Why do sales leaders plateau? Managing plateaued sales teams

Sales teams plateau for one reason: weak leadership.

Key insights in this guide include:

If your team is genuinely plateauing, look at your sales activities, goals and systems to determine the problems.

So, why does a sales leader plateau? Sales leaders plateau due to a weak leadership style. They must think of creative solutions to issues preventing progress and install systems, infrastructure, and structure to ensure a roadmap for continuous improvement. If they cannot, they should not be your leader.

If the organization’s growth rate ceases, so has your leader’s ability to manage and lead a sales team. It’s a countdown to your decline – the law of diminishing returns. 

What is a sales plateau?

A sales plateau is defined as a period where sales growth slows.

Crucially, a plateau can only occur after growth or decline.

In the instance of sales plateaus, it can only be after a period of sales growth; the former is an entirely different and devastating situation.

Logic dictates that a sales plateau occurs when a team maxes out a business strategy, capabilities, or capacity.

A growth plateau is a natural progression point that indicates success, and companies, sales reps, sales managers, and leaders should not feel ashamed of an eventual plateau. However, there are two sales plateau types every CEO must know:

  1. Those that occur naturally at the end of a business strategy properly executed
  2. Those that occur before the sales team starts to peak.

The second is the more dangerous sales plateau type.

business plateau is unacceptable when the team flatlines prematurely. 

It is the job of your VP of Sales to immediately recalibrate and deploy new creative solutions with additional resources from a new vantage point or even a new market. 

Sales Accelerator Process
We evaluate your compensation structure, tech stack, sales playbooks, sales strategy, sales process, hiring and onboarding to ignite revenue growth.

What is quality sales leadership?

sales leader or sales team speaking to prospect

A sales leader is a company’s insurance policy against missing targets.

If you hit a plateau and miss targets, your sales leader must do their job. Those leaders who cannot perform their job and solve the organization’s problems are shown the door. Period. 

A VP of Sales is a team’s visionary, guiding the team toward exceeding the organization’s goals, sales activity, and KPI standards by demanding excellence and inspiring the team.

They are the critical difference to the overall sales strategy and management aligned with a company’s revenue goals and sales culture that fosters success.

Below are some of the roles of a VP of sales:

  • Leaders align their sales team with the company’s purpose and vision, while mediocre sales managers often create disconnect;
  • High-performing leaders actively nurture and model ideal sales activities and culture. Mediocre sales managers indirectly develop culture;
  • A quality leader provides consistent opportunities for sales rep coaching and training against current and perceived challenges;
  • Leaders don’t get distracted by sales metric inspections looking for opportunities for guidance that drives results;
  • Preempt sales problems and recalibrate the current strategy in the right direction;
  • Provide transparent and accountable expectations that set the bar high and that they actively pursue this through daily actions and behaviors.
  • Top leaders hire and retain top performers, whereas mediocre sales managers constantly replace top salespeople.

If the organization's growth rate ceases, so has your leader's ability to manage and lead a sales team. It's a countdown to your decline - the law of diminishing returns. 

Sales Leader Evaluation Template

Systematically assess your sales leader against measurable sales leader traits and expectations. Ensure your organization’s growth.

The leader’s primary role is to ensure the team is continuously growing. If the team does not continue to grow, the leader is not doing their job.

Great leaders understand that you must breed a competitive environment where people genuinely enjoy their work.

People enjoy what they do when it’s hard enough, but they’re making progress.

The sales leader needs to make it easier to avoid boredom. A quality sales leader provides systems and cultivated culture where sales reps grit through but still see progress.

And progress means selling. The only way to grow and not plateau is to sell.

The overall sales strategy and management aligned with a company’s revenue goals and sales culture will foster success.

Sales plateaus and weak leadership

The reason sales teams plateau and progress slowly correlate with weak leadership.

