With the ebb and flow of the economy, even the most optimistic leaders know downturns can’t be avoided. Today’s rosy economic forecast can suddenly turn into business warnings that force companies to tighten their financial belts and curb buying. This can have a negative effect on sales teams who worry about meeting their quotas and maintaining their own stability. Even more so than booming markets, turbulent times give sales managers the chance to show what they’re made of. After all, it’s easy to look successful when buyers are buying. Effective leaders know how to keep their teams motivated in slow or difficult times when buyers become frugal. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Stay the Course
During difficult times, a natural reaction may be to revamp your processes. While it’s important to be flexible and keep an open mind to new ideas, don’t veer too far from what works. Some of your processes have become staples because they’ve been successful. It’s important for managers to remind their teams that, even if making a sale is difficult–if they now see results with every eight calls or a positive return on every ten emails–their numbers might lag because of the times and not because the methods aren’t sound.
Sometimes, teams need to think outside the box. While some managers might feel that a slow time calls for stricter enforcement of their processes, smart managers will let their teams try new things. Maybe it’s a millennial team member who has a radical approach to presentations or a unique voice in marketing emails. A downturn can be just the time to try it out—after all, there’s little to lose, and you may be surprised by the results. Give your sales team the freedom to get creative with offers, renew previous agreements, or relax a client’s terms of payment. Also, by encouraging creativity, team members will feel valued and appreciated, which goes a long way to ensure motivation.
Check in Often
During difficult times, your team members need additional support, both in their day-to-day activities and, even more importantly, for their emotional well-being. It’s easy to get down when clients are slow to respond, or they wait on deals that were sure things weeks before. Team members might even blame themselves. This can be especially true in younger sales pros. Sometimes, simply checking in can make the difference. Remind them that you’ve seen this before or share stories about your previous experience in downtimes.
Be More Reliant on Reporting
Sales reporting is one of the best metrics to gauge how a team is performing. During tough times, there might be a tendency to fall behind in reporting or, at least, become less enthusiastic about the process. Don’t let team members assume they know the metrics before they examine the data. Just because they haven’t met their quotas doesn’t mean there aren’t positive leading indicators to be discovered. Pay attention to those leading indicators that measure the activity of your staff to keep motivation up and ensure your sales reps are as well-positioned for success as possible.
Increase Training and Coaching
Slow turns can be the perfect time to ramp up trainings and coaching for your team. They’ll be more receptive to new ideas and benefit from the additional practice, whiteboarding and, role-playing. They’ll appreciate the time pairing with their teammates, sharing stories and tips that reinforce team bonds, and remind them that you’re all in it together. Most of all, they will remember your commitment to team building and feel inspired to stay the course.
Seasoned professionals know that difficult times are part of the business cycle. How your team responds makes the difference between those that thrive and those that fall behind. Managers with positive outlooks can use their experience to motivate their teams and prepare them for when the tides change and business picks up. The old saying, “Tough times never last but tough people do,” can be the perfect mantra for a struggling sales team. Managers with the foresight to see downtime as an opportunity to refresh practices and renew team relationships can help ensure a more successful future for their team members and clients.