Magazine article Management Review

Helping the Plateaued Salesperson Climb the Mountain

Magazine article Management Review

Helping the Plateaued Salesperson Climb the Mountain

Article excerpt

Helpful Hints for Salespeople


Sales managers are quick to spot plateaued salespeople: They don't prospect hard enough, fail to follow through, tend to work fewer hours, and are resistant to management. Plateaued salespeople have stopped growing, developing, and improving--they simply go through the motions. So say sales managers who responded to a 1989 survey on plateauing conducted by New York City-based Sales & Marketing Management (S&MM) magazine.

The survey, modeled on an earlier one conducted in 1984 by Porter Henry & Co. Inc., a New York City sales training firm, polled some 200 S&MM readers nationwide with a written questionnaire. "We uncovered a number of changes from the earlier survey results," explains William Keenan Jr., senior editor at S&MM, who coordinated the survey. "Sales managers seem to recognize that plateauing largely occurs because of poor management, not just because salespeople are unmotivated. They realize it's something they're doing that causes plateauing--and are responding to correct the problem."


The leading cause of plateauing, respondents say, is lack of a career path. Individuals feel "trapped, with no way to progress. They do not accept where they are but are unable to see a path out," one respondent explains. Other causes of plateauing include inadequate management, boredom, and burnout.

"It is up to management to develop career paths and motivational recognition programs for employees, as well as keep salespeople attentive to sales goals and performance," Keenan says. "And recognizing the problem is the first step toward correcting it." In 1984, respondents reported the leading cause of plateauing was that the economic needs of the salesperson had already been met--people became content with their earnings and felt no need to work harder.

"Plateauing is not just a dramatic drop in performance. The salesperson's performance usually declines slowly over a period of time. That's why it's easy for management to let the problem slide," Keenan explains.

Keenan notes that it is not the average or poor performer who plateaus but rather the star salesperson: "The plateaued salesperson is someone who has performed well in the past or has carried the company in the leaner years but has gotten to the point where he has not improved. …

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