Particularly in the early stages, you can do more of what you’re doing to get past a sales plateau. But generally, at some point, we hit a plateau that is created by the fact that we can’t run any faster. We can’t do any more by ourselves.

So we either need to implement new procedures and new processes, we need to get some help, or something needs to change fundamentally in the business, in order to get us to that next level.

David: Hi, and welcome to the podcast. In today’s episode, cohost Jay McFarland, and I will be discussing the idea of overcoming your sales plateau. Welcome back, Jay.

Jay: It’s so good to be here again with you David, and as always, I’m very excited about this topic. I know businesses that hit these thresholds. It can be a monumental task to get to the next level and they’re not sure how to do it. Is it, is it marketing? Is it adding new products? I think that’s what a lot of them try to do. They’re like, well, let’s add 10 more products to the lineup and then we’ll do it. And oftentimes that can just make the situation worse and not better.

David: Yeah, it’s true. Most businesses, I think it’s safe to say, at some point run into some sort of plateau. They hit a level of sales and they can’t get past it. I believe in small businesses this is particularly true, where you’re just working and pushing and you’re trying to get to that next benchmark. And you just can’t reach it.

And there are thresholds, I believe in small business, getting to your first hundred thousand in gross sales and then your first 250, and then you hit 500 and then a million and then 2 million and going from there.

And in the early stages, you can generally do pretty well, like to get from a hundred thousand to 250 is often easier than it is to get from a million to 2 million.

But most of us, at some point, will encounter some sort of plateau. You get there, you see it, you’re targeting it, you’re working toward it and you just can’t seem to hit it.

And so it’s really just a matter of getting stuck. It’s like, I feel like I’m stuck and I’m here and I need to be here and I’m not sure what to do next.

Jay: Yeah. And I wonder how much of it is that they’re not really sure how they got to the first plateau. I mean, they may think that they know,

David: That’s true.

Jay: But it could be something completely different. And this could go back to something we talked about in a previous podcast: following up with your customers.

Find out why they purchased, how they feel about their purchase. Are they returning customers? Are they not returning customers? So if you didn’t understand why they bought in the first place and how they felt about that purchase, it’s going to be hard to push through that next plateau.

David: It is, absolutely. And the biggest hangup that I see for most people is not knowing, “what do I do next?”

And as you indicated, people get to a certain point in some cases, they’re not sure how they did it. What’s that referred to as? Unconscious competence?

Jay: Mm-hmm,

David: Where I’m doing things and it’s working, but I’m not even sure of what I’ve done. So I haven’t gotten around to building a system around it to put that into place so I can replicate it.

But there’s also the idea that what gets me to here will not necessarily get me to here. Right? So what gets me to level one won’t necessarily get me to level two.

That’s not always the case, particularly in the early stages, you can do more of what you’re doing to get to a higher level. But generally, at some point, we hit a plateau that is created by the fact that we can’t run any faster. We can’t do any more by ourselves.

So we either need to implement new procedures and new processes. Or we need to get some help. Or something needs to change fundamentally in the business, in order to get us to that next level.

Jay: Yeah, something that can be very hard for people, delegation, right? Letting go of your baby, right?

David: Yeah.

Jay: That you worked so hard on. And now you’re going to trust some new employee with some new aspect. It’s not easy to hand those things over. But often, if you’re not willing to do it, you’re not going to grow.

David: That’s true. And some people don’t want to. Some people are like, okay, look, I don’t want to have employees. I’m comfortable with the way things are. And if they are, then that’s fine. If they want to get to another level of sales though, then it’s really going to be a lot more about processes.

If you’re determined not to get additional help, at least in terms of human resources, then you’re going to have to figure things out in terms of either technological resources or being able to do more of what you need to do so that you can get to the levels you want to reach.

So in looking at getting stuck, at hitting a sales plateau that you can’t reach, one of the first things I would suggest is that we ask ourselves, okay, what’s causing this? Am I just not able to get enough customers?

In other words, could I handle more business, but I either don’t know how to do it, or I’m not successful in doing what I know?

Or I’m doing what I know and it’s not working? Because if that’s the issue, if it’s just a matter of getting more clients, there are very specific things that we can do to make that happen.

