Once we get the hang of selling, it’s easy to put ourselves on auto-pilot – focusing on the things we’re great at and ignoring or minimizing the areas where were struggling.
One lesson we learned in the military was that we were only as strong as our weakest area. In sales, our weakest area may be finding new prospects, setting meetings, issuing purchase orders, or even in generating referrals. These weak areas force us into a ‘plateau’, and if they’re not addressed, they will slow down success.
High-performing troops take the time to assess where each member of the team may be hitting a plateau and ensure that time is spent in planning and training to address it so that when they’re on the battlefield, they’re all operating at a high level.
To learn how that type of planning and preparation would work to break a salesperson or sales team out of a plateau, we sat down with David Schlosberg, a sales expert with Ferguson Alliance who work with tight-knit sales teams to help them continually improve.
Since we’re trimming hope from our sales strategy, we’ll use the acronym TRIM to guide us through creating a system with a trigger, ensuring it’s repeatable, building in ways to improve it, and of course, ensuring it’s measurable and getting us results.
T – Trigger: To break out of a sales plateau, David recommends we trigger this sales system by taking the time to plan. Without a plan, we’ll end up in a sales plateau by default.
In other words, the best way to avoid a plateau is to have a plan that prevents you from falling into one.
While you’re planning for your year, David recommends taking the time to survey customers to find what value they’re receiving from doing business with you and how you can provide more of that value sooner in the sales cycle. Next, look at how many leads you’ll need to create to fill your pipeline and plan to acquire them.
If you find yourself in a plateau and realize you didn’t plan at the beginning of the year, all is not lost. Move forward in executing the repeatable steps below to get back on track.
R – Repeatable: To make busting out of a plateau a repeatable process, David says to look at the buying window(s) of your customers. If you’re not aware of when they’re able to purchase what you sell, it’ll be tough apply focus on the accounts most likely to convert into conversations, meetings, and new business.
If you or your team is plateauing in a specific part of the sales cycle, like setting more buyer meetings, David says to ask the question ‘Why aren’t we getting more meetings? What are we doing to engage with prospects now, and what resources do we have available to increase the amount of engagement points we have to drive more meetings?’
In other words, work the problem from what it would look like to be out of your plateau and build a plan to execute it.
The last part of this repeatable process is to assess your plan along the way to ensure that you’re moving out of your plateau and not digging yourself deeper. Have you made incremental progress in the right direction? If not, change your action plan while you still can to ensure you bust out of that plateau instead of throwing more effort at a strategy that isn’t getting results.
I – Improvable: To improve the way you break out of plateaus when they happen, David says to go to your front line salespeople and ask them what’s working and what’s not so their ideas can be communicated to leaders. That in turn may affect marketing, customer service, product delivery, etc.
Another way to improve is to survey existing customers to ask what would have shortened their decision-making process. The feedback from those questions can then be built into your next planning session as action items.
M – Measurable: Given that a plateau can occur anywhere in our sales cycles, it’s imperative that once we put a system into place, we look back on it an measure whether we’re getting better results with our plateau-busting system.
David says the dashboards in our CRMs can provide valuable insight into how we measure the success of breaking out of our plateaus. Sales may have increased overall, but did we improve in the area we were plateauing in? Without knowing that, we may not know whether we’ve broken out of that plateau.
In addition to measuring our own internal metrics, David also recommends leveraging our net-promoter scores with our customers to determine whether they’d recommend us to their friends and colleagues. That will be a measure of whether we’re providing more value to the folks we’re serving in addition to increasing results within our pipelines.