Make Your Bed and Build the Right Bench: Proven Ways to Get Your Sales Team Out of a Slump


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If you could choose one movie scene to inspire your sales team, what would it be?

I’d select the scene in Remember the Titans where the recently renamed Alexandria City High School football team perform a rousing song and dance. It’s fun and uplifting, and sends the message that when people “link arms” toward a common goal, they’re too powerful to defeat.

When your sales team is in a slump, it’s up to you, as their leader, to reinforce that message and rally them to victory. But first you have to get them unstuck.

What’s dragging them down? It could be a general market downturn, the emotional fallout of layoffs, or uncertainty following a merger or reorganization. Whatever the reason, your team members are likely to feel very alone as they fret about their futures. Their own fear, uncertainty and doubt can easily block them from seeing the impact they can still make.

Re-energizing Your Bench

But there is much you can do to reorient them. Be present, transparent, empathetic, and honest and share a compelling vision for the future. When your team members know that they have the power to grow, make more money, and help your company reach new goals—and that they’re seen as key players in the process—they’ll want to maximize their performance.

Your job is to maintain their drive, even when they’re in the middle of a hard comeback. Here are tips to refuel everyone:

• Build a bench of star leaders: A market downturn is often an opportunity to retool what it takes to succeed. That starts with taking a closer look at the leaders and managers charged with setting the bar for your sales organization. Do they generally have clear business plans with specific metrics, and have their colleagues been meeting their goals until recently? Could a recent slump be due to a lack of consistent sales activity, or a weak strategy, rather than changing market conditions? Do existing leaders and managers have the passion to lean in and upskill for better results, or is it time to replace them with those who do?

These are difficult analyses to complete, but sales teams will only be as good as the people who are coaching and guiding them. Every day that a leader stays on, worsening an already challenging situation, is a lost revenue opportunity. Your teams themselves will feel a sense of renewal with the right people finally at the helm.

• Meet with everyone more often—as a group and individually—to report on and celebrate progress, and discuss barriers/obstacles that you could help knock down (by deploying new technologies, for example).

• Emphasize short-term goals and metrics: I make it a practice to open every business development meeting by celebrating wins. They get people excited about what they are capable of controlling as we move forward. Short-term goals are doable, and success breeds more success.

• Channel Admiral McRaven: During a commencement address at The University of Texas at Austin, Navy Admiral William H. McRaven advised graduates to remember what he learned as a Navy SEAL—make your bed every day. That simple act (done exactly right) breeds discipline, sets you on a path of accomplishment throughout the day, and makes it nicer to be home when work has been rough. It also helps you look forward to tomorrow. As a leader, you can channel Admiral McRaven—encouraging consistent execution and reminding your team that doing the little things well will lead to important accomplishments.

• Make it fun: You can do this with games, competitions, awards, and more. Social media is a great venue for this—a place where people can post and vote on their favorite quotes, for example, with prizes for the winners.

• Change it up: Give people a fresh perspective, and you’ll improve your sales outcome. Bringing in an outside speaker on how to unplug and recharge, for instance, will re-energize everyone. Good outside training gives people hope as they see that trying a new approach improves outcomes.

• Measure, measure, measure: Be fastidious about tracking progress and retooling to stay on course.

Coaching a team out of a slump is a daunting assignment, but with these best practices, success is likely. A culture of positive energy, team spirit, and practice is proven to make all the difference.

Casey Cunningham
Casey Cunningham is CEO/Founder of XINNIX: The Academy of Excellence, a premier leadership and sales performance company. She founded XINNIX in 2002 to help organizations grow their businesses using proven methodologies from her years on the executive leadership team of a $4 billion firm. She is proud of XINNIX’s 25 workplace culture awards and the way her team has helped thousands of brands increase their revenues. Casey enjoys reading, traveling, fly fishing, and spending time with her husband, daughters, and two dogs.


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