How to Anticipate and Prepare for Sales Declines

Jeff Cochran


Any salesman who has been in the game for any amount of time knows what it’s like to see a decline in sales. A sales forecast is projected in advance using data, experience, and educated guessing. This sets the standard for your business over the next 1–5 years, creating vision and a sound strategy. Business plans give you a point of reference when you or your employees are losing focus. However, considering slumps in sales is an integral part of any strategic business planning, especially with the current unsteady economy. Looking at the bigger picture and thinking ahead is a key to success, and these tools can help you anticipate a decline in sales:

1. Specify the volume of sales. For example, how many 2 liter bottles of soda do you sell? What is the value of each sale? Knowing the volume of your sales and when they tend to fluctuate will increase your ability to predict decline. This is also a great way to be realistic in your goals. You are not simply thinking up a target figure and doing whatever you can to achieve it. Wishful thinking is a common error and most often results in a pitfall.

2. Consult your sales associates. If you are not the one who is spending face-to-face time with those who are doing business with you, consult those who are. They probably have a good idea of what your customers are thinking. Get your sales people to give their opinions on the goals you’ve set. This guarantees a realistic anticipation of sales or lack thereof.

3. Get counsel. The greatest advice you’ll find is that of someone like a senior accountant, who has more experience in the industry and knows the tendencies of the business you’re in. Preparing for sales declines is a part of any seasoned businessman’s plan for sustained success. Sound counsel from the wise is an essential element of preparing for hardship.

4. Get innovative. An ice cream shop owner, for example, could serve crepes and hot chocolate during the winter months when no one is buying ice cream. Creativity is a great gift in preparing for sales declines, and will keep you afloat in times when businesses are sinking.

These ways of preparing for sales decline put you in control of your own fate. Times of feasting present an opportunity to prepare for famine. These tools allow you to take responsibility for your company by focusing on the goal.


Are you properly planning for a decline in sales?

Neutralize Difficult People with the Power of N.I.C.E.

Jeff Cochran


Let’s face it, negotiation has a bad reputation. Often an analogy is drawn between negotiating and swimming with the sharks or entering the lion’s den. You could just label all other bullies, tyrants, and impossible people and lump them together under the title of the Big Bad Wolf. Though I’m no history buff, but I like to rename all impossible people Robespierre, because sometimes dealing with them is like being at the epicenter of the Reign of Terror.

So how do we deal with these sharks, lions, big bad wolves, and Robespierre types? Well Thomas Jefferson thinks it’s as easy as counting, “When I am upset, I count to ten. When I’m very upset, I count to one-hundred.” That may be easy enough but how many times have your reactions mirrored the attitude towards you? Do you yell when yelled at? When someone challenges you, do you accept?  How do we harness these emotions and keep them in check? How can we become better negotiators to avoid becoming a screaming and yelling Big Bad Wolf?

A strategy of intimidation is often the easy way out (the easy and often ineffective way out). To get around this we’ve developed a new approach that answers all of these problematic questions. N.I.C.E. is a philosophy that maps out how to beat them without joining them.

N:        Neutralize Emotions

I:          Identify a Type

C:        Control the Encounter

E:         Explore Options

This general approach will hopefully calm the boiling blood in your veins. It’s important to remember that emotions trump reason, the better you’re able to neutralize your emotions, the more rational you’ll become. You should know the type of person you’re dealing with also. Identifying their personality on a scale based on their relative difficulty, that will help you hone your approach towards them. Once you have a feel for their personality type you can try to use appropriate techniques to help shape and better determine the outcome of the encounter. Finally, if you find yourself stuck, look for alternative solutions within your strategy.

Sales Teams Should be More Competitive Internally

Jeff Cochran


Your sales team fights hard for your company, which is probably a big reason why you’ve been successful so far. While a healthy sense of external competition is good for the company, internal competition can work wonders for your sales team.

 What is Internal Competition?

“Internal competition” describes that sense of competition that the salespeople in your company feel amongst themselves. This kind of competition can increase conversions, drive sales figures, and allow you to promote and grow your team more effectively.

Here are seven ways to turn that sense of “internal competition” into an actual internal competition.


The 7 Essentials to Creating a Great Sales Contest

 1. Keep it short. You can give out quarterly and annual sales awards, but it’s unlikely that you can sustain the energy of a true sales contest for more than 2-3 weeks. In addition to keeping it short, keep it moving with daily updates and announcements.

2. Create personal prizes. There are few – if any – prizes other than cash that can motivate every single member of your sales team. Therefore, we recommend allowing the individual who wins to pick his or her own prize. Create some parameters, and allow their imagination to run wild. You can even have them pick out their prize before the contest even starts, which is a good way to incentivize.

3. Give everyone the chance to win. The Houston Small Business Chronicle wrote a great article about how to create a sales contest in which everyone can win. While one grand prize is fun for the winner, it won’t encourage everyone to participate. What would you rather have: one person performing at 150% or an entire sales team performing at 100%?

4. Reinforce training. If you’ve been trying to encourage your sales team to use specific elements of their training, make it a requirement that salespeople use those techniques if they want to win.

