What Do You Do When Your Sales Go South?

Can I be perfectly transparent with you for a minute?

Right now I’m confused, frustrated and a little discouraged.

Here’s what’s going on:

March and April rocked in terms of sales for Simple Programmer (the “other” website I help run).

Last month we set a new revenue record if you don’t count product launches and major Black Friday-type sales.

May started off strong too—the new sales page I published was converting like crazy.

Then about a week ago, everything just… died.

And I do mean everything. We have 3 different products at price points ranging from $5 to $299, and sales of ALL of them have virtually stopped cold.

Right this moment, I am at a loss to explain what is going on.

I’ve seen this happen once before since I started working on the marketing for Simple Programmer.

It was the first week in February.

We’d been making multiple sales a day like clockwork, and then, for more than a week, nothing. John and I were looking at each other and asking what the heck was going on.

Now I’m not telling you this to try to gin up sympathy.

I thought it might be useful to give you this “in the trenches” report to show what’s going on in my head right now, and what I plan to do about it.

First of all, in this situation it’s critical to protect your confidence.

When sales dry up, it’s easy to start to panic.

Even if you have a lot of experience (I do), and even if you’ve seen these kinds of droughts before (I have), your confidence can go in the toilet pretty quick.

You need to have a support group of fellow entrepreneurs—for me the Entreprogrammers fill that role.

My business partner John has been doing this for a while too, and he’s got a steady hand on the till. I’d be 10X more stressed right now if he was putting the screws to me…

Second, you need to take a systematic approach to troubleshoot the problem and see if there’s anything you can do about it.

I plan to spend part of today tearing apart our sales funnels and checking each of the pieces for cracks.

Here are some of the questions I’ll be looking into:

– Have there been any major changes to the traffic we’re getting on the main website?

– Have there been any major changes in the number of email signups for our main email courses?

– Are the email courses and other email automation rules still functioning normally?

– Has the volume or sources of the traffic to the sales pages changed significantly?

– Does everything on the sales pages look normal?

– Are people clicking the Add to Cart buttons?

– Is our checkout process still functioning properly?

– Are our payment processing accounts still working?

When doing this kind of diagnostic work, it’s best to start at the top of the funnel and work your way down.

Don’t take anything for granted—that’s why I plan to check on our payment processing accounts and shopping cart software.

But it’s entirely possible that everything is “fine” from a technical perspective.

Which brings me to my third point:

Sometimes there are seasonal trends or circumstances in your industry that you’re not aware of.

When I was doing more freelancing last year, I discovered that August can be a rough month in terms of landing new clients.

Summer always seemed like a downtime for my Sublime products as well. People in the U.S. are out enjoying the nice weather, and sometimes there’s not much you can do to change that.

Maybe we’re taking a hit because comp sci students are busy studying for finals.

Maybe there’s some issue related to tax time.

When you’re in a drought like this, you do NOT want to make any rash decisions.

I’m telling myself to relax, and breathe, and trust the sales machine that I’ve built that’s proven to work over the last 6 months.

Maybe a squirrel climbed into the engine and got hisself electrocuted. If something’s “off” or broken, I’ll track it down.

And if it’s just a seasonal hiccup, it’ll work itself out soon enough.

But good grief, it sure would be nice if this kind of thing didn’t have to happen, wouldn’t it?