Why Do Sales Teams Plateau? Don’t Make It Your Baseline
If you hit a plateau, it's not a failure. It's only failure if your team makes it the new baseline.
So, you came up with a vision, executed it, and your target market loved it.
Then one day, things start to change; sales growth slows, progress slows, revenue slows, even your top performers slow down, and you can’t understand why.
If this sounds like your current situation, you have reached a growth plateau.
The reality is that every company will eventually plateau in some way.
So, why do sales teams plateau? Every team plateaus but the main reasons behind them are that you’ve maxed out your strategy, or your sales team is complacent because you’re not raising the bar and keeping them at operational readiness.
Understand the why behind your plateau if you want to continue to grow in the right direction and keep reading this article.
Sales Plateau Types
The reality is that everyone’s company will eventually plateau in some way. However, in sales, there are two different kinds of plateaus:
- Sales plateau occurs once we’ve maxed out our current capacity, capabilities, or business strategy;
- Sales plateau occurs before the team has fully peaked.
The reality is that companies, sales reps, sales managers, sales leaders, and teams plateau. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it often is a pointer to success.
The goal is to hit a plateau once we’ve maxed out our current capacity, capabilities, or strategy. Then, you recalibrate to the new goals and deploy different strategies and solutions with additional resources from a new vantage point, even a new market.
But, the second is the more dangerous sales plateau type because you risk your sales managers and sales reps accepting plateaus as the new baseline.
A business plateau is unacceptable to me when we arm the sales team with all the resources, but they aren’t fully utilized, and the team flatlines prematurely.
Firstly, don’t give them more tools and resources; it isn’t going to help. You’re only reinforcing destructive behaviors and creating a sense of entitlement.
The team will stop pushing anytime they’re faced with any friction.
They’re quickly expecting you to come in and correct them with better leads, tools, automation, and anything that will allow them to do their job with minimal effort. This is a regressive trajectory that will cause extreme complacency.
Avoid this at all costs.
The reason sales teams plateau
At the beginning of any process, your salespeople set goals for themselves based on their current capabilities and knowledge.
The goal stretches, but sales reps increase their capabilities and skills over time. If that goal remains unchanged, they won’t need to work as hard to achieve their goals. It will become easier.
What once took 50 hours a week to accomplish now only takes 25 hours because your sales reps are better at it.
Why would your sales manager or sales rep need to work harder if you don’t raise the bar?
Get your sales team used to the bar regularly rising to prevent them from becoming uncomfortable and fearful of change.
A business plateau is unacceptable when we arm the sales team with all the resources, but they aren't fully utilized, and the team flatlines prematurely.
When your sales team starts to plateau
When you see your team about to plateau or growth starting to slow, you need to ensure that you are doing everything possible to max out the capabilities of your salespeople, training, and tools.
Here are the things that I focus on when I notice a sales team plateauing:
Rose Garden Sales Accelerator Process
The first thing I always look at is the sales activity.
If our activity stays the same and results diminish, that’s okay. Simply put, we need to work harder – YOU need to work harder.
That doesn’t mean you don’t augment and evolve; however, being rigid with your work isn’t an option.
Look for deal drop-offs
In addition to activity, I look where we see the most significant deals drop off.
- Are the number of prospects converting at the same rate or not?
- Or increasing rate?
- Are conversions from discovery to the proposal not the same or not improving?
In theory, if the price doesn’t change, your improved skills should be able to close deals today that you couldn’t six months ago.
I can’t count the number of times I have seen a plateaued sales rep abandon the best practices and fundamentals they relied on to get to that point – regardless of where they are in their sales career.
I have also seen them:
- make careless mistakes with loyal customers, existing customers, and new customers
- reevaluate the pipeline unnecessarily
- go entirely off script with their sales calls
The bottom line is you need to find out what aren’t they doing that they once were – that is where your answer lies.
