The answer depends on how you handle your current sales slump. A sales plateau generally occurs after a rapid increase of sales. After that invigorating climb, you find yourself looking at a flat wasteland. How you get out – climbing back down or finding a hidden way up – depends on both your management style and your sales team.
Sales plateaus are so common that industry researchers devote time to studying them. There has been a lot written on what causes plateaus and some on even how to push past them, but not all of this information can be applied unilaterally to every business.
It is important not to take a cookie-cutter approach to your unique business. So before you can transform your sales plateau into a minor speed bump, you need to diagnose the root causes of your stagnant sales.
5 Questions Sales Managers Should Ask Themselves
1. Are there external factors affecting my business?
No matter what your industry, the only constant is change. Perhaps there is a new competitor that has stolen a chunk of your customer base or maybe new technology has changed the dynamic of your industry.
As a sales manager, you need to be on top of the latest changes and inform your sales team about the external challenges they may face going into the field. Sometimes it is just a matter of economics. It is not news that the most recent recession shook consumer confidence and many businesses suffered low sales as a result.
You need to do competitor research in order to understand if your business’s plateau is just one of many across the industry, or if yours stands alone. If you are the only one standing on a horizontal sales plane, then either you are not embracing change quickly enough or the cause derives from internal factors.
2. Do I know how to properly motivate my high-Drive sales reps?
If you include a sales aptitude test in your hiring process, you already know that your team has the Drive to sell. So why is your sales team not measuring up to its potential? Could it be that you are not providing the proper environment for your team members to prosper?
Reminder: High-Drive derives from inherent Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism.
If you are not providing an environment that leverages these traits, then you are not properly motivating your high-Drive sales team. Salespeople with Drive are self-motivated, but can get frustrated when their successful efforts are not recognized. Be sure that you are giving recognition to your top performers.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that high-Drive sales reps do not need incentives because they are naturally competitive. Their Competitiveness needs to be fostered in an environment that allows freedom and creativity. Heavy micromanagement and a barrage of rules constrict a high-Drive salesperson’s will to compete.
3. Is my sales team balanced?
Previously, we have discussed how having the right ratio of hunters and farmers can affect your ability to grow and maintain sales. A sales plateau may indicate that you are lacking a few good hunters on your team. Hunters are crucial to opening new sources of revenue by generating new leads.
A great way to verify if your sales team is properly balanced is to administer a sales aptitude test to your current team members. This will enable you to assess your current team and help you decide whether to fire, hire or reshuffle your salespeople into more effective roles. It will also empower you to correctly pair your hunters and farmers into teams for maximum impact.
The right sales assessment will guide your team building process by identifying the best roles for your sales reps. An effective sales test will identify who works best as a Driver, a Realist, a Collaborator and/or a Believer.
4. Have I given my hunters the right tools?
Hunters may seem like lone wolves, independent and capable, but in reality, they need the support of management to realize their potential.
Are you allowing your hunters to continually brush up on their skills by providing training? Are you providing the tools that will allow them to effectively utilize their ability to network? Are you encouraging your hunters to be up on the latest industry trends?
Hunters need tools to catch their prey. Be sure that you are providing an arsenal at their disposal, whether it is training materials, industry publications or challenging goals.
5. Am I matching the right product to the right client?
If you have administered a sales aptitude test to your current team, and you know that you have a sufficient amount of hunters to spur sales growth, then your plateau may be due to a lack of “green thumbs” or farmers.
If you are expecting your hunters to have excellent follow through skills, then you are setting your company up for failure. You need farmers who can strengthen and cultivate relationships with clients after the initial close.
Your hunters are great at making the initial sale, but because they primarily focus on quantity over quality, there is potential to mismatch a product with the right client. Farmers, because they are excellent at fostering relationships, will instinctively dig in, find out the customer’s true needs and match them with the right product(s).
Farmers are crucial to your business, as they make the client feel valued. This leads to dependable repeat customers.
Moving Past the Plateau
This is only a short list of the possible causes of sales plateaus and the appropriate solutions. Your plateau may be due to one or more of these factors.
Finding the right salespeople, placing them in the best roles and properly motivating your high-Drive reps is crucial to pushing past a sales plateau. However, if you find your sales flat-lining, do not panic. Reevaluating your team and your management style is the first step to transforming a sales plateau into a speed bump.
Do you have tips on moving up from a sales plateau? We would love for you to join the conversation by sharing your story!