Business Operations

Olsen on Sales: Stopping a Slump

Part of what makes sales exciting is that we don’t know how it’s going to go. Sales is a results job.

Part of what makes sales exciting is that we don’t know how it’s going to go. Sales is a results job. It doesn’t (exactly) matter how hard we work; we have to get our customers to say yes. Like the comedian, hard work is important, but we still have to get them to laugh/buy.

What do we do when we have gone a couple days—or weeks—without an order? How do we break a slump?



What are we saying to ourselves? “Oh, here we go again….” Or “Okay, I’m probably going to be high on this one… again… but here goes.” Or “This guy. He ALWAYS says no….”

Any negative thoughts must be purged from our mind.  We must fill our minds with positive images before we enter the call: “She’s going to LOVE this deal.”

“This is a GREAT deal. Of course he’s going to buy it.”

“He’s probably going to want three.”

A lot of sellers psyche themselves out; we need to PSYCHE OURSELVES  UP.  Positive self-talk works.

Don’t Commiserate

When we get on a negative roll it’s natural to seek comfort. Don’t. “Everyone is slow right now.” “Even our best guys aren’t selling; of course I’m slow.” Or “This market is terrible.”

We do not allow ourselves to wallow in the self-pity of no sales. We do not participate in down markets. We are hard on ourselves when things are tough. If not us, who?

Check Our Tone

A defeated tone is felt whether in person or on the phone. Many sellers enter conversations with a “please kick me” tone and wonder why customers oblige. They can’t help it. Customers will treat us how we act. Lose the defeatist attitude. Act like you’re killing it. It’s important for our own fragile psyche and our customer’s. If we enter a sales call with a defeated attitude, then we ARE defeated before we start! We must act like we just sold 20 on the last call and we KNOW we’re going to sell 20 on the next.

Go Big

Proposing volume to customers is a great slump-stopper.   The fallback from 1 is 0; the fallback from 10 is 9-8-7….


I am far from a health-nut, but have found that a vigorous program of exercise makes us feel more energized, which helps us make more (and better) calls and is also felt by our customers. When we exercise, we feel like winners—people want to associate with winners.

No Chairs

I knew a sales manager who took away all the salespeople’s chairs. When you got a sale, you got your chair back. Do you think the sales calls of the last few salespeople standing were intense enough? Are YOUR sales calls intense enough?

Call in a Favor

This is not my favorite technique, but it works. We do not over-use favors; then they stop being favors. But in dire circumstances we need to pull a favor from good customers. “What if none of my customers owe me a favor?”

Us: “Susan, I know you don’t owe me any favors, but if you do me a solid on this one I will owe you TWO favors.”

I don’t like asking for favors, but I like being in a slump even less, so every once in a while ask for a favor.

An Hour Early

When we are in a serious slump, we need to change things up. Come into work an hour earlier than normal. We can get a lot of work done before the office starts to buzz. Coming in early helps us make MORE calls and gives us a feeling of, “Gosh darn it, I deserve the business.”

Closing on the Opening

Most sellers are not getting to yes/no conversations often enough. The Opening-Close puts us in yes/no from the beginning:

Us: “John, if I had a 2×4 way below market would you be in the market?”

“Claire, get your P.O. book out. I’ve got three trucks that you are going to love.”

“Good morning, Charlie, and what’s your order number? I’ve got 2x10s you are going to love.”

Many sellers think this kind of approach is too bold. These same sellers are in lifetime slumps.


James Olsen is the founder of Reality Sales Training, Portland, Or. After 20 years in sales with Nike, North Pacific Lumber, and Forest City Trading, in 2001 James started his own sales training business, devoted to helping companies and individuals achieve rapid sales growth. Contact him at (503) 544-3572 or

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