It’s not easy keeping salespeople upbeat and excited when leads are down and prospects can’t seem to sign a contract. But since the sales team creates the fuel for the entire business, here are some tips from sales managers around the country.

  • This is a great time for training, says one New England business owner. “Increased expertise gives each of my salespeople more confidence, and that leads to a stronger ability to sell against low-cost competitors.” Training tools might include presentations by building product representatives, audio sales-training CDs, newsletters, or local seminars presented by motivational speakers.
  • Remind the sales team that business is cyclical. One Midwest remodeler says, “They need to be reminded that the world hasn’t changed forever, that the business will come back. I’ve experienced it several times in my career, so I share insights that I’ve gained from that time. And then I repeat it ... often.”
  • Be creative with marketing and lead generation. “We discovered a great deal on a new location that is centrally located with an attractive lease. So we jumped on it,” says the Midwest remodeler quoted above. “That will be the home of our new showroom” — a great excuse for a community open house and other marketing tactics that may generate new business.
  • Create a sales cookbook. “Selling is a numbers game,” says a top sales manager. “‘X’ number of phone calls lead to ‘X’ number of appointments. ‘X’ number of appointments lead to ‘X’ number of sales. We take these ratios and create a cookbook of activities that will give us the appointments and the sales we need. During a downturn, it’s important that the sales team maintain or increase the activities that lead to sales. Adapt the sales cookbook and follow the formula.”
    Use stories. Another sales manager suggests that at weekly sales meetings ask each person to share a success story to keep staff upbeat. Examples might be getting an appointment with a hard-to-reach prospect, completing the 10 cold calls that are a part of a sales cookbook, or getting a yes on a construction contract.
  • Maintain compensation potential. A Midwest remodeler who had to cut overhead restructured his company’s salary-plus-commission compensation, cutting salary in half while doubling the commission that could be earned. “[Salespeople] still have the potential to earn an excellent salary, and they can see that we are doing what we can to help them. It’s not all one way.”
  • Give them hope. One top sales manager says, “I continually remind [salespeople] that things will be better, that I’m optimistic, that I am investing in the future. Leading by example goes a long way toward removing fear and motivating my team to focus on the future.”

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, a national consulting firm specializing in the challenges of running a remodeling company, and home of Remodelers Advantage Roundtables. 301.490.5620;