How to handle a sudden downturn in sales

There's been a sudden downturn in my business. Products that were selling well in September and October are now not shifting at all. What can you suggest?

Answered by Lee Weavers, MD, Ramesses Group

This is everyone’s idea of a nightmare.You’re ticking over nicely when suddenly, for no apparent reason, people stop buying. Of course, there will be a reason and your first step is to try and identify what that is. Analyse what you have done before and compare it with what you are doing now.

Even though you believed that nothing had changed in how you were selling your products, the changes may have been slow and subtle over a period until the cumulative effect suddenly takes its toll. If you can identify what, if anything, you are doing wrong, then over the next few months tread carefully, testing your ideas.

It may be more than that however. Sometimes the downturn is caused either partially or completely by a downturn in the economy. If you think this is the case you must plan ahead; assume the worst – that the fall will continue for the next twelve months, and adjust your cash flows. Look at what steps you can take to contain costs. Everything should be open for examination and consideration.

Employees and premises should be reviewed to see if they are still what is needed for a change in demand. Review all your suppliers and renegotiate any deals with them if you can. All your customers will be doing that to you, so be clinical about it. If you plan ahead like this, once you have a little bit more evidence on the level of demand in the first few weeks of the next year, you will be prepared to take the necessary steps to cut costs. You will also be able to give good advance warning to your bank manager of any funding requirements you may have.

Lee Weavers has extensive experience at executive and management level. Since the creation of the Ramesses Group Ltd (RGL) in 2000, he has been responsible for delivery of key programmes to clients in the UK and Internationally and RGL’s overall business development, strategic planning and developing core systems and processes.

See also: Four tips to accelerate sales for SMEs

Leslie Copeland

Leslie Copeland

Leslie was made Editor for Growth Company Investor magazine in 2000, then headed up the launch of Business XL magazine, and then became Editorial Director in 2007 for the online and print publication portfolio...

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