Here’s how to pull yourself out of a “career ending” sales slump
In the Gong Labs series, you get data-driven sales tips from our analysis of recorded sales conversations. Subscribe here.
I woke up in a cold sweat.
The red numbers on my alarm clock glared back at me: 3:13 AM.
I’d had a few bad months in a row and was on the verge of another one. Facing the possibility of getting canned, I knew I couldn’t afford it.
All I wanted was to rewind the clock six months. To a time when I was at 200% of quota.
Or fast-forward to whatever was next. Didn’t matter what. Anything but this.
Plus, drinking cheap whiskey and playing Call of Duty every night to “escape” was getting old.
Have you been here before?
Even the best salespeople get into slumps.
Some people never get out.
It either ends their sales career or they wallow in mediocrity. They close juuuust enough business to keep their jobs.
In this post, you’re going to learn how to turn this type of situation around.
In fact, you’re going to learn …
Three steps to get out of a slump.
I’ve seen dozens of sales pros use this method to turn things around.
If you’re in a rut, I’m going to help YOU get out of it.
But I need your FULL attention.
Here’s the first thing I need you to understand:
Being in a slump “hijacks” your brain.
When you miss your number too many times in a row, you start to worry.
You tiptoe through your days in a state of fear.
You go into SURVIVAL mode.
Instead of operating with your buyers’ thoughts and emotions at center stage, your focus turns inward.
You focus on self-preservation, instead of helping your buyer resolve THEIR emotional pain, or achieve THEIR dearest goals.
Can you guess how your selling habits change when your focus turns inward?
Here’s what happens:
You “feature dump” dramatically more often.
Feature dumping is an automatic, knee-jerk response to being in a slump.
When your brain turns to self-preservation, you stop using your empathy.
Instead of speaking to your buyer’s needs, you resort to describing generic benefits.
Feature dumping is the most common symptom of being in a sales slump.
And the bad news is, it keeps you there. According to our data, feature dumping strongly correlates to losing deals.
As our data science team continues to analyze a pool of more than 5 million recorded sales conversations using AI, we learned that the longer you “feature dump,” the faster your close rates drop:
In other words, there’s a strong correlation between repeatedly losing deals and talking at length about your product, its features, and its generic benefits.
This is one of the strongest ties we’ve ever found in our dataset between a selling behavior and an outcome.
Even if you know feature dumping is harmful, you probably slip into it without noticing.
And the longer you’re in a slump, the worse your feature dumping habit becomes.
It’s a downward spiral.
Now that you have a better understanding of what causes all of this …
Here’s how to get out of a rut
The key to sales success is communicating with super-empathy.
Thinking and feeling from your customer’s perspective is what it’s all about.
Their emotional pain.
Their dearest goals.
And what prevents them from getting where they want to be.
Being in a slump removes you from that frame.
You lose sight of your customer’s emotional pain and dearest goals.
You lose your way.
Fortunately, there’s a clear solution:
Flip your focus from inward to outward.
This means getting rid of your self-preservation response.
You have to force your focus outward on your customer’s pain, goals, and perspectives.
There’s a trick to doing this successfully.
I call it “force your empathy.”
And it works like magic. It’s the antidote for curing a soul-crushing rut.
Follow these three steps and you’ll “flip the switch” from an inward to outward.
ONE: Retrain your mind on value creation
Super-empathy is when you imagine the world through your buyer’s senses.
Here’s a great way to do that.
First, schedule a meeting with a happy customer. Interview them with the intent to understand their world.
Hearing a happy customer rave will get you JAZZED about the value your company provides.
You’ll fall back in love with the outcome you help customers achieve (rather than your product).
Once you’ve chatted and heard what’s important to them, go create value for them.
As in: DO something for them — something they’ll value.
It doesn’t have to relate to your product or service.
Do them a simple favor. Solve one of their problems. Or give them some extra service or insight you know they’d want.
Do this with no expectation of return. You’re not trying to close a deal here.
You’re retraining your mind to focus outwardly on value creation for others instead of inwardly on your own needs.
When you create value for other people, you naturally FEEL good. It takes your mind off yourself.
The dark slump that has saturated your attention subsides.
Rather than work consuming your life, it feels like an interesting aspect of your life.
Instead of work being the center of your solar system that you revolve around, you become the center. And work becomes a “planet” that revolves around you.
You might want to repeat this step two or three times.
TWO: Pursue success, don’t sustain it
Salespeople are more vulnerable to slumps than other professionals.
The “hit your quota” system, though necessary, causes burnout. It’s a constant encore of sustaining an expected level of success.
You may want to meditate on this:
The act of pursuing success feels like play. It’s energizing. But the act of sustaining success feels like work. It drains you.
A major reason you’ve found yourself in a slump is that your main goal is hitting quota. That only offers temporary relief until the next cycle (quarter) begins.
What’s the remedy?
Set a “moonshot” goal for yourself. Something that excites you.
Something that’s more about the pursuit and less about sustaining or maintaining.
Break a sales record at your company.
Become the #1 producer in your industry.
Help your company crack the sales code on a new market segment.
These are all examples. You’ll have to come up with one that speaks to you.
Stop asking “what do I want?” and start asking “What would excite me? ” -Tim Ferriss
THREE: Press reset on your most important selling habit
If you’re in a slump, my clairvoyance tells me you’re skimping on asking great questions.
You’ve skimmed over digging deeper on pain. You’ve accepted surface-level answers.
Remember this: Discovery is not a to-do list item.
It’s something you come back to, to keep your deal on track.
Here’s what to do next:
I have a free cheat sheet PLUS a five-part email series that will take your question-asking skills to the next level.
Download the cheat sheet and you’ll get the five-part email series over the next few days.
If YOU’VE ever pulled yourself out of a slump, I have a favor to ask:
Write “I’ve done it!” in the comments below.
When people who are in a slump see dozens of comments, it sends them a powerful message: They can turnaround too.