How to accelerate sales when your business is in a slump

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I got a tough assignment once. It was to establish a prototype mini distribution centre in the general trade in the Roodepoort area of Johannesburg. It was just me and another person from the Eastern Cape who had experience in distribution. In those days we refer to anything from Roodepoort out to Randfontein as the “Wild West”. Making sales calls at general dealers, cafes and fish and chips outlets taught me more about hand-to-hand, face-to face selling than anything else. Textbooks and popular sales paperbacks don’t cover that type are selling. The main thing that I learnt is to keep selling relentlessly no matter what the circumstances.

A small retailer is experiencing a sales slump this time of the year. The owner is not sure what the causes. The store is doing everything they did in previous years and more. Customers are just not buying as much as they did last year.

A lot of changes happen in a year. Just look how the economy has declined and costs have risen. Consumers are forking out more for petrol, electricity, water, municipal rates and services and income taxes. And more is on the cards. Even though times are tight, you’d expect that in the retailer market where consumers have a passion for hobbies and travel that sales would be more robust.

How can you accelerate your sales if you face a similar problem in your business?

Jay Abraham, the pre-eminent marker, said they are three ways to increase business:

1 Increase the number of customers
2 Increase unit of sale (what people pay on each sale)
3 Increase the frequency of purchase

If you do all these three things by 10% you experience a cumulative effect and grow by 33.3%.

But what can business owners do about any of these things? It’s one thing knowing the principles but the problem is that business owners often wait until things get worse before they act. Even though they see that there are early warning signs, the natural inclination is to think that things are going to improve. They never do. Or, do they? Why don’t they call they staff together and sit in a room, look at what’s happening and see what actions they can take? Then, try something and see that works.

After analysing your sales, talking to customers and making an assessment of the situation perhaps the first step would be to introduce special product sales promotions. Consumers or customers need a strong reason to come into the store. Entice them with product tie-ins. Don’t waste time and effort on ineffective email promotions – if you have a customer email list – but make sure that your promotional copy is more effective. The problem is that the marketing people in the medium-size businesses know how to produce arty, flashy promotional materials but suck at selling. Why this side of the business is left to people who only know brand and awareness advertising (how crazy is that) can’t sell in print let alone face-to-face is beyond me. Get in a professional. Another thing: watch your sales conversion closely. It’s one thing attracting customers but quite another closing the sale. In a rough, hard economy like this you want closes. Find out how you can move customers over the edge and entice or persuade them to buy.

If you need ideas to promote your sales, see my chapters on marketing and selling in “Breakthrough Ideas”. My book shows you ways to turn ideas into products and services but also shows you how to effectively run a business. The operational methods will work for existing small businesses too. To get yourself a copy, click here.

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