It’s a common problem with sales teams around the globe. As soon as the hottest months of the year roll around, sales seem to dry up.
Perhaps it’s because more of your leads are on holiday, maybe they’re more focused on topping up their tan, or it could just be a case of perception manifesting as reality. But the fact remains sales tend to slump during the summer months.
If you want to keep your Q3 sales up, you’ve got to know how to combat the summer sales slump, which is exactly what I’m going to run through with this article.
How to Avoid the Summer Sales Slump
Some believe the slump is a case of belief manifesting as reality; sales teams believe sales will dry up and so lower their efforts. Their solution, of course, is to double all efforts across summer.
Positive action can help, but things really do slow down. Emails receive OoO responses, more calls go to voicemail, and appointments that were locked in weeks or months in advance get canceled.
Rather than working your sales team to the bone in an effort to make up lost ground, there’s a simple action that can turn the sales slump around.
Ask your best current clients if they’d be happy to offer some form of referral.
Sure, this won’t magically increase sales for those slow summer months, however, it will put you in prime position come Q4 as you’ll have a pipeline full of warm leads to explore.
Here’s a couple of tips on getting referrals during those slow summer months.
1- Be Clear on What You Want
If you’re in sales, you know what a referral is. However, most of the time your clients aren’t salespeople and could misunderstand what you want.
They could think a referral is a reference to display on your site, a review on a third party site, or even just a list of potential leads for you.
You’ve got to be clear on what you want.
It sounds simple, but changing up the language to better represent what you need can have a profound effect on your success rates.
Even to people who aren’t sure what you want from a referral, there’s an almost stigmatized connotation of being sales-like. It’s not a harmless connection between two business people, but an assumed deal in the making.
With that assumption comes an element of responsibility for the person offering the referral.
An introduction, on the other hand, carries no such connotation. It’s just a connection between two people who may be able to help one another. It’s effectually the same thing, but often not perceived as being identical.
A simple change of your request and you’ll take the edge out of it.
2- Make Sure You Create Value, Before You Extract Value
Asking for an introduction might lesson the assumed risk for your contact, but remember that their neck is still on the line here.
When reaching out, be sure you’re being respectful of the other person’s time. If you want to score some extra bonus points and increase the chance of closing the deal, offer some value to the referred lead as well.
This doesn’t have to be very time consuming. You can start with a quick tip on something they’re doing to improve success, a collection of articles or videos they could benefit from, or organize a call with someone in your business that can help solve a problem. Anything that will help the prospect achieve their goals.
These little actions not only establish you as someone who wants to help but also build your authority and their trust in you. They’re small actions but can have a huge impact on close rates.
3- Do Your Homework First
The typical method to ask for referrals is to reach out to a client you’ve recently helped and ask if they know anyone who might be interested in working with you.
It’s a pretty lazy way of going about it.
Instead of putting your referral source in the hot seat, make it easy for them by doing your homework.
You want to come to them with an exact plan of who you want an intro to and perhaps even what you want them to say.
Here’s an easy way to do this.
Head to LinkedIn, click the search bar then “people” and make sure you click the 2nd-degree connections checkbox.
Add in the details of the company and position of people you want to connect with.
You’ll get a list of people who hit your search criteria, but they’ll also all be connected to someone you know.
Then it’s a case of reaching out to your mutual connection and asking for that introduction.
This way there’s very little effort on the part of your referral source which makes the likelihood of them taking that action much higher.
4- Leverage the Relationship with Your Referral Source
It’s easy to turn too much of your focus on the lead you’re trying to close and overlook your referral source.
That’s a mistake because the success or failure of this strategy rests largely on the shoulders of your referral source. They should get almost as much attention as the target you’re trying to close.
You want to begin by looking at how you’ve helped your referral source in the last few months. Specifically if you’ve helped them:
- Hit the targets they wanted
- Exceed those targets
- If you’ve delivered on time
- If there’s been any fallings out between your two businesses
What you want is a client who’s happy with the service you’re providing. If there’s been even minor issues in the last few months, they may not be the best person to ask for a referral.
You want to ask them when they have nothing but good things to say about you.
But waiting until the relationship is all positive isn’t enough. You should also continue to leverage the client relationship throughout the process of closing the referral lead.
They know that lead better than you and can better advise on when to push if there’s no response, what services they’ll find most beneficial, and other little tips on how to close the deal.
5- Consistent Effort Yields Consistent Results
Don’t think of this as something you can dip in and out of when sales are slow. As with any effort, consistent effort will bring the best results.
That consistency extends both to how often you’re asking for referrals, and how often you’re reaching out to those who are referred.
For example, before you start asking for referrals you want to build out an outreach plan.
The first contact will be the template you use and send to your referral source. However, after that you want to follow up with 5-7 touches that each offer value.
To get the most out of this, set up a referral specific pipeline in your CRM tool that covers these touchpoints and helps you identify where you might be losing potential leads.
You also want to build referral asks into your daily routine. When getting this off the ground spend a day or two coming up with a number of good people to reach out to. Then, once you’ve built your list, send one referral request every day.
Before you know it you’ll be populating your referral pipeline with potential leads and ensuring the sales slump doesn’t hit you as hard as it could have.
Don’t Let Summer Dry Up Your Pipeline
Things do tend to slow down in summer. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and wait until the good weather is behind you.
Asking for referrals isn’t just going to allow you to hit the ground running in Q4, but you’ll likely see more sales than usual in Q3.
There’s an inherent trust in a referral which puts you 2-3 steps ahead of a cold outreach strategy. The fact that you’ve got a referral from a friend or old colleague gets you straight past the gatekeeper.
The best sales teams have a referral strategy in place all year, but during the summer slump, it can definitely help take the bite out of the dip.