Whether slumps happen cyclically or spontaneously, they’re more of a “when” than an “if” for any sales team. That means planning ahead isn’t just crucial, it’s mandatory.

It all begins with never assume that a slump equates to failure. Normalize it! Dormant periods are common in nature and should be expected in any working atmosphere not run by robots.

The one thing not to do when your sales team is in a sales slump though is nothing. Here are four steps to help you spring into action and motivate your sales team.

Step one: Inspire through storytelling.

Do you remember how you felt when you were in the midst of a productive streak? This is not about your numbers or your strategy. How you felt is what’s key here.


People are not logical, they are psychological -- and that means appealing to feelings, aspirations, and values will be more motivating than charts and statistics. Ambitious quarterly numbers won’t raise spirits, just stress.

Stories are the most powerful way to turn thoughts into beliefs. Gather a few of your most inspirational stories from times of plenty and stress the parts that carry your company’s goals. This is not the time to be specific about hitting targets as much as getting people into the mindset that the success they’ve seen in the past (whether in your company, a competitor, or an inspirational example) is possible.

Can’t think of any? Ask around. Inciting casual conversations will not only improve morale but send a message that you’re interested in your team. You might discover a story you didn’t even know happened.

Another way to do this is to think about any media or experiences you’ve discovered that reminded you of what winning feels like. Maybe it’s a movie, or a podcast, or a really cool conference. Is there a way you can get something like these in front of your team?

If you are looking to use music to motivate your sales team - check out our Spotify playlist featuring our personal favorite hype songs.

You might be wondering why we didn’t mention books. Did you ever have a manager that gave you a book as a motivational tool? Did you ever read it? Be honest.

Receiving a dense tomb from someone above you can feel like a homework assignment. Work will come but this stage should be about enjoyment and revitalization. Of course, your recommendation should be authentic, but don’t make it feel heavy.

Step two: Examine your intentions.

Remember how we said that you can’t just wait around? Action is key.

Do some quick diagnostics to make sure the tried-and-true methods are still being used. Going through the motions of your best practices should still be a part of your team’s tool kit to keep their instincts and sales muscles strong.

As the old saying goes, 80 percent of success is just showing up (or, if we may editorialize: consistently showing up to things related to your goals).

But as you examine your funnel, be open to what you can do differently. Thinking about where you’re showing up, how you’re showing up, and what your team is bringing to the table can breathe some fresh air into your pitches as well as your team’s morale.

With this in mind, set a brainstorming meeting with your salespeople and go into Dream Mode. What’s that? It’s Walt Disney’s famous habit of setting meetings where his team was only allowed to think about blue skies as the limit for any ideas. No pragmatism allowed.


Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

To guide this meeting, think about your ideal clients, communication methods, and resources. Embrace strange ideas, self-care methods, new technology. Your guiding light is what will garner more leads when it comes to what you sell.

Don’t make any decisions at this meeting. Let your team sit with it for a few days before setting a separate meeting, in a separate space to think only about how these ideas (or versions of them) might happen. Combine with a project manager and congrats -- you’ve just made your dreams actionable.

Step three: Pep & provide.

Now that you’ve allowed your staff to recharge and brainstorm, it’s time to make any new business experiments or an enthusiastic return to sales as easy as possible.

First, the rally cry. Getting everyone on the same page is crucial. When planning your pep talk, make sure it does the following:

Set the stage:

Get real about the stakes. Recognize frustration as something everyone is feeling, and be specific. What do you need to overcome?

Define success:

You’ve been vague up until now, which is great for feelings but not for bottom lines. Using all the feedback and reflection you’ve collected, determine what you’re specifically asking of your team and set realistic goals. If there’s a way to make this interactive and invite them into the conversation of defining success, all the better. If there are things that just need to get done or goals that must be attained without a discussion, explain why.

Instill trust:

Don’t micromanage a strategy and don’t call out the weaknesses of specific team members. Reinforce how everyone is in that room for a reason -- they were hired for what they brought to the table, not what you brought out of them.

Use any ideas that came from the brainstorm to write an email of resources. This may take some additional planning along with your pep talk, but know that providing easy, actionable tools will help them act sooner. Some examples of this could be:

  • A list of places, people, and platforms for your salespeople to target.
  • Step-by-step guides to new marketing strategies.
  • Links to e-courses about interesting topics that may have come up.
  • Examples of how discussion points could apply to your team’s biggest clients.

Step four: Incentivize to thrive.

Yes, we’ve saved incentivization for last.

If you introduce new incentives too early, they can feel like bribes. Waiting to introduce them after the first three steps can make them feel more authentic to your work in revving up your team.


Via Pix-Zip

Of course, selecting incentives depends on your available resources. But remember: authenticity can go a very long way. Here are some pros, cons, and examples of common incentives.

Bigger bonuses:

This may be the first thing to come to mind. But studies show that this is also the most expensive way to motivate a team. One study suggests that you need to consider a bonus that’s at least 8 percent of their base compensation to truly increase productivity. Considering your team’s salaries, is that possible?

Of course, if you have a sales team that is already motivated by money, this may make the most sense. But be sure that any additional, short-term bonus incentive is fair and the conditions are well defined. Inciting jealousy or resentment will make all of this useless.

Competitive contests:

What’s more human than a little survival of the fittest? Healthy competition activates the reward centers in our brains, but balance is key. If the stakes are too high or if the risk of failure is too great, it can undercut any benefits.

Consider smaller rewards for smaller parts of the funnel. Instead of say, the person who closes the most client deals, why not reward other aspects of the funnel, such as lead generation or housekeeping issues. These can be rewarded with smaller gift cards and help get more menial (yet crucial!) aspects out of the way for bigger, team-wide wins.

Great giveaways:

Avoid the anonymity of yet another iTunes gift card by considering prizes that speak to a lifestyle or identity that your team desires. Is your team the latest tech gadget or a Rolex? Compared to that 8 percent compensation mentioned above, you may be able to do a lot more with a lot less.

If you’re managing a small team, you may want to go even more custom. Do they enjoy football games or exclusive spas? Which ones? What would make their life easier? Or their family’s?

Also mine your client list: perhaps some may be able to provide a product or service at a discount or in exchange for something you provide? Doing so may strengthen your professional relationship while also saving your company some serious cash.

Humiliating humor:

One sales manager recently did just this by offering to die his hair (permanently) bright blue in exchange for beating a previous sales record. And it worked.

It’s not just about humiliation, of course. It’s about showing how leadership is just as committed to the goal as their team. With the right creative thinking, it might even create a branding or marketing opportunity for your company (see link above). But when doing so, ask does it match your culture?

Why these four steps work

They reinforce the “why.”

Each of these steps serve to remind your team why they’re there, but in different ways. You’ve appealed to their emotions, ambitions, team spirit, and financial needs -- but all through the lens of “why.”

If that sounds too simple, it’s because it is. The biggest productivity road blocks come from sweating the “small” stuff. Balancing the many priorities that dominate our to-do list -- both personally and professionally -- can sometimes make us see the forest for the trees. But focusing on what compels us to do our best is the most motivating.

Do you have a favorite motivation method you don’t see here? Share your stories and successes in the comments below!