Sometimes we hit a slump. Our numbers get sluggish. There's no reason to be embarrassed, but there could be cause for concern. Not many organizations can survive the long haul if their sales numbers go down, or worse... stay down. Here are some steps to help you get off the ground and back on top:
1- Acknowledge. Yes, first and foremost you need to be honest with yourself and acknowledge the fact that your sales have gone awry. If you're a Sales Manager, then you should have concrete numbers and analytics to validate that your numbers are sluggish. Use those numbers to call a meeting with your team and leadership.
2- Identify. During your meeting, you and your team need to think your way out of the sluggishness. Ask hard questions to identify the root cause(s) like:
Are we losing market share because there's a better, stronger competitor?
Are our sales slowing because our product has unresolved issues?
Are our numbers down because of employee turnover?
Are we in need of key skills that our current team doesn't have?
If you are lacking key skills, then it may be time to find a consulting firm (I happen to know one) that can help you find your way back to the top of the leader board. A consulting firm may be able to help identify which skills are lacking, may be able to help you onboard the talent, and/or may do the heavy-lifting themselves. If the consulting firm rolls up their sleeves and engages in fulfillment, then you will have less employee-related expenses (payroll taxes, PTO, benefits, etc.)
Are our numbers down because of poor follow up or customer support?
Are we losing ground because our marketing and/or message is poor, incomplete, or confusing?
Are we listening to our own team members or discounting them?
If you aren't listening to your own team, then you may be losing ground because these folks know what's happening in the field and know why they aren't selling like they should be selling. Sometimes leadership "doesn't want to hear excuses" so they automatically discount the feedback as "negativity." Have you thought, "Maybe they're right" just long enough to listen instead of talk over them?
Any and all of these reasons can cause your ship to sink. Hopefully, you are only taking on a small amount of water, but nonetheless, it's time to get busy bailing!
3- Plan. Establish a plan of action. You may have only one issue causing your decline or you could have many issues contributing to it. Either way, you need an overall action plan and specific plans for each and every issue. Make sure you Identify Stakeholders, Develop a Project Management Plan, a Timeline, a Communications Plan and of course, a Risk Management Plan (each of these will be discussed separately in other blog posts).
4- Act. Once you are honest about the problem, identify the specific issue(s), plan out your return to glory, then it's time to act. Stick with the plans you have developed with the stakeholders identified, so your plan(s) can come to fruition in time to save your business.
If you begin to veer off course, STOP. Yes, STOP. If anyone on your team including leadership is beginning to stray, you need to meet with your team again to ensure that you are heading in the right diretion and that everyone is in agreement. It's important not to "YES" leadership, otherwise, you will be right back to square one. And leadership, yes, I'm talking to you, remember to LISTEN more than TALK. Your business is in a slump, and your team's livelihoods depend on getting it back on track. Listen to them and stay on track. It's all about focus. That's right, it's time to focus like your business' life depends on it. It just might.