Getting out of a sales slump: The don’ts and dos

Many years ago, I found myself in a sales slump. I was down so far I really didn’t even know where up was. If you have been selling for a good length of time, chances are that you may have found yourself in the same situation at some point in your career. The incident that brought me out of the hole was a congratulatory note from my boss highlighting a couple of sales that I didn’t even think were significant. I still have the handwritten note. In very big letters he said, “WAY TO GO TIGER!!!,” and followed it up by referencing those couple small successes.

Based on my past experience, as well as coaching many others through the years, I thought it might be helpful to hear a few “don’ts and dos” that might be helpful if you ever find yourself in this situation.

The don’ts

Don’t panic: The worst thing to do in this scenario is panic. If you do you may find yourself going in 100 different directions — or none at all.

Don’t quit working: In some cases a salesperson can become almost paralyzed and stop working altogether. Obviously, if your career is in sales this is somewhere between really dumb and career changing.

Don’t keep repeating what does not work: We have all heard the definition of insanity, to keep doing what you have always done and expect different results. In many cases what worked five or 10 years ago may not be effective at all in the wired world we live in today. This “don’t” actually may require you to analyze your habits to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Don’t try too hard: Sometimes, the harder you try the worse it gets. It might just help to get relaxed and approach the job with a new point of view and attitude to go with it.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself: The surest way to sink even deeper into a slump is to fall into this trap. Pity parties are not the key to anyone’s success — especially salespeople!



The dos

Get back to basics: Sometimes the reason for falling into a slump is that we get away from doing the basic stuff it takes to be successful in sales. Albert E.N. Gray once said the only difference between successful and unsuccessful salespeople is that the successful ones have made a habit out of doing those activities that neither really likes to do. He called it the “Common Denominator of Success.”

Network with your best customers: One of the things that can happen when you are down is that you forget the great things that your product or service does for your clients. Connecting with the best will remind you of the value you offer. This one idea can be a great attitude boost!

Get a coach: If you don’t already have someone to turn to when you’re down, get someone! This is the role of a good sales manager. Mine certainly was an incredible help in the story I shared at the start of this article. Really good coaches have the ability to see strengths in you that you often cannot see for yourself.

Set realistic goals: It is not uncommon for someone with extremely high — almost unrealistic — goals to get discouraged when those goals are not met. I know that realistic goals are not always possible when a sales manager is dictating the impossible. If at all possible, always use the SMART criteria when goal setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Phased.

Practice: Great performers have a knack for making great performances look easy. Let me suggest that every hour of performance is supported by hours upon hours of practice and rehearsing. The same holds for professional sellers. Winging it is okay if you’re at Buffalo Wild Wings or KFC. If you’re a sales pro, practice leads to better results.

Finally, many have heard that it is important to work smarter, rather than harder. Let me suggest, if you are in a slump, you better darn well be doing both!

Here’s to good selling!

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