Rescuing Reps from the Ditch

Some say there is no such thing as a slump. Perhaps it depends on how you define the thing. A dip in performance can show its ugly self in so many ways throughout a sales career. Maybe your team can’t uncover new opportunities no matter how hard they try. Maybe they can’t expand existing accounts no matter how much value they show clients. Maybe some of them are shy of their quota but have no idea how to drum up enough revenue to reach goal. Maybe they’re just plain tired.

No matter what it is or how it’s impacting you and the team, take a deep breath, pour yourself another cup of coffee and use these four tactics.

Rally the Troops

A career in sales is nonstop. And for many of us, even when our “workday” is over, our heads are filled with agendas, budgets, and deadlines. That’s hard enough for a sales rep but for sales managers, it’s exponential!

Have some fun with your team – particularly anyone that is struggling. Have some coffee, take them to lunch. And then don’t talk about work. Connect with them. Get to know them, let them into your life so they know you are a real person with a real family and a real schedule…outside the office. Set the agenda aside.

Review Their Why

We spend so much time as sales professionals trying to uncover the why with our customers and prospects, but our teams have them, too. And it’s time to revisit what drives them. Maybe even make some changes and updates.

Review their goals – not your company goals, but the personal goals of your direct reports. Ask them where they want to be next year, in five years, even in ten years. Break it down into three categories: personal, financial, and tangible (think toys, cars, new clothes, etc.).

Allow them to dream about all that for a few minutes. Better yet, tell them how to self-actualize all of it.

Focus on Fundamentals

All your guys/gals are probably stretched so thin each and every day, feeling like they will never get everything accomplished. There are more and more fires to put out every time they think they have their day managed. Take some time to review the “simple” parts of the job and coach them to make these a priority.

Make x calls per week. Schedule x meetings per week. Do x demos per week. None of that happens without initiative from your people. Help them to take it one piece at a time, one day at a time, one hour at a time. Small wins with the basics will propel the team toward the other side of the doldrums.

When these simple tasks become a habit (either again or for the first time), you as a manager can rest easier knowing that the pipeline is always being filled. Sales slumps will become fewer and farther between.

Reintroduce the Phone

Yup, the phone is so heavy to reps who are slumping. But likely, it’s the only way out. Try this suggestion on for size: have your team call someone else. If they feel like they are calling the same people over and over again from call lists, from the CRM, etc. and they are tired of hearing that same prospects voice – it’s time to call someone else!

Coach them to research contacts from within the same companies on which they’ve been calling. Maybe they have a similar title. Maybe they are lower or higher on the food chain. But let them know it’s good get into a dialogue with someone! Encourage them to learn all they can about a target.

Advise them to research brand new companies. Have them branch out with their calling campaign and engage their brains while they do it. Expand searches to include competitors of target accounts, other companies that touch the industry you sell into. Help them get creative and shake things up a bit. Slumps sometimes come with simply being bored.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison

Remind your team what gets them up in the morning, encourage them to stick to daily habits, and coach them to pick up the phone. It won’t be as heavy for much longer.

Laura Beth Hunley is the Director of Account Services at Venator Sales Group LLC, and has a successful career in sales for over 10 years. Venator Sales Group is a Sales Consulting, Optimization, & Training firm with a laser-focus on improving every aspect of a client’s sales culture and sales performance. Founded over a decade ago by high-performing, professional sales practitioners, Venator combines a strategic sales management approach with real-world understanding of the factors necessary for success in today’s selling environment. Venator helps companies turn around inconsistent or lackluster sales performance by infusing a sales culture based on accountability, compliance, and critical thinking.

Contact Venator to learn how you can build a more successful, scalable sales team.

Phone – 914-220-5484, Email – Info@venatorsalesgroup.com

Follow us on LinkedIn.

Great Meetings that Go Nowhere

Do your sales reps ever tell you the following story?

They meet with a mid-level manager who is extremely interested in engaging your company to fix an issue.  This person willingly shares information regarding their perception of the challenges the company is facing and how personally committed they are to implement a solution.  The meeting ends with an agreement that your sales rep will send a proposal for the contact to run past their boss with an expectation that it will be a “rubber stamp” approval.  The action item is for your rep to follow-up in roughly two weeks, at which point they should have the approval to move forward. 

