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6 things to try when sales are low

by team Holly & Co

Did you know that fish can’t swim? Or that there’s no such thing as alcohol. Or that founders often get consistently high sales? No, because none of these things are true. Yet with the latter, many of us tend to forget this when we suddenly feel like customers are allergic to us and work’s about as much fun as measles. There is no brand that has a consistently high sales rate 100% of the time, so if your numbers have suddenly fallen off a cliff and whatever you sell isn’t performing as you would like it to, don’t worry. This is not uncommon. Even Holly went through a time at notonthehighstreet when she was paying her team’s salaries on her credit card as that was the only access to funds she had (though if you spoke to anyone in finance, this is likely to be highly NOT recommended). 

Running a business is a rollercoaster ride, not only emotionally but practically. Products and services will have life cycles and they’re unpredictable. It’s what makes being a founder quite exciting, as you often need to pivot and use your best creative brain to find a solution — which, remember, is what you happen to be best at.

Customers will change their minds with the wind and there will always be industry trends that shift with the evolving world. It is part and parcel of the gloriousness of being an entrepreneur, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. It makes what we do exhilarating but it can also be uncomfortable, because when sales are low the reality is that we take it personally. It can feel like people aren’t voting with their money for us, as if they are not in love with us any more, and that hurts. But we shouldn’t think of it like that. It’s not personal. It’s to be expected. And it’s also a golden opportunity.

Taking low sales as a wake-up call

Having low sales gives us the rare chance to relook at things, to analyse what’s going right and what’s going wrong, and to take firm positive action to help our businesses grow. If you’ve been around for a while and think back to when you created your first bestseller, you didn’t know it was going to be a bestseller or top rated service, did you? Go back to those moments and use the creativity you had then to innovate and visualise the future, and to be stimulated as a founder. Think back to the people you were with, the place you were working or the environment you were in where you did your best thinking. Get yourself back there mentally and in that mindset, so that you’re open and ready for change. Then try these six things…

1. Focus on what you can control

Yes, get it off your chest and find a trusted person to confide in. Then avoid moaning or focusing on negative actions. Do something proactive to benefit your business instead. If you’re in the right headspace and taking positive action, you’re more likely to attract good tidings. Read our article on how to make your income last year round for starters so that you can plan ahead for when this happens again. What else could you do now that your future self will thank you for? Spend the time wisely rather than worrying as that will achieve precious little. If your business suddenly takes off again — which it will — you’ll be glad you spent those hours well now to prepare. 

It can feel like people aren’t voting with their money for us, as if they are not in love with us any more, and that hurts. But we shouldn’t think of it like that. It’s not personal. It’s to be expected. And it’s also a golden opportunity. 

2. Investigate every area of your business and find three things you could improve in each

Something’s bound to help. What could you try today? Write a list. If you’ve got people to bounce ideas off, even better. Between you, you will be amazed at the suggestions you’d never have thought of if you were busy making or working. If you want to see where to channel your ideas, try Holly’s predictions article on what she thinks will be the focus for 2022 in case that gives you any fresh thoughts.

3. Relook at your product or service range specifically

How can you improve it? Get a second opinion on the products you’re surfacing or the services you’re selling to see how they’re being received in the current climate. Read up on the industry trends and insight to see if there’s anything you might be able to incorporate or should be taking into account. Ask yourself honestly, does what you’re offering still reflect what people need? The product & selling section of our Advice Hub might have some information that could help you, too. 

4. Do an audit on your advertising

When did you last refresh your advertising? How could you reword your messaging or try something new so you’re not constantly going out with the same thing? Are you focusing on benefits not features (ie not just explaining the facts about what you offer but also really bringing alive what people will get out of buying it)? Are you advertising in the right places? Are you now getting lost because of changing algorithms and if so, have you asked others if they are experiencing the same thing or what they are doing to combat it? These are all the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself regularly (and that often come up on our SME: SOS sessions and Insta lives so do have a look in case any of them are useful). You might have the best offering in the UK but if people don’t know about it, or don’t know what’s spectacular about it, that could be a reason for low sales.

Yes, get it off your chest and find a trusted person to confide in. Then avoid moaning or focusing on negative actions. Do something proactive to benefit your business instead. If you’re in the right headspace and taking positive action, you’re more likely to attract good tidings.

5. Face into your finances

As much as we’d sometimes like to, hiding won’t make any financial pressures go away. Sit down, have a good look at the reality and any implications this might have, and make a plan B. This will make you feel better and likely spur you into action. Can or should you change your pricing? Is there a way you could supplement your income or cut back on outgoings?

It’s an incredibly difficult time with the cost of living creeping up but many people have been there or are going through what you are experiencing too, so do talk to the community and see what other solutions people have tried or are trying.

Every down has an up. Just stay focused, positive and proactive and you will get through this and come out the other side. If you feel like giving up, read our article Wait, don’t give up, just rejiggle for tips and inspiration.

6. Show your customers some love

Remind people why they should love you. It’s easier to re-engage an existing audience than to attract a new one, so it’s worth considering how you could connect with them again and build on the relationship you’ve established. Could you start a newsletter? Create interesting content to make them smile? Send them a postcard sharing three wonderful things that happen when they shop with you? What can you try to mix it up and make them remember what sets you apart from other brands? 

Whatever you try, remember that doing something is usually better than doing nothing and also that you are definitely not alone. Every single founder on the planet will have gone through at least one period of low sales. It’s part of the journey. You may be down on the rollercoaster currently but hold tight, because if you take stock and make positive actions to offset what your business is experiencing, you’ll soon be flying high again.

Sources:

  1. Every purchase counts counter, by Vinegar & Brown Paper for Holly & Co
  2. Emotional rollercoaster badge, by Liz Harry Design
  3. Gold purse, by Natthakur for Holly & Co
  4. Do these things then feel smug notepad, by Veronica Dearly

 

 

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