Sales slumps are discouraging. You're working hard, making calls, following up, but still nothing pans out. As the slump continues, you start wondering if you're doing something wrong or, worse, whether your product isn't as good as you thought.

Not to worry. Here are three tried-and-true ways to turn slumps from self-fulfilling prophesies into momentary speed bumps on your road to success:

1. Realize that slumps are statistically normal.

Suppose you're tossing a coin. Which of the following two patterns (H=heads, T=tails) is most likely?

  1. T H H T T H H T T T H T T T T
  2. H T H T H T H T H T H T H T H

Most people assume that the second pattern, which alternates "heads" and tails, is most likely.  In fact, the first pattern is far, far, far more likely, even though it has twice as many "tails" results as "heads" results, and ends with four "tails" results in a row.

In other words, most sales slumps are simply the result of random chance. (This is also true of peak sales performances, too.) So don't be discouraged. Instead, keep working hard and eventually you'll encounter a series of wins.

2. Understand the "plateau effect."

Slumps frequently occur after a period of rapid growth which is followed by a plateau, or period of flat sales:

Such slumps are not just normal but also a reason to celebrate! Here's why. Sales results are the result of sales skills, so fast periods of growth are typically the result of a rapid increase in sales skills--either your own or those of your team.

Sales skills, however, are like all other human skills, in that they tend to improve in fits and starts. The plateau--discouraging as it might seem--actually reflects the process of "integrating" new skills into daily behavior.

The slump after a plateau is also normal.  It's how the human mind (which drives those skills) prepares itself to "step up the game" for the next period of rapid growth. In other words, slumps are often forerunners of huge breakthroughs:

3. Make your goals more inspiring.

Sales results also reflect motivation. When you're highly motivated, you sell more, you do more, you accomplish more. And motivation, of course, comes from having goals that inspire you, day after day.

Unfortunately, what motivated you yesterday may not motivate you today. For example,  suppose your sales goal is to exceed your quota by 15 percent, which will increase your commission rate for your full quarter. Pretty motivating, eh?

However, once you've beaten your quota a couple of times, it's just part of your job. That's why many top salespeople often encounter a mid-career slump. They go on automatic, doing the things that made them successful, but without heart and drive.

That's true of entrepreneurs, too. Once you've become successful enough to achieve a reasonably comfortable life, money doesn't motivate. The world is full of people who set a lofty goal, achieved it, and then ended up asking: "Is this all there is?"

As you grow, your goals must grow with you. For most people, such involves redefining success away from personal achievement and more towards finding ways to make other people happier.

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