How Smart Teams Get Out of a Sales Slump

In sales, there will always be peaks and valleys. Here are 10 ways successful sales teams overcome a sales downturn and keep those lower times shallow and short.

sales leaders getting to the top of a mountain after a sales slump

8 min. read

Oh, sales. Sometimes it’s like an energizing walk in the park on a sunny day; other times it feels more like an uphill trudge. Either way, as part of a sales team, you’re always learning something new. You’re working with new clients, closing deals, honing your sales skills, and reaching for those sales pinnacles.

When things are going well, it seems like the good times will never end. Your sales team hits their quotas. Your clients are happy. Everyone is rewarded for their hard work.

It happens to the best of us. One day, your sales team is powering ahead and climbing higher, and the next, things look like they’re headed downhill. Sales slump, sales team spirits slump, and it’s an all-around bummer of a situation.

One minute you’re happily yodelling along, and the next…

How can you get your little Cliff Hangers mountain dude of a sales team back scaling sales heights?

How to regain your sales footing

There will be peaks and valleys for any sales team. The most successful ones know how to keep those lower periods shallow and short.

Here’s what successful sales teams do to get back on the right (or an even better!) track after a downturn.

Silly walks optional.

Pivot quickly

Hoping a sales slump will just go away on its own is not realistic. Once you’ve identified that you’re in one, start taking action to get out of it as soon as possible.

Rarely, if ever, does a sales slump hit like a flash of lightning, all at once, with little warning of where it will strike. As a sales manager, you need to be the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine,’ gathering data and identifying issues that could cause a downturn in sales if left unchecked.

With your finger on the pulse, you and your team can pivot quickly to minimize the impact of a downturn. This might involve changing the way you sell or to whom you’re selling.

It could also mean bringing your observations and predictions to your product or development teams to help them stay ahead of the curve by tweaking or updating your product or service. A potential sales downturn is not a time for silos within your company.

It’s vital to stay on top of shifts in the competitive landscape, key customer industries, and buyer behaviours. This helps you forecast where changes might affect your sales and, ideally, lets you avoid or minimize future sales slumps.

Teamwork makes the dream work

As mentioned above, a sales slump is not just a sales team issue.

For another example, sales shouldn’t be the only department shouldering the task of prospecting. Have others in the company help you fill that sales funnel. Align your marketing to bring in the kind of leads your team is looking for now.

Get all hands on deck, ready to bring those numbers up. Sales reps can sometimes get wrapped up in their own work, so put an emphasis on amping up the teamwork. Consider introducing more team-based competitions to build camaraderie and sales during a downturn.

Organize a brainstorming session and get the team to come up with their own ideas for slump-breaking. This makes solutions feel more natural, and less of a top-down directive to “Get selling or else!”

Keep qualifying consistently

Speaking of prospecting…

As tempting as it may be, it’s a bad idea to push poor-fit leads into your sales funnel or bring less-than-ideal customers on board. Don’t let the worry of a downturn trick you into abandoning your qualification process. It’s in place for good reason.

Sure, a seemingly full funnel and some quick deals can boost morale. If they’re a poor fit, though, you’ll be left to deal with the repercussions once sales swing upwards again. You’re trading a short-term gain for the longer-term pain of leads that don’t convert and clients who churn or drain your resources.

Don’t forget about existing customers

Reach out to existing customers, but make sure your reps are strategic in this task.

Be mindful of spending too much time contacting your happiest customers. It’s easy to make and linger on calls where everyone on the other end is content. Instead, use the time wisely by asking happy customers for referrals or to use them as a case study.

Sales reps should be having valuable conversations with existing customers that will drive results. Identify clients who have a new pain point and can be upsold on a new product or upgraded package. Find customers who aren’t using your product or service to its full potential and set them up with a customer success rep for an educational webinar.

You should always be concerned about customer turnover, no matter what the selling environment is like. Cutting down on churn and increasing upselling helps you come out of a sales slump stronger.