Then you do this…
Increase your activity and KPI standards
Do not pump the breaks on your sales activity or your standards. Standards are there to be met, they are a non-negotiable for me, and they should be for you too.
Instead, increase the activity and KPI standards, but most importantly, ensure that your fundamentals are sound. So, don’t skip the above step.
If your fundamentals are sound, that’s when you can confidently rule out the sales team’s complacency.
At this point, you can say that you’ve reached the ceiling on your current strategy and need to take the next step.
Evaluate your sales strategy
Put in the hard work to evaluate your business strategy properly so you can be sure when it’s time to change it.
If you don’t do that, you will start making changes for the sake of making changes.
Change the activity metrics, and you’ll see which increased activities resulted in the needle moving forward and which ones accentuate the laws of diminishing return.
Analyze & audit sales calls
One way, in particular, is to see which the needle has turned by analyzing and auditing your team’s sales calls. Not only will it prove whether your change in strategy is working, but you can also monitor the uptake and buy-in of the team.
Rose Garden Sales Accelerator Process
How to prepare teams for sales plateaus
So, now you understand that plateaus are a reality of life, how do we prepare our team for the inevitable changes?
It’s simple, don’t shield them from it. Change makes the best learning curve. Get them to become comfortable with change.
Now we can’t talk about change without also talking about change management.
The concept of change management is detrimental to an organization.
Change Management operates from the perspective:
how do we make the change as minimally disruptive for our business as possible?
That is a toxic way of thinking because if you are focused on making life easier for your sales team, you are not focusing on the client or their needs. That is the worst mistake you can make.
First and foremost. You decide based on what the market tells you, not on the comfort levels of your sales team.
That is how people stay in their plateaus.
That is how a sales leader hurts their people.
It’s morally presumptuous of you to assume that your salespeople can’t handle more and that they don’t want to be challenged.
Either you’re mistaken and stunt this person’s full potential, or you are correct, and then you’re reinforcing and enabling that behavior.
I can’t allow you to do that.
Forget about change management. Realize that the only constant is change itself.
So, what do you do instead:
Build your team off the backbone of operational readiness.
Now you create a sales culture that doesn’t want to plateau, but they’re ready to break past it when you do.
The rare few that will never plateau
At the beginning of the article, I said that everyone plateaus, but that is not entirely true.
What’s true is that everyone has a potential plateau, and most sales reps typically will; however, there are a select group of sales professionals who don’t and will not plateau – growth-minded sales reps.
Growth-minded salespeople have a constant variance in their activities, making it virtually impossible for them to plateau. These people stay on their toes, raise the bar, and add more tools to their tool belts.
If you don’t, there is no way to adapt to that level of growth otherwise.
Now some of you consider this circular reasoning.
“If you add more tools to your tool belt, you won’t plateau; if you don’t add, you will plateau.”
So, one may wonder about people who want to grow but still plateau. Yes, that’s possible.
The critical difference is intention. Intentionality will prevent plateaus.
You’ll always find it as long as you are on the hunt for something more.
Build your team off the backbone of operational readiness. Now you create a sales culture that doesn't want to plateau, but they're ready to break past it when you do.
Plateaus come from being a bystander in your growth. As I said, the difference is intentionality. You’ll always find new opportunities if you take charge of your development.
But remember, a lifetime isn’t long enough to perfect all the loads of any craft and certainly not within the nuances of sales.
And, let me remind you that when you’re dealing with a prospect on the other side of that table, you can never be 100% ready for all the craziness that’s going to come – that goes for any industry and company.
As long as you’re on the hunt for how you can improve yourself and you can maintain your growth-minded lens, you and your sales team will not plateau.
DOES YOUR SALES TEAM NEED HELP?
Preparing for plateaus is about playing to win. However, playing to win means you lead with creative solutions.
Do you know how to find creative solutions to these issues preventing progress? Can you be creative? Can you lead?
Maybe, you don’t have your quantitative measures down. Then, your business needs help.
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.
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.