How to Motivate a Sales Team When Sales are Down

how to motivate sales teams

December 10, 2019

How to Support and Motivate a Sales Team When Sales are Down

Almost all business sales are impacted by trends—and that means there will be times when sales and revenue are down. You can probably easily absorb a few days of lower-than-usual sales, but if that goes on over an extended period, you’ll need to take action. We’ll explore what it takes to motivate your salespeople and the steps you can take to understand the issues, support your team, and get sales back to where they need to be.

Almost all business sales are impacted by trends—and that means there will be times when sales and revenue are down. You can probably easily absorb a few weeks of lower-than-usual sales, but if that goes on over an extended period, you’ll need to take action. We’ll explore what it takes to motivate your salespeople and the steps you can take to understand the issues, support your team, and get sales back to where they need to be.

Review Our Guide to Building a Successful Sales Team

We have a super-helpful guide to building up your sales team and making sure you’ve got the right processes in place. Even if your sales team is already well-established, it’s worth taking a look to see if there’s anything else you can do. The guide covers the characteristics of good salespeople, objective and goal setting, company culture, mentoring, best practices, and technology. 

Lower Sales Are More Often a Result of Poor Processes, Bad Timing, or the Marketplace, Rather Than Sub-Par Performance

The most important point to make is that poor individual performance isn’t usually the cause of lower sales. This is especially true if you haven’t changed personnel on the sales team and you have the same salespeople performing the same functions. Instead, low sales are more likely caused by:

  • Underperforming processes, technology, or integrations: You’ve recently asked salespeople to use new software or you’ve made changes to sales processes and how sales technology works with other parts of the business.
  • The impact of timing and seasonality: Your sales metrics may be impacted by the time of year, budget cut-offs, changes in your target businesses, or other aspects beyond your control.
  • Changes in the environment and marketplace: There are plenty of other areas that can impact sales. A drop off in promotional activity, changes in regulations and environmental factors, increased competitor behavior, and more can all have an impact.  

Of course, it’s not impossible for poor sales to be down to one or two individuals—so if you find that some salespeople are underperforming compared to the team as a whole, identify why that might be. Then, offer training, support, and mentorship to help them upskill or learn new approaches that can resolve the issue.

Identify Likely Factors Through Asking Questions and Data Analysis

One of the best ways to help motivate your sales teams is to ask them what they think is the cause of low sales. Hold one-on-one and group meetings and try to establish the underlying, root cause of current issues. Encourage team members to brainstorm and to identify issues—they face these problems on a daily basis, and if they’re allowed to share insight in a no-blame environment, you can uncover some very useful information.

Once you have a few likely causes for lower sales, carry out some detailed data analysis. Dig into the information in your CRM, customer success management platform, relationships with other business areas, and any other deep data mining that can support or refute potential causes. Create a baseline for what “good” sales look like and the contributing factors, then see if there’s a correlation between reduced sales performance and identified issues. This helps you understand the unique factors that could be suppressing sales, so you can take targeted actions to resolve them.

Motivate Through a Positive Company Culture In Your Sales Team

It’s easy to support a good company culture when things are going well. When sales are down, sticking to a positive, supporting, forward-looking approach is even more important. Analyze how the top performers spend their time and publicize that information as a model for everyone else. After the initial sale, are your top performers staying consistently engaged with customers throughout the life of their subscription so they can drive expansions and cross-sells, or are they checking-out and then showing-up again a few weeks before the renewal is due?

Avoid the Temptation to Blame Individual Salespeople or the Sales Team

Blame is easy, but it’s often very counterproductive. Even if poor sales performance is due to one or two individuals, continue to support them in a positive way and encourage other team members to do the same.

Encourage Open Feedback and Act on It

Asking questions about specific sales issues is just the start of a feedback loop in your sales team. You should encourage open discussion of ideas for improvement, things that work well, good attitudes and approaches, and other changes that can help individuals or the team. You will also need to demonstrate that this feedback leads to change by showing a link between ideas and implementation.

Empower Sales Supervisors and Managers to Provide Support and Resources

Ultimately, you want your sales team to be largely autonomous—to have control over how they do things, so long as they’re meeting and exceeding targets. That means giving the senior people in your sales department the right incentives and resources to promote a positive culture and support their people. For example, they may identify training opportunities for certain team members, or they can ask less-motivated individuals what they can do to help. 

Celebrate Upward Trends and Successes

Recognition and reward are powerful motivators. As sales start to improve, make sure your sales team knows their efforts are paying off. Recognize the team as a whole together with high-performing individuals. Share sales analytics and trends that show things moving in the right direction, together with root causes of success, where known. 

Create Stronger Interpersonal Connections in the Sales Team

Day-to-day working relationships have a huge influence on motivation and success. Consider setting up formal mentoring relationships, where more experienced salespeople can model ideal behaviors and skills for one or two junior team members. You can also create less formal buddy relationships, where you pair up team members and encourage them to ask questions and support one another. 