5. Use a CRM system. Your CRM system probably has the ability to tie-in with a sales contest. Why not start using it? If you track the contest solely through your CRM system, then it’s a great opportunity to get salespeople who aren’t as skilled with the CRM system more accustomed to using the platform.

6. Encourage checkpoints. Prospects don’t go from the receiving end of a cold call to the buying stage without some events taking place in between. Unfortunately, from the upper management perspective, it can be difficult to know exactly what is taking place between the initial pitch and the final decision to buy. Use this contest as a way to encourage your sales team to update the CRM system on more than just the accounts that are buying.

7. Have fun. If your team isn’t having fun with the contest, then you might have more negative long-term effects than positive short-term ones. At the end of the day, your sales team should be a team above all else!

Have any tips of your own for creating a great sales contest?

3 Benefits of Making Role-Play a Part of Your Training

Jeff Cochran


Role-play has been a common training method amongst military branches, emergency response groups, and companies where quick decision making is highly valued. So, why not in the world of sales?

Over the last few years, we’ve noticed the use of role-play becoming even more common in business and sales training curriculums – and for good reason. Sales teams that continually engage in role-playing are more likely to outperform their non-role-playing competitors.


3 Benefits of Role-Play

Here are just a few of the benefits of making role-playing a part of your business training.

Build Confidence: When your team role-plays, they’ll have a number of situations thrown at them, from unhappy customers to customers who don’t know what they want to buy. Role-playing provides a safe environment to encounter these scenarios for the first time, which builds confidence in team members that can help them in the field.

Develop Listening Skills: Good role-playing requires good listening skills. In addition to understanding the words the other person is saying, it’s important to listen to body language and non-verbal clues (more on that here). Have your team develop those skills while role-playing – not when they’re trying to close a real sale.

Creative Problem-Solving: Over the years, we’ve found that no matter how outlandish a situation you create in a controlled environment, something even more bizarre is bound to happen in the real world. Role-playing will at least give your team the chance to get some experience in handling difficult situations and developing creative problem-solving skills.


How to Start Role-Playing

While we strongly encourage you to hire a professional facilitator for the most effective role-play, here are a few tips for doing it yourself:

Use actual locations. The best role-play is as realistic as possible. Put participants in the physical locations where they would actually experience the scenarios you’re trying to replicate, whether that’s the boardroom, warehouse, or an executive’s office.

  • Imitate sales calls. This is perhaps one of the easiest forms of role-play training to execute yourself. Give the “customers” a personality profile and list of objectives that the salesperson doesn’t know about. The goal isn’t to make the sale, but to determine the “customer’s” objectives.
  • Hire consultants and actors. Getting an authentic role-play experience from your team may be difficult to do on your own. Bring in consultants and professional actors to get the corporate sales training or negotiation training your team deserves!

Have you ever used role-play in training your sales team? How did it go?

Creating a Sales Team That Wins

Jeff Cochran


Recession, depression, or economic boom… it doesn’t matter. Creating a winning sales team isn’t just important. It’s possible no matter what economic conditions your business or industry might be facing. Winning sales teams aren’t “winners” because of any one, single thing that they do. Management alone or a great CRM system isn’t enough to push your team beyond the competition.

Then again, there’s no “magic formula,” but we do have some tips and tricks from our own experience for creating a dynamic sales team…

#1 Powerful Lead Tools

We have found that successful sales teams have powerful lead generation and lead tracking tools at their disposal. If you want your sales team to really hit their stride, then you need to give them the appropriate tools to do it.

On any given day, we all have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of clients that are riding the fence. Having the ability to know where each one of those clients sits is key. Start tagging leads (#7 on this list) with essential information.

#2 Unified Front

Furthermore, those powerful tools need to be housed in software programs that are used across the board. Mobile technology and high speed internet have made it possible to do business from just about anywhere. Chances are, you have people working outside of your main office(s).

It’s more important now than ever before to keep a unified front. One effective way to do this is by making sure all of your sales team is using the same CRM software in the sales process. This also makes things easier for you when you have to transfer accounts to new team members.

#3 Vital Signs = Vital Competition

Doctors are able to make effective decisions only when they know the patient’s vital signs. In the same way, your sales team must have a grip on its own vital signs:

  • How many leads convert?
  • Where are our leads coming from?
  • What’s the protocol for engaging a customer we haven’t heard from in 6 weeks?

These are a few of the countless questions that your sales team needs answers to. Hopefully, your CRM system will help provide those answers.

Once you have those vital signs available, leverage them to foster a competitive atmosphere, which is also vital to your team’s success. For example, if you know what your average conversion rate is, then you can incentivize individuals on the sales team to attain higher personal conversion rates.

#4 Grow or Get Out of the Way

Lastly, members of a winning sales team are growing individuals. Be intentional about inner-promotion and increasing responsibilities. Sales people are especially focused on growth, numbers, and promotion.

If members of your sales team aren’t growing and improving, it’s time they step aside, and move out of the way.

What makes a winning sales team in your opinion?