Action Plans Direct Salespeople out of Their Slumps
Seasonal slowdowns are a normal and predictable part of the sales environment, but managers might need to offer assistance to salespeople who are working through a personal slump. The best mechanism a manager can use is an action plan that is developed in concert with the salesperson. A formal plan gives the salesperson a detailed roadmap to follow and shores up the necessary resources for the resolution of the problem.
IMPLICATIONS — WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
It is up to the sales manager to help their people be proactive, as once they enter into a prolonged slump, many become fearful that any action they take will only make the situation worse. On the contrary, their fears and inertia make the situation more intolerable.
Sales managers need to know that there is a psychological component to sales slumps that can paralyze a previously robust and active salesperson. It is the sales manager’s duty to shake these individuals out of their stupor and get them back in the field.
There are many ways a manager can motivate their slumping salespeople. All action plans, though, should involve salespeople and get them to assume responsibility for their recovery. A good plan will compel salespeople to make specific choices and live with the consequences.
STRATEGIES, TIPS & TECHNIQUES TO APPLY
A well-prepared action plan should include the elements detailed below. The plan should be developed under the firm guidance of the sales manager and with the cooperation of the salesperson. One or more meetings might be needed to develop all the details. A formal action plan should be written down for future reference.
Define the Problem
The action plan should begin with a clear definition of the problem and a description of the circumstances and events surrounding it.
Define the Causes
The underlying causes behind the slump should be detailed. This is the foundation of the action plan, where salespeople and their managers begin to unearth the roots of the problem and set the stage for eliminating or rectifying them. If the root causes are misidentified or ignored, the ultimate solution will prove meaningless.
Define the Potential Solutions
All potential solutions should be identified and prioritized. Some will obviously be more effective than others, depending on the personality of the salesperson. Ideally, the sales manager should implement the solution best suited to the salesperson’s ability and capacity.
Define the Alternatives
Whenever possible, alternative solutions should be detailed. In some instances a secondary option may in fact turn out to be the most attractive method. For instance, if the salesperson requires training to improve skills, the sales manager’s first choice might be to personally coach the individual. An alternative to this scenario might be to send the salesperson to in-house or outside training. Having multiple alternatives worked out and at their disposal gives sales managers the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons and decide which option is best suited to a particular salesperson.
Define the Outcomes
Sales managers must detail outcomes for their plans that are clear and concise, listing what is specifically expected of salespeople. This part of the plan should inform salespeople about how their progress will be measured and what constitutes an acceptable level of performance.
Define the Timeline
Along with specifically detailed outcomes, action plans should provide a firm but realistic timeline for salespeople to follow. This design lets salespeople know that the action plan is not an open-ended exercise but a well-crafted solution with defined goals to be accomplished by a specific date.
Define the Responsibilities
The plan should detail the specific responsibilities of the salesperson along with the responsibilities assumed by the sales manager and other members of the support staff to provide assistance.
Define the Consequences
The final aspect of the plan should detail the consequences associated with the success or failure of the plan. Salespeople should be informed of their progress along the way. Research has shown that this strategy works to motivate individuals to be more productive and effective.
POINTS TO PONDER — SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
- What methods have you used to motivate slumping salespeople? How effective were they?
- Are there other proactive approaches that you consider when helping your salespeople work through slumps?
TRAINING ACTIVITY — APPLICATION & ACTION PLAN
Develop an action plan prototype that you can use for your sales team. Consider all of the elements discussed in this lesson and modify them for your particular use and application.