Didn’t meet your number last quarter? Things are probably not great for you right now. Your boss may have you on a performance plan. Your cash flow might be strained. And the voices in your head are definitely doing their best to keep you distracted and full of self-doubt.
Fear isn’t a great ingredient for a roaring comeback. Instead, take positive steps to get back to meeting or even exceeding your quarterly sales goal.
Read the tips below. Learn from them. And then get back to crushing your numbers like you know you can.
1) View Bad Months as Character-Building
In sales, everyone’s responsible for a number. Whether you missed last quarter’s number by a hair, or are lagging behind by a mile, it matters and it’s a problem.
When you’re in a sales slump, don’t waste time on excuses. Instead, use this time to get better, both personally and professionally. Have a particularly rough day at the office? Use it as an exercise in how to not take work frustration home to your family or roommate.
Manager attached at your hip to make sure you don’t miss two quarterly quotas in a row? Use this as a time to show them how adaptable and hardworking you are. Once you emerge from your slump, you’ll be a stronger salesperson for it -- and you won’t have alienated your friends and coworkers.
2) List the Quarter’s Wins and Losses
Tally up the wins and losses you experienced last quarter. For example, maybe you closed a high-profile account or won business away from a competitor. Chances are, you did more right than you remember. Obviously you also had some missteps, so be honest about addressing those.
Next, share your list with a close colleague, mentor, or coach and ask for feedback. They’ll be able to look at your list and identify areas where they can offer training or advice.
It’s also a good idea to dissect the accounts you did close. Did you approach those in a different way? What common characteristics did they share? How did you demonstrate value? Reviewing these closed-won accounts will allow you to think strategically about why they were a success. It’s also a great way to remind yourself you have the skills it takes to succeed at your job.
3) Turn to a Mentor
If you don’t have a mentor, now is the right time to find one. Ask your boss if they can connect you to anyone internally or externally who might specialize in your sales vertical or region.
Choose someone who’s been in the sales profession longer or has a track record of success. They’ll be able to offer you an outside, unbiased opinion of your work.
Once you’ve shared your list of quarterly wins and losses, your mentor can identify some “tells.” Together, you can craft a new plan of attack for meeting your goals and becoming a stronger salesperson.
4) Work Smarter and Harder
We often hear “Work smarter, not harder.” But when you’re not meeting your quota, you’ve got to do both. While it’s important to relax and take care of yourself (more on that below), it’s also important to hustle hard.
First, frame your situation using a simple formula like the MINTO Pyramid Principle structure. If you’re setting up a plan for meeting your number this quarter, it might look something like this:
Situation: I didn’t meet my number last quarter. It’s really important I hit my quota this quarter.
Complication: I don’t have many opportunities in my pipeline right now.
Question: Can I grow pipeline and get more leads to convert so that I meet my quarterly quota?
Answer: Yes. I make X number of calls per month. Out of those calls, only Y number of calls turn into demos. Out of those demos, historical data shows that only Z number turn into closed-won business.
Given these numbers, I can use a little simple math to work backward and calculate how many additional phone calls I need to close the right amount of business.
With this framework, you’ve clearly defined the problem and outlined a data-fueled approach to solving it. Your boss can provide feedback on your MINTO, and it gives you both a plan to stick to and monitor.
It’s also important to build in a buffer and take a look at outside factors that might affect the number of calls you need to make in a given month. Is January typically a hard month to get people on the phone? Adjust the amount of calls you make that month, or plan to increase the number of people you get on the phone before Jan. 1.
5) Replace Negative Self Talk
You know what I’m talking about. You miss your number and your thought process goes something like this: “Oh man, my manager is probably going to put me on a performance plan. I can already tell I’m going to struggle meeting my number this month. I’m definitely going to get fired. How am I going to pay bills? What’s my family going to do … ”
This is serious stuff. But dwelling on it isn’t going to make you better at selling. Instead, focus on what you can control, and take steps to write a more positive ending for your sales quarter.
That instantly turns your negative self-talk into something positive and actionable like this: “My boss put me on a performance plan because she wants me to succeed. I am going to work as hard as I can to meet my numbers by doing X, Y, and Z. I’m also going to be honest with my family and friends, so that I’m not going through this alone.”
6) Give Yourself Time to Relax
Whether it’s an hour or a day, your body will perform better if you give yourself time to shut down, recharge, and think about something other than work. Take a 15-minute walk outside your building, spend Saturday golfing with friends, or call it a night at a reasonable hour and have dinner with your family.
Staying focused is crucial to getting a hold on your number, but you can’t do that if you’re burned out, or worse, making yourself mentally or physically sick from your efforts. Give yourself time to unplug and be prepared to work hard when you get back.
7) Accept Tough Talk From Your Boss
When you don’t meet your number, it reflects poorly on both of you and on the bottom line of the company. Be prepared for some critique and frustration from your manager.
If you truly feel your quota is unrealistic, tell your boss (and be prepared to back it up with objective data, like how deeply penetrated your territory is or how many new accounts you’d have to sign). But more likely, you didn’t meet your number for reasons within your control. Now you have to answer for this.
Don’t be defensive. Take responsibility for not meeting your quota, and tell your boss you’re ready to work hard and put together a solid strategy for moving forward. This will go over much better than making excuses, trying to defend yourself, or outright contradicting your manager.
8) Conduct Call Reviews
If you and your manager aren’t meeting on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to listen to recordings of your phone calls and demos, ask if you can schedule a recurring time to do so. But don’t stop there -- until you’re back on track, you need all the help you can get. Ask a top-performing rep on your team and/or your mentor to listen to a recording with you as well.
Ask for brutal honesty and you’ll likely get it. It’s also a smart idea to shadow other salespeople or sit in other salespeople’s call reviews, if they’re open to that. Is there a colleague who crushes it every quarter? Make it a point to catch their call review and find out what they’re doing right. It’s also beneficial to ask this person to sit in on one of your call reviews. That way, you can get their perspective on your work as well.
Bad sales quarters are part of being in the business. They can be rough, soul-bearing periods of time. But they can also make you better, both personally and professionally. Don’t sugar coat your sales slump, but don’t give up on yourself either. Move forward positively and remember why you love what you do.
Originally published Aug 3, 2017 7:30:00 AM, updated April 24 2019