“I’d made President’s Club three years in a row from a five-year tenure at the company. I was feeling pretty confident starting 2017 – my pipeline was as good as it had been at the same time over the last couple of years. Things started going south by the end of Q1.”
This is how Jane began her story of the beginning of the end of her sales career at a large medical device company. “I lost a couple of big deals that I’d projected at 80 percent, and right around the same time I lost three – yes, three – of my main contacts at targeted accounts, so I had to start all over again with their replacements. Looking back now, it really sucked the wind out of me.”
Jane went on to say that as the year progressed and her prospecting efforts failed to uncover enough new opportunities to back fill her pipeline, her once “high-fiving boss” became more and more distant. “That really bummed me out. By the end of the third quarter, I was dreading prospect and client meetings, certain that I was just going to mess things up. My confidence was gone. My inner critic was having a field day.”
Jane left the company at the end of February the following year and left behind her career in selling – one that for five years had challenged and excited her. The medical device company incurred the cost of hiring and onboarding Jane’s replacement – a process that can take up to nine months to complete. That hurts revenue. Wouldn’t it have been great if Jane’s boss had not become distant and given up on her – and even better if he’d had the skills to help her not give up on herself?
When deals are closing and their pipelines are full of promise, self-belief and confidence are readily accessible to salespeople when they sit down to talk with a new prospect or log on to a conference call with an existing client. But what about those dry spells where opportunity and luck seem to have abandoned them? Sales team members still have to meet with prospects and clients, and they still have to be appropriately enthusiastic, passionate and inspiring. That takes resilience.
Resilience is a toughness that allows sales professionals to bounce back from inevitable rejection; to keep prospecting during a dry patch; and to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep going when they lose a sizable deal to a competitor right at the finish line. Show me a sales professional who is successful over the long haul, and I’ll show you someone who is resilient.
How can you be sure to remain the “high-fiving” boss even when the pipeline is looking anemic? How can you help your sales force become and remain resilient? First of all, spend time with your sales team in the role of coach, and/or pair less experienced reps with more experienced mentors to help them learn the ropes and how not to take to heart the vicissitudes of a career in selling.
If reps are struggling, help them get back on track:
1. Adjust their goals.
Consider increasing their prospecting or outreach efforts. If you have already adjusted their goals, and they are consistently failing to meet them, adjust them so they are challenging and achievable. Small wins can help reps get their head back in the game and get back on track.
2. Help them not to become victims.
Help reps adjust their mindset so they have a clear-eyed view of the situation. Doing so will make it easier for them to identify actions they can take to bring their sales back where you both want them.
3. Problem-solve, and be creative with them.
If they keep doing what they’re doing … maybe they’ll get lucky. However, it’s better to help them think about creative ways to become more motivated, better engage with the buyer audience, and present your organization’s products or solutions in a more inspiring way.
4. Remind them how good you know they can be!
Offer your support and help before it’s too late. It’s important they have a trusted individual or group with whom they can troubleshoot and problem-solve.
Resilience is not just nice to have in order to achieve a successful and sustainable career, but it is an absolute necessity. As a sales manager, it is your obligation to help your team members navigate the rough and tumble of the sales role. Teach them to recover quickly and remain tough!