How to Reboot a Slow Start

Carrie Ward

“Ya Gotta Believe!”

In 1973, Tug McGraw instilled these three words into every NY Mets fan. As the All-Star break ends and we see ourselves far away from playoff contention, it’s getting hard to truly believe.  Some fans are ready to trade the entire team, staff, and even the ball boy. But a few of us are still saying, “Ya Gotta Believe” (call us suckers).  

This mid-season assessment is not unique to baseball. Some of your reps have finished Q2 and are already building the momentum (and pipeline) for a strong second half. Others see their Q2 year-to-date results and are ready to take a long vacation and look to next year. But it's not time to give up. Ya Gotta Believe!  

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It’s imperative for reps and managers to stay engaged and motivated. Now is not the time for complicated new strategies and messages. It’s time to double-down on the behaviors we know will drive results 90 days from now.

So how do you keep your teams believing, especially in a competitive job market where the promise of higher comp and lower goals seem be everywhere? Below are seven coaching strategies to help your reps execute in the second half of the year. The actions your teams take in the next 60 days will determine if they finish the year strong.

1. Build their Confidence. Regardless of your sales motion, the selling season is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not uncommon to have a few rough months – even quarters – of results. All sales reps need a good coaching talk to remind them why they’re so important to the company. Instead of conversations about their numbers and pipeline, dive into the individual deals. Is the rep having the right business conversations? Is he or she communicating the product through the lens of the customer’s business? Is he or she guiding (not selling to) the customer?

 

2. Coach the Process, Not the Results. Too often we see managers attempting to “coach” the lagging indicators – quota attainment, cross-sell/upsell targets – instead of the behaviors that drive results. How confident are you that your reps are spending time on the right activities? Are your front-line managers in the field or hiding away in their home offices? Only by watching reps in the field can they really understand what’s going on before it’s too late.

 

3. Tap into their Motivations. The number one reason people go into sales is to make money. While the money (especially incentive) is rewarding, there are other factors that motivate. As we’ve written before, emotional intelligence has a place in sales. What gets your reps excited? Is it the detective-like investigative skills needed to unravel a business problem or identify the full set of stakeholders? Is it the adrenaline high of nailing an effective sales conversation? The thrill of the win? Make sure field leaders know the motivators of each rep and are reminding them of what makes them good. 

 

4. Reduce the Noise. We recently shared a client story about a focused field enablement approach that turned results around mid-year. The effort became the new sales enablement operating platform, focusing on one issue per month. The idea was to drive larger change through incremental improvements. A laser-focused, multi-channel, top-down approach can give just enough support to push through for a strong 2H finish.

 

5. Compensate for What They Can Control. Determine whether any underperformance might be related to a comp plan not aligning to the sales strategy or rep behaviors. This can sometimes happen. We recently facilitated a think tank for a client’s sales leadership team. There were rumors that a particular sales role was spending a majority of time servicing, rather than selling. We surveyed the organization and validated these rumors. People in this role spent less than 20% of their time selling. Instead, most of their time was spent reacting to customer issues (which explains why goal attainment was in the mid-fifties).

 

6. And While You’re at it, Take a Look at Quotas. Determine if any underperformance might be related to goals not matching market potential. We all know if you asked 100 sales reps if their goal was fair, 98 would answer ‘no’. The other two would be lying. Goals are always perceived as unfair. In some cases, the goals can be truly unfair. Only a small handful of our clients conduct a real top-down/bottoms-up calibration to determine sales goals. We hear it over and over: “You know what I get for blowing out my goal? A bigger goal the next year.” The goal-setting practice of a flat percentage above prior year is extinct and needs to be eliminated.

 

7. Remind Them, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over. We have a client that runs an annual 2H SPIF focused on the underachievers. It’s a substantial amount of money for the ‘most improved’ player and it is very effective at sparking their competitive drivers. Messaging from the top is key. The field can smell fear from corporate, so maintain confidence while keeping your teams on track.

 

As we go into the second half of 2019, let everyone stand up for the seventh inning stretch if they need to. But it’s not time to go home yet. Consider this second half a fresh start. Use the time to re-approach your pipeline, build out your skillsets, and lean on your management and sales enablement for support. Everyone likes the story of the comeback kid – and hopefully my Mets will not be on the golf course come the end of July. Ya Gotta Believe!

Contact us to hear more practical steps you should be taking today to keep your year from tanking or keep your results on track for success.  

Carrie Ward

Carrie Ward

Carrie is an experienced consultant specializing in sales analytics, organizational design, and sales process optimization. She is the co-author of The Sales Compensation Handbook as well as numerous sales research studies.