Refocus Salespeople on Other Vital Areas Like Customer Success and Retention

If your sales are down, it’s likely your salespeople have extra time on their hands. If that’s the case, consider reassigning them to other vital roles in your business. For example, in a subscription business, customer retention is just as important as sales—giving your sales team exposure to that area will give them some new insight and skills. You should also consider integrating some people into your customer success team, helping to demonstrate the benefits of the products to existing clients, so they get maximum value. 

Encouraging and motivating your sales team is an ongoing process. Start by using these techniques to see what works well, then build on them until you develop a rapport with your salespeople that leads to more success. 

Review Our Guide to Building a Successful Sales Team

We have a super-helpful guide to building up your sales team and making sure you’ve got the right processes in place. Even if your sales team is already well-established, it’s worth taking a look to see if there’s anything else you can do. The guide covers the characteristics of good salespeople, objective and goal setting, company culture, mentoring, best practices, and technology. 

Lower Sales Are More Often a Result of Poor Processes, Bad Timing, or the Marketplace, Rather Than Sub-Par Performance

The most important point to make is that poor individual performance isn’t usually the cause of lower sales. This is especially true if you haven’t changed personnel on the sales team and you have the same salespeople performing the same functions. Instead, low sales are more likely caused by:

  • Underperforming processes, technology, or integrations: You’ve recently asked salespeople to use new software or you’ve made changes to sales processes and how sales technology works with other parts of the business.
  • The impact of timing and seasonality: Your sales metrics may be impacted by the time of year, budget cut-offs, changes in your target businesses, or other aspects beyond your control.
  • Changes in the environment and marketplace: There are plenty of other areas that can impact sales. A drop off in promotional activity, changes in regulations and environmental factors, increased competitor behavior, and more can all have an impact.  

Of course, it’s not impossible for poor sales to be down to one or two individuals—so if you find that some salespeople are underperforming compared to the team as a whole, identify why that might be. Then, offer training, support, and mentorship to help them upskill or learn new approaches that can resolve the issue.

Identify Likely Factors Through Asking Questions and Data Analysis

One of the best ways to help motivate your sales teams is to ask them what they think is the cause of low sales. Hold one-on-one and group meetings and try to establish the underlying, root cause of current issues. Encourage team members to brainstorm and to identify issues—they face these problems on a daily basis, and if they’re allowed to share insight in a no-blame environment, you can uncover some very useful information.

Once you have a few likely causes for lower sales, carry out some detailed data analysis. Dig into the information in your CRM, relationships with other business areas, and any other deep data mining that can support or refute potential causes. Create a baseline for what “good” sales look like and the contributing factors, then see if there’s a correlation between reduced sales performance and identified issues. This helps you understand the unique factors that could be suppressing sales, so you can take targeted actions to resolve them.

Motivate Through a Positive Company Culture In Your Sales Team

It’s easy to support a good company culture when things are going well. When sales are down, sticking to a positive, supporting, forward-looking approach is even more important. 

Avoid the Temptation to Blame Individual Salespeople or the Sales Team

Blame is easy, but it’s often very counterproductive. Even if poor sales performance is due to one or two individuals, continue to support them in a positive way and encourage other team members to do the same.

Encourage Open Feedback and Act on It

Asking questions about specific sales issues is just the start of a feedback loop in your sales team. You should encourage open discussion of ideas for improvement, things that work well, good attitudes and approaches, and other changes that can help individuals or the team. You will also need to demonstrate that this feedback leads to change by showing a link between ideas and implementation.

Empower Sales Supervisors and Managers to Provide Support and Resources

Ultimately, you want your sales team to be largely autonomous—to have control over how they do things, so long as they’re meeting and exceeding targets. That means giving the senior people in your sales department the right incentives and resources to promote a positive culture and support their people. For example, they may identify training opportunities for certain team members, or they can ask less-motivated individuals what they can do to help. 

Celebrate Upward Trends and Successes

Recognition and reward are powerful motivators. As sales start to improve, make sure your sales team knows their efforts are paying off. Recognize the team as a whole together with high-performing individuals. Share sales analytics and trends that show things moving in the right direction, together with root causes of success, where known. 

Create Stronger Interpersonal Connections in the Sales Team

Day-to-day working relationships have a huge influence on motivation and success. Consider setting up formal mentoring relationships, where more experienced salespeople can model ideal behaviors and skills for one or two junior team members. You can also create less formal buddy relationships, where you pair up team members and encourage them to ask questions and support one another. 

Refocus Salespeople on Other Vital Areas Like Customer Success and Retention

If your sales are down, it’s likely your salespeople have extra time on their hands. If that’s the case, consider reassigning them to other vital roles in your business. For example, in a subscription business, customer retention is just as important as sales—giving your sales team exposure to that area will give them some new insight and skills. You should also consider integrating some people into your customer success team, helping to demonstrate the benefits of the products to existing clients, so they get maximum value. 

Encouraging and motivating your sales team is an ongoing process. Start by using these techniques to see what works well, then build on them until you develop a rapport with your salespeople that leads to more success. 

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