Unfortunately, when the two weeks come to pass the prospect tells your rep they have not had a chance to speak with their boss, but they expect to have the opportunity to sit down and have the discussion within the next few days.  Days turn into months, which inevitably turn into an endless cycle of following up, ultimately getting nowhere.

The issue here is that the prospect who wanted to believe they would get the approval simply overestimated their own influence. Compounding the issue is that your sales rep was a willing participant who wanted to believe this as well.  Unfortunately, this sales scenario seems to be the most common reason so many forecasted deals are clogging up sales pipelines with phrases like “contact went dark” as the explanation for the lack of closure.

If we are going to address this problem, we need to help our sales reps think more critically when assessing a contact’s influence.

The first step in providing a sales team with a more critical filtering process begins by comparing experiences where an “influencer” is capable of driving decisions up the corporate ladder, engaging key decision endorsers early on, and methodically influencing a go-forward decision.  By contrast, the “non-influential” stakeholders will tend to downplay their manager’s involvement and mistake the approval to research solutions with budgetary spending power. In many cases, they will have minimal if any, conversation with their manager regarding their meetings with the sales rep. The greatest concern is their inability to define their manager’s vision, goals, and potential objections.  This becomes apparent when they plan to present the features and benefits that your company offers as justification for the cost, rather than focusing on the total cost of the issues and the return on investment.  In most cases, they plan to present your solution without your sales people present.

One approach we utilize at Venator is to incorporate this filtering system into the company CRM (i.e. salesforce.com), ultimately impacting the sales rep’s mindset.  We do this by creating what are called “opportunity validation rules.”   These rules force a sales rep to think critically about their decision to give a deal a 35% or greater chance of closing.  It also gives a rep pause before indiscriminately sending a proposal to an advocate stakeholder.  The filters below can be implemented as a picklist where a rep is asked to review and choose one or more when updating an opportunity stage in the company CRM.

1) Contact spoke with their manager about us and began paving way for an intro
2) Main contact has experience influencing manager to spend money or make changes
3) Influencer can clearly define their manager’s issues, concerns and vision
4) Internal champion can articulate their manager’s possible objections
5) Contact is focused on aligning our solution to their manager’s key drivers
6) Contact can set up an immediate introduction to their manager

Additionally, sales management can utilize a set of critical questions when deal-coaching their reps.  Despite the tension deal coaching can cause between a manager and a rep, these questions are meant to interrogate reality when a rep is ready to send a proposal to a so-called “influencer.” Interrogating reality simply means questioning what is perceived to be the ‘reality’ at hand. These questions can include:

  • What is the relationship between the different stakeholders?
  • How much consensus is there regarding the issue? Explain?
  • What concerns have the other stakeholders expressed?
  • Has your contact had discussions with their manager about the fact that they are looking at us? Tell me about those discussions…
  • What are other priorities that could interfere with this initiative?
  • If there was a possible stumbling block that management may present, what is it?

It’s been said that the first step to fixing an issue is to admit that you have one.  In this case, the first step for a sales person is to become extremely critical of their internal champion’s power and influence.  It is just as important for sales management to implement a sales coaching process that reveals these situations, rather than allowing the sales people to clog up the pipeline with non-closeable “forecasted” business.

Realistically, how many GREAT meetings are your sales people having with prospects that want your solution, but won’t be able to influence the other decision makers to spend the money? Maybe it’s time to interrogate “reality.”

Jay Spielvogel is President and Founder of Venator Sales Group LLC.

Venator Sales Group is a Sales Consulting, Optimization, & Training firm with a laser-focus on improving every aspect of a client’s sales culture and sales performance. Founded over a decade ago by high-performing, professional sales practitioners, Venator combines a strategic sales management approach with real-world understanding of the factors necessary for success in today’s selling environment. Venator helps companies turn around inconsistent or lackluster sales performance by infusing a sales culture based on accountability, compliance, and critical thinking.

Contact Venator to learn how you can build a more successful, scalable sales team.

Phone – 914-220-5484, Email – Info@venatorsalesgroup.com

Follow us on LinkedIn.

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