On the other hand, if we’ve got a lot of clients and we feel like we can’t keep up with the clients we have, then that is certainly going to prevent us from getting to the next level. Unless we can either leverage things so we can get more from the clients we have without having to add more or we figure out how to get some help, depending on our willingness to want to do that.

Jay: Yeah. And, an important one, can we take our existing clientele and get them to come back? We’ve talked about this before, right. You know,

David: mm-hmm.

Jay: It’s going to be easier to get an existing customer to repurchase if they were satisfied and if that’s your type of product. Some products are one and done, and that’s just the way it is.

But if you can have a product where they’re like, I like this, I need more of this. I want to come back for this… having systems to remind them to come back, drip, programs and those types of things, to get them to be a return customer. That could be the biggest source of your income. And you’re not spending extra money to acquire new customers.

David: Exactly. And when we get to a point where we know we want to be somewhere, and we’re not quite there, identifying what that biggest bottleneck is, is one of the most important things.

There’s a big distinction between the idea of potential, where I could potentially be, and what’s keeping me from getting there. And a lot of people focus on the idea of adding more potential.

Well, maybe if I add this or I add this, or I add this, I add all these different things for the potential of getting to where I want to be. And instead, to get past that, what they really should be looking at is “what is the bottleneck?”

What is the single biggest contributor to the fact that I’m not there yet? What is the one primary thing that is preventing me from getting past that?

Is it the people? Is it the customers I’m interacting with? There are a lot of businesses who, if they want to reach their sales levels, they’re going to have to jettison some customers who are not spending as much money with them.

A lot of times, low-dollar, low-profit clients who take up a lot of time, who are very demanding, can take up valuable time that could be spent with people who understand and appreciate better, the value that you bring to the table.

So if it is a situation where you don’t want to add staff, then you’re going to have to be extremely selective, going back to another point we raised in a previous podcast, about the people that you bring in the door to begin with. The prospects and clients that you choose to interact with.

Jay: Yeah, and in that case, you’re going to have to have a system to identify what type of customer they are, classify them and then figure out is this the type of customer that we want?

If it is, then you’re going to want to target them and focus more on them. If it’s not, then you’re going to kind of want to let them slowly disappear so that you can focus on the ones that you want.

David: Yeah. And I think for a lot of us, if you’ve been in business for any length of time, you have a favorite customer or two. And so a really easy exercise you can do is take a look at those customers and say, okay, what do they have in common?

What is it that I like about them? Is it their attitude? Is it the way they communicate? I mean, communication is huge.

One of the very first things that will tell you if you’ve got a problem client is their unwillingness to communicate. If they’re not communicating the way that you need to have them communicate in order to fulfill an order or get the work done, that is a relationship that’s really in trouble.

And, in hindsight, every time I’ve had, in business, a relationship that didn’t work out, it almost invariably came down to a problem with communication. Where the person that I was trying to help was not willing to communicate enough to allow me to do that. And in today’s society, in today’s economy, we refer to the term “ghosting,” where you’re trying to reach somebody and they’re not getting back to you.

And that’s a bad sign. When people do that to you consistently, you need to ask yourself, okay, is this the type of client that I really want to continue to interact with on an ongoing basis? Or am I better served to find clients who are open, and willing to engage, and responsive, so that we can do the things that we’re setting out to do together?

Jay: Yeah, I love that. And also the customer who is responsive to your suggestions and ideas. I love the question when there’s been an issue, “what can I do to make it right?” I just love this question. Right? Let them decide. But we all know that there are customers who, no matter what you do, they just want to be mad. They just want to be angry. They just want to vent. And they’ve already decided they’re not going to use you. You have to be able to know at some point where you’re like, okay, I’ve offered three or four solutions. They’re not biting on any of them. They just want to continue to rail on me.

I mean, at that point, you just have to cut bait and run. Because you just don’t have the time in your day to deal with those type of people.

David: Yeah. I mean, you have to do the best you can. If there’s something that you did wrong, you need to do your very best to make it right. Do what you feel is appropriate.

And if that’s still not good enough, and if you’re not able to do whatever it is, they’re suggesting. Yeah. Then you’re going to have to figure out a way to wrap that up as amicably as possible.

But also recognize that you can do as great a job as you possibly could for a person. And for whatever reason, if they’re not happy, they can still go online and tell a hundred people about you.

Jay: That’s true.

David: Right?

Jay: That’s true.

