People were on edge.
There was a flurry of layoffs at the beginning of the year, mostly with tech companies.
In January alone, Amazon confirmed they were laying off more than 18,000 employees; Salesforce cut 8,000 employees; Microsoft laid off 10,000; and Google cut 12,000 jobs.
In February, Zoom laid off 15% of its workforce. Yahoo cut 20%.
In March, Meta announced it was cutting an additional 10,000, after laying off 11,000 just four months prior. And Accenture laid off 19,000 employees.
And these are just the well-known companies.
According to Layoff.fyi, “956 tech companies laid off about 227,621 staff so far (in 2023), compared to 164,411 layoffs last year (2022).”
Add to this, the concern about the financial health of U.S. banks.
According to the FDIC, two banks failed in March, one in May, and one in July.
These events were the backdrop for the conversations I was having, starting in late April through early June, with my business besties and a few of my clients about the sales landscape.
They shared with me their experiences of prospects ghosting them; dealing with unusually longer sales cycles, long-standing clients not renewing, and sales slowing down.
It all added up to them expressing the same sentiment: “Things are weird,” and asking me the same question: “What was I noticing?”
Do You See What I See?
At the time, here’s what I was noticing:
First, my business was having a different experience. By June, thanks to exceeding my goal for speaking engagements, my YTD revenue was already more than 50% of last year’s earnings.
Second, uncertainty was at an all time high due to the debt ceiling debate. (Do you remember the weeks leading up to the June deadline?) I believed people were feeling cautious about spending until that was settled.
Third, while it is natural for sales, revenue, and profits to ebb and flow, I think folks forgot about the “ebb” part because of how well a lot of their businesses performed from 2020 through 2022.
But, here’s the reality of running a business:
While sales slumps can happen for any number of reasons, they don’t happen without warning.
Yet, they somehow seem to take us by surprise when they occur.
At least that’s what happened to me this summer when I experienced my own sales slowdown. It’s when I had an…
Now, let’s be real. With three decades of working as an entrepreneur under my belt, this wasn’t my first time finding myself in this situation. However, this time, and thankfully, I was prepared for it financially. So, I didn’t freak out too much when it came to money.
But, I was surprised by how unprepared I was for it emotionally.
At first, I was in shock.
The shock was followed by a whole lot of questioning, but not of the useful kind. At least not initially.
- “How did I miss the warning signs?!”
- “What am I doing wrong?”
- “Did my optimism blind me to the reality of the state of our economy and big-business, and how that would ripple down to small businesses?” (After all, despite the economic numbers, some people are still forecasting a mild recession this year. And now a potential government shutdown is on the horizon.)
Generally, these are good questions. Your answers can help you respond strategically – and not just tactically.
The problem was with me asking them from a place of self-blame and self-doubt.
That’s neither constructive, forward-thinking, or solution-oriented.
What’s Bubbling Up?
I have a quote that’s part of my social media rotation:
Of course, slow sales can reveal things about your business you may need to address. Messaging, marketing, and positioning are a few areas that come to mind.
But, there is an emotional journey you go on as well.
And it’s one of the reasons I can say, without any hint of sarcasm, that a sales slump can be beneficial. Because it can reveal what emotions are getting in the way of helping you effectively deal with this predicament.
My initial reaction was disappointment. I was on a (financial) roll, even exceeding some of my goals. Then it felt like it all came to a sudden stop.
This was followed by feeling extremely frustrated. I began to wonder what am I doing wrong and why weren’t my efforts yielding the results I expected.
And this was followed by second-guessing myself, questioning what did I miss or dismiss?
As entrepreneurs and small business owners, you and I are intimately acquainted with these feelings. But they are exasperated when faced with a downturn in sales, which can come with significant consequences.
So if you are not careful, you might be tempted to:
- travel down the rabbit hole of negative self-talk – and stay there;
- let your well-being take a hit as you work to create the space for your sales to surge, and
- focus all of your time, energy, and resources on seeking short-term relief, at the expense of also looking for a solution that will help you get out of your current situation and help you be better prepared for a future slump.
A Bit of Irony
On the flip side, a period of slow sales can provide you with a fresh perspective, as well as new opportunities.
They can remind you of how resilient and resourceful you are. You’ve thrived in the face of adversity before.
They can also help you to bolster your emotional tool-kit.
One of my tools for managing my summer sales slump experience was journaling; I wrote this one day, “Don’t let your challenging times be a single-use lesson.”
That’s why you’re reading today’s missive.
My hope is that the next time you have a sales slump, it’ll remind you to pay attention to your emotions. Acknowledging and processing them can be just as vital as tweaking your messaging, marketing, and positioning. Or, crunching the numbers. It’s a combination designed to help you emerge from the slump – better and stronger.
I know that being financially prepared for my recent slowdown gave me a degree of “space,” I wouldn’t have had if I were in survival mode. #irememberwhen #grateful
So if you are in a sales slump and don’t have that space, give yourself some grace.