If your leader comes to you with any of the following excuses as to why the sales team is plateauing, it is unacceptable:

  • The market shifted
  • The target market loved X but doesn’t love X
  • Our sales reps lack training
  • Our lead generation strategy has tapped out
  • Our market incumbent is making customers reevaluate our value
  • Our market incumbent is undercutting our prices
  • Our customer base has tapped out
  • We are going through a learning curve

Now, these excuses are just the symptoms of the problem. The core problem will always be the leader’s inability to keep the needle moving forward.

sales team and sales leader in a sales meeting

Each time your leader provides you with a “business plateau” reason, ask them this:

  • Why does your goal remain unchanged when you hit a plateau?
  • Did you audit sales?
  • Did you audit sales calls?
  • Have you looked at where the most significant deals drop off?
  • Have you built the pipeline or lead generation systems for new customers?
  • Why did you not train your sales reps to sell against the competitor?

The critical difference between high-performing sales leadership teams is leadership is not talking situations up and does not allow the sales team’s complacency to set in.

Team Assessment

We use a combination of Kolbe and PRINT® assessments to identify team-member strengths and motivators and even illuminate bad-fit placements. 

How quality leaders manage sales plateaus

As established, the health of any sales organization is subject to the quality of leadership and not the sales professionals—the leader’s management will actively build a healthy sales culture or unknowingly destroy it.

Firstly, top sales leaders don’t give more tools and resources; the deal drop-offs will continue. The leader is reinforcing destructive behaviors and creating entitlement. 

A plateaued sales rep will stop pushing anytime they’re faced challenges. Sales reps typically dislike change.

When they eventually plateau, most sales reps expect the leader to correct with tools, automation, and systems to provide minimal effort. This is regressive and allows the sales team’s complacency.

Avoid this at all costs.

This is the case whether the markets are good or not. You need to build a team of growth-minded salespeople.

sales leader speak with prospect and sales team

Secondly, start getting sales reps to accept plateaus as measures of success. Get the team used to the bar regularly rising to prevent discomfort from your sales rep and being uncomfortable and fearful of change.

These leaders foster growth-minded sales reps, which means they don’t allow things to be good enough. They’re constantly improving.

They’re constantly increasing quotas and targets. Companies with relatively flat and consistent quotas and targets need to perform better.

High-performing teams constantly push their team to increase their capabilities and capacity.

Do you need to evaluate your sales leader?

Experienced sales leaders know that preparing for plateaus is about playing to win. To win, your sales leader needs to formulate creative solutions to sales problems that exist now and in your organization’s future. 

Does your leader know how to find creative solutions to the issues preventing progress? Can you be creative? Can you lead?

Let me be clear, if you were going to find the solution to your sales problems, you would have seen and solved them by now.

It’s likely you need support and help to solve them.

Rose Garden Consulting is a world-class sales management consulting firm that redefines your process into a quality sales experience. We ignite revenue growth with transformative solutions based on behavioral economics.

Rose Garden’s Sales Leader Evaluation Template categorically unroots current challenges with your sales leader that essentially threatens your revenue. Our template also identifies imminent challenges specifically. 

Sales Leader Evaluation Template

Systematically assess your sales leader against measurable sales leader traits and expectations. Ensure your organization’s growth.

We systematically guide you through a rubric of grading your sales leader on all the critical components of success and then some. 

You can’t afford to leave anything up to chance. Download the template to evaluate your sales leader and ensure your organization’s growth. 

We help close deals faster and at a higher rate. Rose Garden uses a combination of assessments to identify sales team members’ strengths and motivators in our Team Member Assessment or our sales accelerator assessment that provides you with an in-hand diagnostic and sales experience roadmap for quick results.

New businesses must stay up-to-date and ahead of the competition in today’s ever-evolving sales landscape. We provide Founders and CEOs with hands-on coaching to create systems & strategies to scale their sales teams. You can’t afford to leave anything up to chance.

Get started with a Team Assessment, or dive right in with our Sales Accelerator.

About the author:

Ali Mirza is the Founder & CEO of Rose Garden, a national sales consulting organization, and featured in Forbes, Inc, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Business Rockstars, and The Wall Street Journal.

Ali is a highly sought-after public speaker presenting at multiple national conferences on innovative ways to accomplish transformational growth on your sales team.

Rose Garden provides unparalleled support and guidance to growth-minded founders via sales strategy differentiation, world-class sales culture creation, and exclusive playbooks, processes, and scripts to position them for limitless growth.

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