Get back to basics

Slump or not, the fundamentals of sales, like prospecting and upselling, don’t change.

When sales stats change, sales reps can feel like they have to start doing something different. This could result in discarding sales processes and cutting corners.

Refocusing on the basics can bust reps out of a slump. Hone your prospecting, demoing, cold emailing or calling, and core sales process. Even if it doesn’t drive a ton of new deals, it shows grit and reinforces the importance of these skills and systems.

Try setting some slightly smaller than normal, non-monetary goals to get confidence levels back up as your team hits them. It could be number of cold emails sent or demos performed. You could even use this as part of a team competition.

Sales is, essentially, executing systems and processes to drive toward a desired result. Keep doing what you know works. A solid process leaves room for reps to try out new things within it, while not losing sight of the bigger sales picture or creating bad habits.

Analyze your top performers

Even in a slump, you’ll still have your top performing reps. See how they are weathering the storm.

Are they still performing well? If so, what are they doing differently than other reps? Have they changed up their process in any way because of the slump, or are they keeping it consistent?

How can they help the sales team as a whole? Pair them up to mentor less experienced or under-performing reps to help them through this rough patch.

Focus on your team’s strengths

A sales slump is a time to focus on what you do best, not your weaknesses. You may be tempted to list the shortcomings your team is working on and start there to turn things around.

That could be like adding insult to injury. Your team is likely already a bit down, so it’s probably not the best time to pile on by highlighting their weaknesses.

Instead, if you know some of your reps are great at prospecting or demoing, get them doing more of that. Call out your team members’ strengths and have them share their methods with the rest of the team.

Analyze each of your reps’ last 10 deals, whether they were won or lost. Zero in on what went right during each one, no matter the final outcome, and focus on doing more of those types of things. Embrace rejection, learn from it, and use those lessons to help you emerge from a slump in a position of strength.

Find more sales motivation

Believe in your sales reps and show it. What happens if you give up on your team hitting their targets? No one else is going to be working their hardest for something that’s already thought to be a lost cause.

Identify motivators to help bust people out of their slump and reinvigorate sales. Remember, motivation doesn’t always mean money and commissions. There are many motivational tools and techniques that need minimum resources.

Recycle your slump-busting ideas

Slumps aren’t singular occurrences. You, and members of your team, have likely been in a similar situation before. Solutions don’t have to be brand new ideas. Look to previous downturns for guidance on what you can do now.

Think back to a previous sales slump, and then pose a few questions:

  • What was the situation then?

  • Is it comparable to what’s going on, sales-wise, now?

  • How did the team turn things around?

  • What did or didn’t work?

  • Would any of those ideas or tactics work here?

  • How were they implemented?

  • How much time and other resources did they need?

Looking back reminds you that a slump isn’t permanent and keeps you from reinventing the wheel, saving you time and headache.

Steer clear of desperation and pessimism

Panic does not make for an optimal sales environment. Anger solves nothing either.

You can’t ignore the reality and pretend everything’s fine; you’re probably at least frustrated. Be open and honest about what’s happening, then get your focus back on productive solutions.

It’s not just your team who will suffer under a dark cloud of pessimism. Customers can sense desperation and any other negative emotions that are swirling in your sales department. Desperation brings to mind the old-fashioned pushy salesperson, a huge turn-off for buyers.

Avoid other knee-jerk reactions to a slump, like putting too much pressure on prospects or offering discounts.  

The main thing during a sales slump is to keep working hard. This tough time will pass. Nothing lasts forever, even when a slump feels like it just might.

Most sales slumps aren’t turned around all at once. Instead, a trickle of deals starts to turn into a steady stream. Soon the sales flow is back to normal, and you’re leaving your sales valley behind to get back to conquering your quota mountain.

🎶 Climbed a mountain and I turned around 🎶 - Stevie Nicks (and you)

How Smart Teams Get Out of a Sales Slump

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