You've just run the numbers, and much to your dismay, they aren't looking great.
You have a wonderful sales team working with you, yet you haven't hit your monthly sales goals for a few months now, and upper management is starting to take notice. If you continue down this road, you're afraid that one of three things will happen: you'll be forced to let some of your salespeople go, you'll have to hire more salespeople which will make it more difficult for your existing team members, or upper management will decide that you are the problem and you'll have to find a new job.
All of these potential outcomes fill you with fear. You love your job and your team members, and you don't want that to change. You've already considered the possibility that the problem is due to the economy. Or maybe, sales are down because a new company has come on the scene and they are causing a disruption in the market. Perhaps, your fulfillment team isn't living up to the promises you're making to new customers?
You've considered all of these possibilities, but when it comes down to it, it doesn't really matter why it's happening. All that matters is that you accept it and fix it before the situation gets worse.
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When your sales numbers are done, you may find yourself having one of several reactions.
The first thing you need to do is... fight all of those reactions. While they are all natural, they aren't the least bit productive. Panic will only serve to lessen your ability to think clearly and creatively. Placing blame on your staff will make them feel terrible about themselves and their abilities (and won't improve their chances of success), and getting angry and threatening your team? Well, that just causes them to resent you and run for another opportunity if it presents itself.
A better plan is to stay calm, focus on solutions, and treat your staff like a unified front - a strong team that will work together to make things better. How? Here are a few strategies to help:
When was the last time you sat down with your team to discuss their individual and team goals? Knowing where you're going and having a clear plan to get there will help your salespeople stay focused and put in the extra effort needed to raise your numbers.
Often times, when people are at a low point, they want to avoid vulnerability and look better than they're actually doing. Unfortunately, covering up weaknesses will only serve to make them worse. Instead, you want to lean into the vulnerability. Hold a meeting and share with your team what's going on. Explain the situation and be honest about what will happen if things don't improve. Not in a "sky is falling" kind of way, but rather to empower employees to change the course of their future.
Allow your employees to speak freely about the challenges they are experiencing and the factors they believe are causing them. Brainstorm solutions, and ask employees to support one another through this process.
While it's important to gather as a group, you'll also want to meet with each of your sales team one-on-one. Some of them may be experiencing issues in their personal lives that they aren't comfortable sharing with the group. Work with each person to identify challenges and create a game plan to get them back on track.
Sometimes, a lack of sales success is due to weaknesses in skills or knowledge base. Perhaps products have changed and your employees don't feel comfortable selling them yet. Or, they may have gotten a little slack in their sales processes and need a refresher course to improve their performance. Provide product-specific training if necessary and if their issues are general sales challenges, go back to the basics of sales and build up their skills so they can succeed.
When your focus shifts entirely to improving the financial situation, it gets worse instead of better. Rather than narrowing in on how you can bring in new business, why not spend some time nurturing your existing clients. Check in with them to see how your product or service is working for them. Ask them if there are any improvements they would make. After you've heard them out and addressed any issues that need attention, they may be interested in doing further business with you, or they may know of someone who could use your help. Your client book is a wealth of knowledge and a wonderful source of referrals.
Like it or not, mindset is everything. If you believe that your team has the power to be successful, and if you treat them as such, they will be. On the other hand, if you fall victim to a "woe is me" attitude and believe that external factors are plotting against you and you'll never overcome them... you're right. Stay positive for your own benefit but also for the benefit of your team.
Of course, staying positive when you're going through a difficult time is much easier said than done. However, successful salespeople will all tell you that staying positive and focusing on the future is the most important factor in surviving this slump.
Here are a few suggestions on how to keep your chin held high no matter what's happening around you.
It may sound silly, but using music, humor, and play, can change your mood and the moods of your team members in an instant. Yes, the situation is serious... but you don't have to be. Play some upbeat music, crack some jokes, and involve your staff in some fun games to change their mood and their mindset.
This can be as simple as stepping outside for meetings rather than holding them in the same stuffy conference room. If upper management approves of it, you can invite your staff to bring their dogs to the office one day a week which will both improve the environment and lighten the mood. If the budget allows, you can even add some greenery to the office to make it more inviting. If none of these are an option, considering changing the furniture layout and the configuration of the office. Any change in environment can cause a shift in attitude.
As much as you want to believe that everyone on your staff is part of the solution, there's a very real possibility that one or two people are part of the problem. Instead of being positive and looking for a solution as a team, they are wandering around the office like the Grim Reaper, spreading negativity wherever they go and sucking the life out of your salespeople.
Unfortunately, they can't be ignored. If you let their behavior continue, they will drag the rest of your team down with them. You'll need to approach these employees and discuss the situation in private. If their attitude improves, wonderful. If it doesn't, you'll need to handle them appropriately. Just be prepared that this may mean letting them go for the good of the team.
Provide resources for your team. There are many motivational books, audio books, podcasts, etc. out there that can help your salespeople improve their mindset. Personal growth ties into professional growth and when the numbers are down, it's the perfect time to build them up as individuals.
Desperation stinks. Literally. Customers can smell it from a mile away. If your salespeople walk into a presentation desperate to make the sale, the client will sense it and will be less likely to do business with them. Practice delivery and tone of voice with your team before you release them out into the sales world.
A sales slump can be frightening. You don't want to continue into the downward spiral. Your livelihood and the livelihood of your team members is on the line and you feel responsible for them (as you should). The last thing you want to do is let them down.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to break yourself and your team out of this slump.
Remember how we discussed leaning into your vulnerability? While you are the leader, your sales team can also provide support during this time. You can also reach out to a trusted colleague or mentor to help you sort through the challenges your team is facing.
While you don't want to place blame on outside forces, you do want to identify what challenges you are experiencing so you can fix them. Is it a lack of training? A mindset or morale issue? Find the cause and you can uncover the cure.
If you've got one salesperson who is absolutely crushing it, invite them to train the group. Ask if they'd be willing to mentor some of your team members who need extra help. If you've got a training department or a senior manager who can provide some wisdom and guidance, ask them to step in and support your people.
Sometimes, the answers you need aren't in your organization. When your employees need motivation and skills training that you can't provide, and can't find within the company, it's time to look outside. Motivational speakers can improve your team's morale, teach them to come together as a team, provide skills to be better communicators and better sales people, and provide the inspiration that your employees need to return to work with enthusiasm for their roles and a desire to improve for the benefit of all.
The right motivational speaker will provide an entertaining and thought-provoking presentation for your team. They'll build instant rapport and engage your team in experiential learning. If you need help motivating your team to achieve rock star results, consider hiring Marvelless Mark to inspire your troops.
A sales slump is scary. However, it's less frightening when you realize that you are not alone. Salespeople throughout history have experienced low points in their careers. Thankfully, your team has you to lead them through this. You are committed to supporting them and doing everything in your power to help them persevere. Now, armed with the techniques you've just learned, you have the ability to turn their sales slump into a sales rebirth.
Stay positive. Lean on your team. Look for guidance within your organization. And, always remember that there is support outside of your company. You will get through this. You will break this sales slump.