What to do when sales are slow - Advice from small business owners

Updated: May 31

The other day I asked on my stories how everyone’s sales are at the moment. The vast majority, 59%, said that your sales are a “Shit show” at the moment and only 10% said they were “Brilliant”. This made me think about how I could help right now, so I reached out to the business owners who said they are doing well and asked them what is working for them.


Before we get into it, I wanted to touch on something I’ve been chatting to many people about lately, and I’ve written a recent Instagram post about too.



Consider how you are showing up right now


I feel that lately, the internet has been filled with negativity. On Instagram, everyone seems to think the algorithm is against them personally. In Facebook groups, everyone is worried about keeping their business going, and the only place where people seem to have fun is TikTok.


If you let this negativity (easy to do, I know) get to you, it’s easy to let it affect how you are showing up to your audience and customers and start to show up for other business owners instead of your actual customers. How different business owners are feeling is not a reflection of how your customers choose to spend their money right now.


Uncertain times come with low consumer confidence, but people are still spending money. On a recent visit to London, people were flocked outside for after-work drinks, and the West End show I went to see seemed pretty booked up.


I think there are two main reasons for this:


  1. After spending last spring in lockdown, we just want to have fun and see our friends and family.

  2. We want to forget about the high energy bills and all the other sad and challenging things happening at the moment, and we want to be distracted and have some fun.


Compare this to many small business owners sharing how their sales are slow on their Instagram, reminding people to shop small without giving any solutions or entertainment or not posting at all. It’s easy to see why customers are not buying and why Instagram is not converting as much as it used to (side note: when your customers are out having fun, email marketing will catch their attention more).


Of course, there are many more reasons, some of which I will speak about next week in the mini Instagram live series I’ve got planned. But if your sales are slow, consider how you are showing up online and put yourself in your customer's shoes instead of getting swept up in the negativity going around.


Think to yourself, what can I do today, and every day to get an order! What active selling am I doing today?


And, if your sales are good, don’t feel guilty about it. Continue to do what you’re doing and celebrate every order!



Tips from some small business owners


Nina D said that everything seems to link up, she’s had more PR features that have led to more recognition and more sales, plus she’s had, new wholesale stockists.


Tessa from The Stationer said that being more consistent, especially with newsletters, has helped her sales, plus she’s set up google shopping, so more people are finding her that way.


Vicky at Mean Mail said that having a wholesale website that automates things has helped her. She uses Orderspace if you want to set up yours. After much deliberation, she also joined Faire, and it’s helped her sales (if you’re a buyer and you would like to buy Vicky’s cards, please use her link: https://www.faire.com/apply/meanmail). Plus, she sent her first newsletter since February, and it helped her double last month's website (B2C) sales.


Taz from Xo and Quin said her SEO + PPC (not on weekends) have been doing well, but it’s time-consuming to manage. Taz and I have spoken about how well she does on Amazon in the past. If your sales are slow, it’s worth considering other sales channels you might not have considered before. Vicki Weinberg is great if you need help with your Amazon shop.


Emma from Sister Paper Co is a former student and has been growing every month since she started to wholesale last year. She’s exhibited at a couple of shows, and her range is cohesive and beautiful.


Emma from Stitching me Softly decided to create a bundle for your wholesale stockists with all your best sellers and clearly state the RRP and the wholesale cost price so you can show how much money a retailer can make from your offer.


Sarah from Swillistrations said; "For me, attending markets and in-person events seems to have boosted my sales during this period where I've seen more of a lull in my shop (March-April) so that has definitely contributed to my sales being up, I've also put more focus onto wholesale during this time as I find shops I've been contacting have still been buying or wanting a sale or return agreement. I've also been keeping on top of my SEO on my website and my direct and google visitors have now overtaken my visitors via Linktree / Social Media which last year I was a bit too reliant".


The overall consensus from everyone I’ve spoken to and my clients is that consistency is key and that email marketing and wholesale are converting more sales than social media. This is often the case, but writing a newsletter doesn’t give us the same opportunity to procrastinate as scrolling on Instagram and calling it work.



What the independent shop owners are saying


I also contacted a few independent shop owners, and the consensus was that sales are slower, but they are still buying. A few shop owners told me that if they have the slightest doubt about something, they won’t get it in at the moment, whereas they might have taken the risk last year.


David from Liftstore in Suffolk said that sales are slightly down on last year, but he was expecting this after a bumper summer in 2021. His shop is in a “resort” location, so he’s very reliant on holidaymakers and day-trippers and last year, everyone stayed local, which helped his sales a lot. He also said that he’s always buying and never not looking for new!


Next week, tune in for my live with Antonia Sanchez-Toomey from Tailor Made Living to hear more (all the details are at the end of this blog).



Take five


I’m all about active selling and encouraging you to do the same, so I couldn’t publish this post without giving you some homework.


If you need to reignite your sales, take five minutes to write down 5 things you can do for your sales this week, here are a few examples to get you started.


  1. Write a newsletter and reuse some of the content for one or several Instagram posts.

  2. Phone your top 10 stockists.

  3. DM your best customers and see how they are doing along with a unique discount code. Got a close friends group. Share it in there. If you don’t have one, why not create one and start selling there.

  4. Share in an offer on the relevant promo post in all the FB groups you’re a member of.

  5. Celebrate your customers by showing how you’re packing up their orders.

  6. Do a story with you showing your products. Think about the product's story. It should have a start - how it came to be or why you created it, a middle - showing how you made it or maybe your first sample of it, and an end - the finished product and how it adds a bit of fun to any outfit or how you pack it up for a customer.

  7. Start to wholesale or make a plan to be more consistent with it, contact 5 retailers and follow up in one week. Unsure how, have a look at these courses.

  8. Sign-up to Faire, Ankorstore, Creoate, or any other market places you think is a good fit for you.

  9. Use any marketplace you’re on as part of your funnel, and remind stockists that if they haven’t used the platform before, they can get £x much credit if they use your code.

  10. Host a sale - there’s absolutely no shame in having a sale if you need a quick cash injection into your business. There are lots of different ways you can do this. Flash sale, discount code, secret sale to just your newsletter subscribers (of course, tell everyone that is not on your newsletter about it too so they can sign up), multi-buy offers.


Now plan out when you will do these and how long each will take you, and stick to it. Let me know. Send me a DM or email if you try any of these, and you get some extra sales.



More motivation coming up


Next week, the 30th of May, at 12.30 I will be going live over on my Instagram to speak about this with Elizabeth Stiles, Rosie Davis-Smith from PR Dispatch and Joanne Griffin from Creative Flow Creative.


On the 31st of May at 12, I will be live with Antonia Sanchez-Toomey from Tailor Made Living to chat about what it’s like to be an independent retailer right now.


I’m planning on inviting a couple of brand owners for another live on the 1st of June to chat about what is working for them and what’s not working so well.


Then on the 2nd of June at 10 am, I am hosting a Zoom Fika. This will be a one-hour long Zoom completely free to everyone who’s signed up for my newsletter. Bring your own coffee/tea + cake and come for a chat with other small business owners. This is not a free group coaching/mentoring session, but a chat to feel less lonely and brainstorm ideas with other businesses.


Finally, I just listened to Rachel and Ellie from The Business Proposal podcast, where they talked about What to do when sales are slow, and it was really interesting.


If you need help to re-ignite your sales, you can book a 1:1 one-off call here.


P.S. If you enjoyed reading this blog, feel free to share it over on Instagram or with a business friend who might like it too.