We all go through it – whether we’re a world-class athlete or a top-performing sales rep, invariably we’ll hit a slump. Heck, even Michael Jordan (arguably the greatest athlete of all time) went 29-of-74 (39 percent) shooting over three games in his 1992 season. Sometimes it’s a matter of just working through it; other times, it’s time for a deep dive to tweak something that’s gone amiss in our methods. In this post, we’ll be looking at ways sales managers can catch and correct sales reps’ slumps before they devolve into a downward spiral of decreasing confidence and spawning insecurity.
Check in often for early detection
The annual performance review is becoming a relic of the past – particularly for sales reps, who benefit from shorter, more frequent feedback cycles. For an optimal balance, conduct check-ins at least every 30 days. In these meetings, be sure to not only review the previous month’s progress and productivity, but engage in bilateral, future-oriented dialogue with your reps to set individual and organizational goals for the next month. This will both allow you to spot potential problem patterns early, and address them right away in a spirit of mutual partnership and work.
Get out of the office
While you can identify many development opportunities in-house, sometimes you need to head out into the field with the sales rep to see how they’re performing in real-time with their customers. The rep may have unconsciously changed how they are managing the sales process, or need a refresher on best practices in CRM usage. Perhaps it’s even something as foundational as adjusting some of the questions they are asking. These are all things that a more distant overview could well fail to see, necessitating a more up close and personal look.
Coach them up
Once you’ve determined there’s a problem and ascertained the cause, it’s important to engage in corrective coaching to resolve the issue. How this is best played out depends on the personality of your rep. Maybe they’re the type who responds to positive, collaborative coaching structure. Or they might be the sort who functions best with a no-nonsense, authoritative approach. Success in this endeavor relies on you knowing your team members’ psychology, what specifically to fix, and precisely how to cure the malady. All three things are necessary for the proper prescription to work.
Temporarily set smaller goals and milestones.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to find the issue, come up with a solution, and order would be restored. But if the crisis of confidence is severe, the rep is insecure, or it’s been a long-term unrecognized issue of bad habits, you’ll need to readjust your expectations. Rather than expect an immediate snapback, set smaller goals and milestones that are more easily achieved. Meeting these more modest accomplishments will help bolster the rep’s confidence, particularly when supplanted by positive reinforcement. It’s a gradual process that leads to changed mindsets and habits on the part of sales reps, but it also requires you to have patience on your part.
Tackle the problem – don’t ignore it or sweep it under the rug.
What happens more often than you might realize, particularly with empathetic sales managers who are dealing with tenured employees with established track records of success, is that a slump is ignored, or the wrong type of corrective measure is enacted – for example, giving more accounts to an underperforming sales rep, or dialing down their quotas. Those are tactics that treat the symptom (decreased sales numbers/productivity), but not the underlying disorder.
Sales slumps are never easy to deal with, and facing them head-on is often uncomfortable and challenging in its own right. But by using some or all of the techniques we’ve outlined here, you can head off issues at the pass and restore reps to their previous productivity and confidence levels, to the betterment of your team and your organization.