David: So there’s this balance, particularly now, where you want to do your very best for the clients that you’re working with. You want to make sure that they’re satisfied as much as you possibly can satisfy them. But as you indicated, there are people who are just not going to be satisfied no matter what you do.

And in those situations, sometimes you just have to cut your losses and take your lumps. And very often people will recognize when they hear people like that complaining, that “oh, okay. I think this is kind of what they do.”

And as long as you’re not doing that with many people. I mean, if that happens once or twice, and you’ve got people over the course of a career where you’ve had a situation like that, that’s not going to cause a problem.

Now, if a lot of people are reacting to you like that, then you got to really start looking at what you’re doing, what you’re putting out there and how you’re responding to them.

Jay: Yeah, asking yourself those difficult questions. But you know, we’re talking about sales plateaus and overcoming sales plateaus. You mentioned, I mean the ideal is to have a customer review system where people can see all these five-star reviews.

I am amazed at how much I use those, even though I know that a lot of them, I don’t know how true they are, but it has still become part of my life to look at those reviews.

And if there are negative reviews right off the top, I’m moving on to the next person. They’ve lost me instantly. So that’s an important part of this process.

David: Yeah, absolutely. I know when I’m online, I definitely look at the reviews and I try to make sure there are enough of them.

Jay: Mm-hmm

David: If there are three of them and they’ve got all five stars, I could be skeptical. If they have hundreds of reviews or thousands of reviews, and they’re all five stars, I’m more inclined to believe it.

Now that might be able to be done with bots, I don’t know. But I tend to have more confidence when there are actual comments there that look legit. And when there are enough of them.

One of the things that we have on our website is what I call our Wall of Fame, which is clients that we’ve worked with, that we’ve helped to grow their sales and profits. And they’re at

If you go to that page, there are dozens or more. There are videos. There are audios. There’s text. All the people who have recently commented on experiences they’ve had so that when somebody’s considering doing business with us, I can say, Hey, listen, take a look at our Wall of Fame. I would love to see you on here. Right?

So they can look at it from two standpoints. Not just, these are people who have been helped by this company, but also, wow, I think I’d like to be on there too. I’d like to be on the Wall of Fame. I’d like to be another happy customer, getting the kind of results that these other people are getting.

And that also goes to the idea of community-building and interacting with people the way that we need to interact with them, to create the results we’re looking for. So from the standpoint of getting past your sales plateau, it’s sort of all of the above.

It’s about saying there are things that are preventing me from getting from here to there.

It could be the quality of customers I’m interacting with. It could be the quantity of customers I’m interacting with. It could be my own internal structures, systems, staffing.

So identifying certainly the top one, but the top two or three primary obstacles, and then systematically tackling those, is really what’s going to get you there.

Jay: Yeah, I love that. But having an awareness of it. Talking about it. Discussing about it, you know, in your company and identifying those things. And, that’s what you’ll help them do as you workshop this through the week.

David: Exactly. In the Inner Circle this week, we’ll be discussing how do we get past our sales plateau?

And in situations like this, it’s great to be able to interact with somebody who has a very specific situation, where they’ve been stuck at a certain point for a long time. And within a matter of a couple of questions, we can very often help them to pinpoint the area where they’re stuck so that they can apply some focus on that and start to get the results that they’re looking for.

So if you’re not already a member, be sure to go to If you’re already a member, just log into the Inner Circle website and we will see you inside.

Jay: Well, I love that. Real actionable advice that can make a difference, right away.

David: Exactly.

Jay: All right, David, it’s been such a pleasure. Thank you.

David: Thank you, Jay.

Are You Ready to Start Reactivating Your Client Base?

If so, check out the five primary ways we help promotional product distributors grow:

  1. Just Getting Started? If you (or someone on your team) is just getting started in promotional products sales, learn how we can help.
  2. Need Clients Now? If you’re already grounded in the essentials of promotional product sales and just need to get clients now, click here.
  3. Want EQP/Preferential Pricing? Are you an established industry veteran doing a significant volume of sales? If so, click here to get End Quantity Pricing from many of the top supplier lines in the promo industry.
  4. Time to Hire Salespeople? If you want to hire others to grow your promo sales, click here.
  5. Ready to Dominate Your Market? If you’re serious about creating top-of-mind-awareness with the very best prospects in your market, schedule a one-on-one Strategy Session here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.