Slumps happen to everyone. No matter how good you are or how long you have been in sales, sooner or later you're going to hit a sales slump. And they always seem to come at the very worst times. (Actually, when is it ever good to go into a slump?) It’s never exactly the same, but it sometimes looks like this: You've put a lot of time and energy into a prospect, and thought for sure he or she would say yes—but the person gives you a NO. A client has been with you every month for the past 6 months, but then calls you up and says they need to take the next couple of months off. The appointment you have been working so hard to set tells you to call back in 6 months.
Sales managers bemoan slumps just as much as salepeople do. If you're a sales manager, you need your people hitting their numbers so you can in turn hit yours. It’s difficult to watch anyone struggle, particularly people you feel responsibility for. As the manager, you are a developer of people and of talent. You need to grow your people, and you take that job seriously.
So how do you get out of a slump if you're in one? Here are four steps to help your salespeople break out of a slump:
- Recognize that slumps are not generic. The slump that your sales rep is going through is his or her own slump. It's individualized to the person, and it needs to be treated individually to correct it quickly. As a manager, you should know that sales slumps are going to happen, and your job is to make sure the slide does not go very deep or last very long. The faster you can stop the downward slide of the slump and get it going in the right direction, the better off everyone will be.
- Examine the sales process. How effective is the salesperson being with moving both prospects and clients through each of the individual steps? For example, if your process consists of steps such as prospecting, appointment setting, needs analysis, solutions, presenting, and closing, you might want to take a look at the last 10 clients and prospects the sales rep was working and see just exactly where the issues or bottlenecks occurred. Once you have identified where the specific bottlenecks are in this salesperson's sales process, you can start to focus on training to improve in that specific area.
- Start fresh. Notice I did not stay start over, as that really is not an option many of us have in the real world. I did stay start fresh because that might be just the jump-start that is needed. So what does start fresh mean exactly? Start by choosing a new category. Notice that we are starting with prospecting and by doing so we are starting at the first step of the sales process. Starting fresh allows you to focus on doing the little things right. Sometimes taking it step-by-step is enough to get you going in the right direction.
- Focus on what you do best. When things are not going right, it's natural to focus on the weakest area and try to correct. Instead, try working with your people to identify what they do best and encourage them to do more of that type of work. For example, you might discover that this salesperson is really good at identifying the marketing challenges that a client has, but is not as good at coming up with solutions. Instead of mandating that this person spend more time brainstorming solutions, you might provide a work-around and have him or her spend more time identifying needs.
Sales slumps aren't a reason to stress out. Neither are they a time to just sit back and ride out the slow time. With these steps, you can tackle sales slumps head on, and get your people functioning the way they want to be.