The sales slump is a dangerous place to be. It can happen to everyone, from a first-time sales rep all the way to a veteran enterprise salesperson.
It is especially worrisome when the team’s top performer falls into a slump. It can affect whether the entire team meets goal, and damage the morale of the junior members if it gets out of hand. When a rep is caught in a downturn, they are frustrated, unmotivated, and dangerous. They can’t close, lose deals left and right, and miss goal after goal.
Fortunately, the days of the sales slump may be behind us for good. Thanks advanced data and reporting, we can now identify when a rep is about to fall behind and reverse the problem before it becomes a reality. Here’s how you can detect a sales slump in your reps and solve it before it ruins your quarter.
Indicators of a drop in performance
Besides the obvious decrease in revenue generation, there are early warning signs of a decline in performance. Using a sales reporting platform, you can catch a slump and step in these before a rep spirals out of control. Indicators include:
- Decrease in the number of conversations a rep is having
- Unexplained dip in close rates.
- Decrease in number of deals or leads in the pipeline
- Increase in average deal time
- Drop in overall goal attainment
Using conversation intelligence data, you can also see red flags within the rep’s actual sales calls. Examples include:
- Increase in talk percentage to beyond desirable levels
- Increase in overtalk (interrupting or speaking over contacts)
- Decline in conversation sentiment to negative levels
- Decrease in conversation length
Other signs include dissatisfied customers and unhappy teammates. If a number of customers all signed by the same rep voice to support that disappointment with your product, this could be a sign that they were improperly qualified and sold. If they were promised something that wasn’t delivered, not fully educated on the functionality, or may even have a pricing disagreement, your rep may be failing at their job. Furthermore, pay attention to your team’s overall attitude. If a veteran rep is underperforming, they may be affecting your other sales and development reps.
Why top reps slump
Breakdown in strategy
Just like your golf swing can go off or a pitcher’s form can break down, a sales rep’s strategy can falter. When a rep is “that good,” it’s easy to want to let them work in their own way, even if it’s outside of your typical operating strategy. However, a rogue rep can do more harm than good, especially if they aren’t performing well. A top-performing rep may think they have it all figured out, but the reality is they may go too far off the tracks.
Failure to provide proper motivation
We all have lives outside of the office that keep us motivated to work. The trouble is keeping what we want out of our careers and what they provide properly aligned. If a rep’s performance has dropped, they may no longer be receiving what they need. Your sales reps must be compensated, incentivized, and rewarded in a manner that aligns with their personal wants, needs, and goals. While monetary compensation is definitely important, it isn’t everything. The company culture, products, selling style, and career advancement opportunities must also fit with the rep’s personal aspirations. If they don’t, a breakdown in performance will eventually occur.
Lack of significance
It takes a certain type of person to truly be successful in sales. Many times, the characteristic traits include the want to be recognized or praised. If your top sales person no longer feels like they are a significant person in the company, especially during periods of growth or organizational change, they may become unmotivated, and performance will decrease.
Amount of control
The amount of control a rep has over the deals they can make is related to their motivation and amount of significance. If a rep no longer feels that they have control over the prospects they can sell to, the pricing they can provide, or the goals they must achieve, they may start to react. If this is the case, the rep will likely blame the pricing structure or product for their lack of performance.
Belief in the product
If one of your sales reps has been with the company for a long period of time, they likely have seen (and sold) several different iterations of your product(s). If reps no longer believe in the product they are selling or feel like they are being stifled by competitors who are encroaching on your space with superior products, they may begin to become frustrated and fail.
Have you recently restructured your organization, shuffled responsibilities, and possibly displaced your star rep? Your top sales rep may be unhappy and feel undervalued with their new position. They could feel like they were not given the attention or promotion they deserved. They may be unhappy with the people above them and disagree with the strategies your new hires seek to implement.
What you need to do
Address the problem quickly
Understandably, this is a difficult position to be in. However, you absolutely cannot take your time to address this issue. When you address the problem right away, you actually immediately benefit the entire team, since if your top rep is underperforming, they are likely unhappy and that toxicity will spread to the rest of your reps.
Be open and honest
The best way to address a difficult situation is to be open, honest, and direct. Sit down with the rep in a comfortable environment, it should not feel like a disciplinary meeting. Your rep probably already knows they are underperforming, so the discussion will not come as a surprise. They will probably have excuses and explanations that do not include themselves, so you must be prepared to address personal problems in a positive and productive manner. This will do volumes to cultivate an open, coachable culture within your team.
In conjunction with your rep, develop a plan to help them improve. Work together to find what success looks like, and the steps needed to get there. Your rep will not go through this process alone. You should make yourself available to them and provide other resources to assist in their growth. They will feel more invested in the outcome if the plan is developed collectively rather than handed to them as a performance improvement plan.
Find the motivation
Find what your sales rep needs that they have not received, this could include both personal and career aspirations. Is there any sort of incentive that you can provide for them to work towards? Build a path to it. This will allow you to inspire and motivate the rep by directly aligning their personal and work goals.
Re-open your training and education to the rep. Get them excited to learn more about your product and how it can be utilized. It is possible they have been selling the same thing the same way for far too long. Encourage them to re-educate themselves on how the product is used, have them sit with your product teams and learn the roadmap, or visit with support and find out how you are making customers more successful. See if you can re-inspire and reinvigorate your top seller.
No sales manager wants to lose their top sales rep, whether they let them go or the rep quits on their own. When a all-star performer starts to falter it may feel like there is no other choice. However, by catching a slump early and properly re-engaging the rep, you can keep all of your A players on your team, and elevate your sales coaching strategy at the same time.