Sales and Sales Management Blog

September 22, 2007

Getting Back on Track

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 8:19 am

Early this week I received an email from a gentleman from Portland looking for ways to get his sales career back on track: 

“Mr. McCord, My name is Leon.  I sell construction materials to commercial building contractors.  My typical sale is to a contractor building or remodeling a small to mid size commercial building.  A few years ago I was one of my company’s leading salesmen.  Over the past couple of years my sales have gone down the tubes and I’m now to the point where I’m just barely hanging on.  I believe I’m working just as hard as I always have but I just can’t seem to get things going.  My question for you is—what are the three most important things I need to do to get my sales back up?  I realize you don’t have a lot of information to go on, but whatever help you can give would be really appreciated.”

Unfortunately, Leon’s isn’t the only email I get like this.  I’m sure other trainers get a number of emails exactly like this one. 

Leon is correct—he has given very little information to help identify where his problem lies.  So, our first task is to examine where a slump or decline in sales comes from.  My experience has been that salespeople see radical declines in their sales for one of three root causes (or a combination thereof):

  • A change in work habits:  Over time, there has been a radical change in what the salesperson is doing.  They have ceased doing something that made them successful and have substituted something that is causing them to lose sales.  Not surprisingly, the thing they’ve ceased doing is virtually always prospecting.  They no longer see enough prospects to make the sales they want.
  • A change in their personal beliefs about themselves:  Successful salespeople believe in themselves, their company and their product.  They genuinely expect to make every sale.  They firmly believe that they and their products are the best choices for their prospects.  They are amazed when they don’t make the sale.  Most salespeople, on the other hand, genuinely expect to NOT make the sale.  They’re surprised when they hear the word ‘yes’ instead of ‘no.’ Many former top producers experience declines in their sales because self-doubt has crept into their thinking.  They no longer have the confidence and conviction that they will succeed.  Self-doubt will sabotage sales just surely as sticking a sign on your forehead reading “don’t buy from me.”  If you doubt yourself, your prospect will pick up on that doubt.  And if you doubt yourself, why should a prospect have confidence and trust in you?
  • A change in their beliefs about their company and/or products:  Most often a change in beliefs and attitude about the company one sells for stems from a personal situation with the company rather than the company’s products, pricing, or customer service.  Blaming the company for the problem is an excuse and rationalization, not a reality.  Were does the animosity toward the company come from?  It can arise for a number of reasons, but most often the salesperson feels the company has screwed them somehow.  It could be they think their compensation package isn’t fair, that they haven’t been given the credit and attention they deserve, that the company isn’t picking up their fair share of expenses, or whatever.  This animosity translates into a negative selling attitude that results in poor sales, hurting the salesperson more than the company.

Since the decline usually emanates from one of these three things, Leon will have to take a careful look at his entire selling business to determine where the issue lies and correct the issue.  More than likely, it is a combination of two or even all three of these issues, since in many cases they are all interconnected.  Only when the issue or issues have been isolated and corrected will he really get his sales back on track. 

That being said, there are things he must do right now while he’s trying to figure out what his root cause is:

1.  Get out and see prospects.  One of the quickest cures for any sales issue is to see more prospects.  The more prospects you see, the more comfortable you get.  The more comfortable you get, the more confident you get.  The more confident, the more sales.

2.  Immediately start a rigorous program to change internal self-limiting beliefs.  No matter the root cause, the decline will affect your beliefs about yourself.  Doubt creeps in and soon becomes a self-filling prophesy.  This requires a readjustment to your mental attitude and your personal belief system. 

3.  Avoid sitting around and complaining with the other salespeople in the company.  One of the most insidious destroyers of sales careers is the office bitch session.  Negative attitudes are reinforced through other salespeople.  What started as a minor irritant becomes a full-blown career stymieing or ending crisis.  Don’t allow the negative attitudes and the self-defeating belief systems of your peers influence you.  Unless the co-workers you hang out with are top producers, they can’t help you succeed, but they can certainly help you drown.

The only way out of a slump is by taking direct, positive action, both physical and mental.  Well thought-out physical action can help cure many a problem.  But physical action alone isn’t enough.  The cause of the problem must be identified and rooted out if the change you seek is to be permanent.

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