Even during normal times, around 57% of sales representatives miss their quota. Some common reasons for missing quota including poor lead generation, a lack of follow-up with customers, and failure to understand the full sales process from start to finish.
When the economy is in a downturn, the number of sales reps who miss quota is likely to be even higher. But there are many steps managers can take to help sales reps who missed their quota this quarter.
1. Create a performance report and compare data with past successes.
You and your rep can review past deals that went through, focusing particularly on the most recent deals. Identify commonalities among those deals. Why was the representative able to succeed? What were the most important elements of the sales process?
Use these successes to create a guidebook for a struggling sales representative. This exercise reminds them that they can succeed and provides actionable steps for reps to follow.
2. Evaluate the sales messaging they’re using when pitching to customers.
Sales representative who succeed adapt their message depending on the customer and their current situation.
During an economic downturn, sales reps should evaluate the strength of a prospect’s position before conducting outreach. It may make sense to focus on prospects who are in a relatively strong position. Even so, the sales representation should clearly understand the prospect’s current challenges and adjust their pitch accordingly.
Observe your underperforming sales reps’ cold calls and other early outreach messaging. Do they seem to be giving the same pitch to every customer? To overcome this problem, model how to successfully adapt a sales pitch. Brainstorm the best ways to reach a prospect on the sales representative’s list.
3. Strategize on getting current deals over the finish line.
Even if sales have been slower than you would prefer, your sales representatives still have deals in the pipeline. Help them strategize how these accounts can be closed by asking detailed questions about the deal’s progression.
If your sales representative suspects that poor economic conditions may be contributing to delays, create a strategy that specifically addresses the downturn and associated uncertainty. Prepare your sales representative for the possibility that the sales cycle might be extended, while still emphasizing that the deal can close with the right approach.
4. Help sales reps focus more on what they can control.
When the economy is mired in a downturn, it is all too easy for sales representatives to become despondent. They may feel as if their sales performance is largely beyond their control.
To mitigate this kind of thinking, encourage your team members to focus on factors that are still within their control. Although a sales rep cannot control larger economic conditions, they can control their prospecting, messaging, and other sales techniques. Share motivating resources with your team that prompt them to take ownership over their work, instead of focusing on what’s going on in the wider world.
One way for sales reps to focus on factors that are within their control is to pivot more towards growing their established accounts. Existing customers are oftentimes the best source of new business, and that is particularly true during a downturn. Encourage your sales representatives to check in with their existing customers. They should not go into early conversations with the goal of a sale, but should focus on learning about where the customer is right now and how your company can provide help. Invite customers to pursue your resources and participate in webinars. The sales representative should always be looking for ways to add value, even if they are not trying to sell a specific product or service.
Once the sales representative better understands the conditions the customer is facing, they can create a strategy for expanding business.
Sales representatives struggling to meet quota should also consider reaching out to customers who have churned. They should ask if they can provide help and suggest resources.
Connecting with existing and previous customers offers additional benefits for struggling sales representatives. By engaging with their customers, they can also better understand new customers they might reach out to. Salespeople should also be on the lookout for referral opportunities.
5. Consider offering quota relief in future quarters.
Most managers rightfully see quota relief as a last resort. But during a major economic downturn, it’s worth putting quota relief on the table.
If you are going to provide quota relief, you should offer the same conditions to all members of your sales team. Avoid responding to individual requests for relief. When rolling out quota relief, explain the reasoning behind it. If the relief is simply a short-term response to a crisis, make sure that everyone on your team understands that.
One benefit of quota relief is that a lower quota can lower sales representatives’ anxiety and thereby enable better performance.
You may also want to consider offering additional incentives to sales representatives who do manage to meet or exceed quota.
6. Examine how your sales rep’s work habits can be improved
Sometimes, a sales representative’s struggles may be rooted in their workflow rather than insufficient sales skills. This is particularly relevant for sales representatives who are adjusting to a new work environment, such as working from home full-time.
Invite sales representatives to track their habits while working. Are they able to set a routine and stick to it? What outside factors and distractions may be preventing them from doing their best work?
Once the sales representative has identified potential problems, suggest that they establish a new work routine. You might recommend tools to assist with organization and other work-from home challenges.
It’s also helpful to give your team members opportunities to share best work-from-home practices.
Sales is a challenging field, and economic downturns present a particularly harrowing set of challenges. By using these strategies, you can help your team to get through it.
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