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Slower Sales – a Curse or a Blessing?

No matter the size of your business, sales growth is always at the top of the mind. It drives fundraising for start-ups and proves mature companies relevant.

What happens if for one reason or another your sales decline for a few consecutive months or quarters?

No matter the reasons, declining sales are never a good thing. Let’s assume the reasons are known. This makes it much easier to figure out a way out and get back on a growth path.

“It’s not the Will to win by the Will to prepare that makes the difference” by William ‘Bear’ Bryant.

Unfortunately, and typically, there can be many drivers impacting a slowing top line such as economic downcycle, new competitors, weakened customer service, product performance, insufficient marketing, employee issues and so on and so forth. There can be so much noise that it takes a while to diagnose the issue and find the right levers to pull.

This takes me to one of my favorite quotes, “It’s not the Will to win by the Will to prepare that makes the difference” by William ‘Bear’ Bryant. Having a good finance/ops team and effective reporting can help predict or in most cases identify issues quickly.

Regardless of the reasons for slowing sales, this should give you a pause and make you think. This is why any turn in business is a BLESSING as it should question your status quo and whether your positioning is right.

Most issues can be diagnosed and addressed with your in-house resources. You better have some good ones to push back at you and call it in when appropriate. Many times, the VPs and managers are more reactive than pro-active, and even if they try pushing back, what comes back is the Executives’ (CEO/Founder) egos overshadowing the messengers and issues start to accumulate. Letting these issues go unfixed leads to some serios consequences compounding into financial underperformance. Furthermore, most small to mid-size companies (i.e. under $100m in sales) do not have or can’t afford the right full-time resources (CFO or a Board Member) who could have helped identify a problem long before it materialized.

Having an outside expert/professional with a solid track record and experience become a part of your Board of Directors or help you with periodic reviews is highly encouraged. Don’t pay Bain or McKinsey, yes - they are great, but they charge an arm and a leg for their branding. Find someone who can roll up their sleeves and do the work, or at the least, create an ACTIONABLE PLAN for your business. Much of the time, high-end consultants prepare a data-packed deck with no clear path to action. Make sure to set the right expectations for deliverables so that the time and money spent is value accretive.

The last quote, I’d like to leave you with is by Winston Churchill, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” In this post’s context, the declining sales may create a downtime. Use it to reevaluate your business from top to bottom.


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