deciding between the short list of vendors they believe could solve their problem. Content the buyer is seeking at this stage:
- Success stories, case studies and testimonials
- Product and pricing comparison documents – configurable pricing is also a competitive advantage
- Live, personalized demos
- Free trials
For more on the Inbound Buyer’s Journey model, including the questions they are likely at each stage, this article, Redefining SaaS Selling and Your Buyer Experience, is an excellent resource.
The Circular model works well for B2B SaaS companies with high-value products or subscription models, and especially if your organization uses an ABM strategy, the Circular model can create consistency in your interactions.
Image credit: Level(3) and Content Marketing Institute
There are 6 stages in the circular model:
Buyer considerations throughout the purchasing process: empathy, accountability and proactive support, from marketing, sales, client support, and even finance.
Gartner’s B2B Buying Journey Model
Gartner’s model is significantly more complex than the other two, based on the premise there is no linear path for making a buying decision, particularly if the sales process includes a lot of decision makers, leadership changes or other unexpected changes to requirements. This model is most appropriate for high-value, complex products, and usually enterprise customers.
Image credit: Gartner
There are four stages in Gartner’s model:
- Problem identification – the buyer knows they should do something
- Solution exploration – the buyer is searching to see what solutions might exist
- Requirements building – the buyer begins to align strategic requirements with tactical needs internally
- Supplier selection – the buyer validates the chosen vendor can provide what they need
Each of these models is intended to be a framework for mapping the customer journey to your sales process, to help SDRs and reps be more relevant in their communications.
Aligning your buyer journey with sales cadences
Once you’ve chosen the appropriate buyer journey model for your organization, review your sales cadences and collateral, and answer these questions:
- Are reps sharing content appropriate for each stage?
- Do you have content gaps that need to be addressed?
- What about your sales proposals— do they provide the information buyers want and need?
Your goal is to be relevant and helpful to your prospective buyer, and understanding their needs and thought processes at each stage will improve their engagement rate. Slower sales periods are an ideal time to adjust sales cadences and messaging— use this time to get your outreach ducks in a row.
Nobody wants a sales slump or slow sales period. But when one comes your way, use it to your advantage. Focus on your sales and operation planning, mapping out your buyer journey, and reviewing your sales messaging, collateral, and cadences. By planning now, your sales team will have what they need to be effective and productive when it’s “go” time. Remember, today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievement.
If you’d like to discuss your sales proposals or presentation collateral, we invite you to schedule time with us. We’ll review your current processes and make suggestions to help your sales team be more effective and improve your buyer experience. Book a 30-minute consultation now.