Every sales leader has suffered as a result of it.
Some even forecast around it, knowing it has the potential to make or break sales attainment.
But each summer, many teams still fall victim to it.
➡I’m talking, of course, about the summer sales slowdown — that period of time between June and August when decision-makers go on vacation, and deals get exponentially more difficult to close.
If you’re in sales, a lack of preparation going into this time of year can have cataclysmic effects on your sales output. And I’m not just talking goal attainment during the summer months, but in the quarter that follows as well.
So, what’s a sales professional to do?
Leverage wisdom gleaned from veteran sales leaders to better prepare for — and mitigate the effects of — the summer slump.
Top SaaS Sales Leaders Weigh In
Want to avoid the summer slump? Build pipeline well in advance of the slow season.
The cold, hard truth: It’s not easy to turn around a slow season once you’re in the thick of it.
But the good news is that you can learn from your mistakes and prepare for seasonal slowdowns the next time around by building pipeline early on.
“If you’re slow in July and August, think about how you started the year,” says John Davagian, Chief Revenue Officer at Salsify.
More than likely, Davagian says, you probably spent the bulk of January distracted by sales kick-offs, territory discussions, and talks about compensation plans. Before you know it, it’s March and you’re headed into the summer months not having given much thought to building pipeline.
But that’s exactly when you need to be building it.
“You get into April and you’re trying to close all the deals that slipped from March to April… Then, you’re coming into the end of May and everyone is telling you to close by Memorial Day so you can chew on some other deals. So by the time you get to June, July and August, your pipeline isn’t as strong as you think,” Davagian states.
But if you’re behind on your numbers, all hope is not lost.
If you didn’t build enough pipeline for the summer months, there’s no reason to assume you’re doomed.
“Take advantage of the seasonal changes — don’t assume everyone is out,” says George Donovan, Chief Revenue Officer at Allego.
By hustling to find the right people on key accounts, you can increase the chances of closing deals in July and August.
“Find the people who are working hard in the account [during the summer]. Pay attention to the industries that might use the summer to evaluate new software, and maybe make more outbound calls [to reach prospects],” offers Kevin Haverty, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales at ServiceNow.
He continues, “People are in better moods in the summer — and sometimes they’re more receptive to buying, so let your competitors take it easy in June and July.”
If you find that you’re selling into an industry that just doesn’t seem to make decisions during the summer months, make adjustments to your forecasts and plan accordingly.
“We’ve adjusted it so we are now increasing Q2 and Q4 [goals] and having a little bit of softness in the summer to just adjust for it. And that’s all you have to do is set that expectation — you have to close business, people are still buying every day, people are still working — but it’s not going to be the same velocity as perhaps June or September are,” Donovan explains.
Be honest about the age of your pipeline.
As you head into the summer months, Davagian recommends cataloguing the age of key accounts. If you’ve got numerous accounts that are about to hit your average deal length, develop a plan of attack for making sure they get closed before you head into July and August.
“The work that you’re doing in February, March, and April is critical to having a good July and August,” he explains, so plan accordingly.
Run reports by close date and opportunity stage to identify which accounts might be at risk of delay during July and August, and determine what you can do to achieve best case outcomes.
Know your decision-makers.
Good account mapping will help you identify whether or not there are multiple potential decision-makers on one account. This way, if someone is out of office during the summer months, you can keep the conversation going with an alternate decision-maker.
“What you don’t want to do is get surprised and find out that the person who needs to sign that contract on the last day of July is taking a vacation — that’s a rookie mistake. When you’re working in the summer, make sure you’re not taking a mental vacation — when you’re in the office, keep the activity level high,” Haverty advises.
Don’t forget about inbound leads and traffic to your website.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your marketing team stops delivering leads. So if you find that the deals already in progress aren’t going to make it to the finish line, double down on driving activity with the fresh accounts coming through the front door.
“The leads don’t shut off [in the summer],” points out Armen Zildjian, Vice President of Sales at Drift. Don’t be afraid to drive velocity in those fresh deals during the summer months and see if you can make up for any shortcomings due to lack of preparation.
“It affects us if our top of funnel dips for a month, or if there’s a hiccup in our lead flow process, it affects the way our reps hit their number. But the smart reps say to themselves, I need to call my former customers and figure out if I have a cross-sell or upsell opportunity, [or] I need to go to my closed/lost ops and say, how’s everything going with that product that you bought? You’ve got to get scrappy. You can’t just wait for leads to come your way,” says Michelle Benfer, Vice President of Sales at HubSpot.
Experiment with new tactics to drive activity in the summer months.
It can be a challenge to ignite sales conversations in the summer, but it’s a great time to focus on account expansion to drive sales outcomes.
“If you have a customer success organization, have them have some sort of campaign to support sales and drive expansion with existing customers when there’s an opportunity to do that,” advises Donovan.
He also suggests holding more marketing related events in June to help drive outcomes later on in the summer, as well as scheduling any significant product updates to make their debut in early summer so as to support your sales team’s activity during the remainder of the summer.
“If you can have any big announcement at the end of June or early in July, it gives you a real reason to reach out to customers and prospects,” Donovan explains.
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The Domino Effect of the Summer Slump
It’s tempting to kick back in the summer months, embrace the slowdown and dream of busier days on the sales floor. But the reality is, the down-time you take in June, July and August not only puts you at risk for having a less than stellar summer, but it could also mean disappointing numbers come fall.
For veteran sales leaders, strategic planning is one of the best ways to avoid falling short in the summer, and inspiring reps to make the most of the situation will allow you to keep your edge going into the fall. But if you happen to find yourself in a bind, all hope isn’t lost — instead, it’s an opportunity to get scrappy and hunt for the opportunities that may be waiting in your funnel.