Every sales team gets stuck in a rut at some point, but a good manager knows how to lead a sales team in times of trouble. 

Your staff was performing well for a while, and since you don’t enjoy playing the role of the micro-manager, you decided to let your employees do their own thing. Why not? If sales are up, your employees don’t need your leadership, right? Well, what happens if sales suddenly plummet? The way you manage staff when times are good is different from how to work with them when times are bad. It’s important to know how to lead a sales team that can’t seem to pull themselves out of the red.

Here’s a tip: Leadership takes place at all levels of the sale process. You can’t step up to the plate when times are tough if you aren’t inspiring your staff when things run smoothly. However, if your team is stuck in a rut, and you need to step into your leadership role, here are a few ways you can pull them out, and get out of the red.

1. How to lead a sales team: Identify the problem

The first step in knowing how to lead a sales team that’s floundering is to identify the challenges they are having. Whether it be pricing issues, lack of qualified leads, issues with process, lack of proper tools, access to decision makers, or something else, if it is a challenge you can solve, make every effort to resolve it before sending your sales team back out into the field.

Have one-on-one meetings, Or, if your team is remote, send out a survey to try to identify what obstacles your team feels stands in the way to their success. Open dialog will help empower them, allow them to vent, and will give you insights to what may be hindering their progress. Address the issues you can and then encourage the sales team to find solutions around obstacles out of your control.

When Chrysler’s CEO, Robert Eaton was asked how he increased earnings by 246%, he replied, “If I had to use one word, it’s empowerment.”


client-managerWant to automate your sales team’s processes to make their job easier? Schedule a free demo of our lead management software and turn leads into customers with less work!

2. How to lead a sales team: Find out what your staff values and go from there

There are many ways to energize sales teams from monetary rewards (bonuses, sales contests, and prizes) to recognition. Sales people need to feel their leader is backing their success. If your sales team is in a rut, chances are they can be turned around through the right incentives, adequate recognition to build pride and healthy camaraderie and competition.

Make sure the sales team you lead understands the company’s goals, strengths, and weaknesses. Let them know you are engaged with them in their objectives and are ready to recognize and reward success.

Even though GE is a big company, this advice goes for any business: “It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” –Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

3. How to lead a sales team: Inspire personal initiative from each member

Encourage your team to be proactive. If they’re stuck in a rut, it is their responsibility to get out of it with your support. Challenge your team to identify what concrete actions they can take to close a sale, to land a prospect, or to identify a new opportunity. Make sure your team educates themselves about their customer, the industry, and any environmental issues that may hinder their success. Have your sales team document actions they take, and make sure to verbally acknowledge their work.

The reason why J.C. Penney survived for over a 100 years (and is still going) is because of a strong collective and independent workforce. “The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” — James Cash Penney

4. How to lead a sales team: Encourage creativity

If the rut your team is in has nothing to do with company issues or lack of effort, try something new. Have your staff participate in some sales training exercises to get the creative juices flowing.

Brainstorm new ways to move forward and realize sales. Perhaps you need to prospect more creatively or apply guerrilla marketing techniques. Maybe your team is using the wrong script or approach. Maybe you need to create a stronger differentiation from the competition.

The best advice is to simply keep trying to innovate. “Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” — Drew Houston, Dropbox Co-founder & CEO

5. How to lead a sales team: Dig them out with the proper tools

Ensure the sales team you manage is aligned with the company’s mission, knows their audience, the industry, and any obstacles to success they are likely to face. Arm them with technology, account management, online support, marketing materials, good leads and contacts, and most importantly information they need to land a sale. Keep communication open and share learnings with real-time tracking and regular feedback.

 Don’t be afraid of analytics.Dave Elkington, CEO and Founder of InsideSales.com, says, “You have to generate revenue as efficiently as possible. To do that, you must create a data-driven sales culture. Data trumps intuition.” 

6. How to lead a sales team: Swap out the players if necessary

If you have educated your team, motivated them with incentives and provided data and tools, yet they are still not performing, it’s time to make some changes to your sales force. Hiring and staffing the right people is a critical part of leading a strong sales team. Look for people who will be aligned with your company’s goals and who have as much passion for success are you do.

Are you hiring efficiently? Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, says, “I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.”

7. How to lead a sales team: Require continuous improvement

To sustain growth, you must never become complacent. Companies evolve, products evolve, people enter and exit organizations. A stop sign today could be a green light tomorrow and vice versa. Continue to energize, educate, motivate and support your sales team to avoid ruts in the future.

Benjamin Franklin was a great leader, and here is some of his advice: “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” 

8. How to lead a sales team: Celebrate success

Recognition rewards hard work, promotes pride, creates energy and enthusiasm, and drives future success. As you learn how to lead a sales team, let them know that you succeed together and fail together. Don’t focus solely on failure. Be sure to appreciate the gains your team makes to create momentum and avert sales ruts to come.

client-managerWant to automate your sales team’s processes to make their job easier? Schedule a free demo of our lead management software and turn leads into customers with less work!

Do you have any other tips for how to lead a sales team? Share a story of a time your staff were stuck in a rut, and what you did to dig them out.