Business slumps can be a natural part of the business cycle but whatever the cause it's never fun to endure. If your business is currently facing a downturn there are a few things that you can do to turn your business around and get to the other side. When your business hits a down cycle you need to find the happy place between Defcon 1 and curling up in a corner. This requires acknowledging the reality but not allowing worry to consume you or drive you to make rash decisions. In other words, don’t take it lightly but don’t allow negative thoughts to consume you.
“Step out of the history that is holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to create.” – Oprah Winfrey
You cannot always control the reason for a lull in business but you are always fully in control of how you react to it.
1. Before you go into action, identify the reason for the slump.
There can be internal or external reasons for a drop off in business. For example, regulatory or economic changes are external factors that could impact your business. Inconsistent business development, your offering or not clearly articulating your solutions are examples of internal factors that can lead to a drop in your business. Once you have identified the reason, you can plan accordingly.
2. Panic is not an option.
Business is bad, you have no current deals in progress and your bank account is dwindling. This is not the time to go into a panicked frenzy and throw every business development tactic in the book on the wall to see what sticks. When you’re feeling stressed about your financial situation and lack of prospects, it’s easy to trick yourself into doing anything and everything at once. This is a huge mistake, and will actually hinder you from getting new business. Keep a cool head and formulate a plan. Solicit help if needed.
3. Be methodical.
There is no magic bullet to business development. We are constantly asked if cold calling, or inbound marketing or email newsletters work? The answer is “Yes.” Too often we get sidetracked looking for the holy grail of new business. In reality, it is not the tactic but the thoughtful, consistent execution of a plan that makes a difference. You cannot network on LinkedIn like a crazy person for one day and expect results. Treat yourself like a client and create a strategy and follow up.
4. Revisit former leads.
Follow up with prospective clients who did not hire you. Needs change and the deal that did not close last year, may now be ready to move forward with you. Don’t assume that “No” is forever or that a lack of contact signals a complete lack of interest. Far too often consultants walk away from a loss and never follow up again. Even if they don’t have a need for your services today, you can put them on a schedule for periodic outreach. This is how you build a pipeline of opportunity for the future.
5. Check in with former clients.
Reach out to previous clients and ask about their needs. Update them on your offerings and share some relevant case studies. Remember that even current clients need to be reminded about your offerings, so don’t assume that they remember. Even if they do not have long-term needs, you may be able to surface a short-term project that can close the gaps while you work on securing more business.
6. Change it up.
In baseball, even the greatest players can have a slump. According to one baseball coach, slumps occur because “players have developed a bad habit or gotten away from a good habit.” Perhaps you abandoned your weekly networking when you were busy, or you fail to follow-up on leads. Focus on a specific area and change your approach or perspective. This could be going back to an early morning routine of proactive outreach or scheduling coffee dates with prospects or those who can refer business.
7. Turn up your marketing efforts.
It can seem counterintuitive but in the down times ramp up your marketing efforts. The tendency is to pull back on marketing spend when things are bad but you should actually do the exact opposite. You don't want to spend money without having a strategy in place but it's easy enough to do a quick marketing plan for your business and execute it.
Finally, one of the most important weapons in turning your business around is your attitude. Highs and lows happen in business. See it as an opportunity. Review past wins to remind yourself of your capabilities and spark ideas for outreach. When working your way out of a slump, you may uncover new lines of business or new approaches that are valuable to add as a normal activity. Tough times will not last forever, and with mental toughness and a good plan, you will survive, and in some cases emerge with an even stronger business.
How have you handled business slumps? What did you learn from those times?
This post was published August 1, 2017, and last updated January 30, 2018.