Sales is never really on a constant trajectory. It is high highs and low lows. There is no getting around that for any salesperson no matter how great you are. One minute you are on top of the mountain and the next thing you know you find yourself stuck down in the valley and you should find yourself asking, “How do I get back to the top of the mountain?” Experienced sales people have their own methods to deal with this based on experience. Most will re-engage their existing clients to help them fall in love with their job again. Others know that the valley is only temporary and good old persistence will find them back on the pinnacle in no time. What about your less experienced sales people who may be a little more scared or confused?
The first two things we want to know are: 1) what got you on the top of the mountain in the first place and 2) what started your descent back into the valley? Was there a drastic shift in the market? Is this the general season or cycle nature of the sales process? Was there a change in the salesperson’s behavior that made them go rogue and get out of process? Some valleys last only a few days and possibly a couple of weeks until we recover. But what happens if this goes into a month and beyond. At what point should there be an intervention and what does an intervention look like?
Sometimes you need to let a trip into the valley run its course. It is a natural part of the process. It causes us to reflect on what is working and not working. It reminds us that we cannot rest on laurels for very long. Although it can and will cause some anxieties, it is also a good cleansing of the ego which all salespeople need to perform willingly or otherwise. In other words, one bad week is no reason to hit the panic button; especially for a long term high performing sales person. However, most salespeople are too proud to reach out and ask for help and the longer they have been in sales, the less likely they are to send out a flag.
How do we know there is a rut in the first place? Conventional wisdom tells us to look at the numbers and that would certainly be true. My mood is often dictated by sales. When someone observes me as being grouchy, sales is always the best place to start. This is also true with other sales people as we tend to wear our emotions on our sleeves. These are, however, only lagging indicators. The best places to start looking are activity and pipeline. This is usually where you will find the source of a salesperson’s frustrations as well as course corrections.
No salesperson likes to be called out on their decrease in sales activities, but it must be done for everyone’s sake. If you are having monthly one on one sales reviews with your salespeople, it is easier to catch these process deficiencies. Be careful not to be too critical or accusatory when review pipeline and sales activity. Sales people are very high strung and can easily become defensive. It’s best to put things into terms of agreed upon goals and processes. For example, “Alex, we agreed on this goal and the plan to get there. Do you feel at this point that the goal is unreasonable or the plan is unworkable? If so, why do you feel that way? What are your thoughts for getting back on track?”
This can be an uncomfortable conversation at first, but if handled properly from the start most salespeople will be relieved to have someone to talk to. Sales can be a very lonely position and when things get tough, it becomes even lonelier. Having someone to talk through their issues with can be very beneficial and many times that is all it takes to get sales back on track. Salespeople always want to be successful and since there performance is always exposed, the more you can help them the better. Just remember, when you see someone drowning, you don’t yell out to them, “Hey dummy! What were you thinking when you swam out that far? What were you thinking?! I told you not to do that!!”. Instead, you throw them a life preserver, pull them back to land and help them catch their breath. If you throw them a life preserver, chances are they will be a better swimmer next time which is better than watching them sink.
Perhaps you could use a life preserver yourself? After all, if the captain is drowning, he cannot effectively save the crew. This is where Scorecard Sales Training and Coaching can help. Course correction in sales starts with studying the sales map, At Scorecard Sales, we call this map our Sales Culture Assessment. With this free tool, we can help you to chart a course for success for your crew of sales people and your company. Chat with us here to get started with your free assessment.