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Working With Underperforming Salespeople

Selling quote from Robert Louis Stevenson

Salespeople have a tough job. There is no hiding… they either sell or they don’t. They are either meeting their quota or not. It is black and white.

When a salesperson is not meeting their targets then the next best thing they can do is to demonstrate that they are doing the right things. Again… there is no hiding. Their numbers of calls, number of meetings and number of opportunities generated are all typically known to their manager.

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.” Vince Lombardi

A good sales manager will know what kind of activity will ultimately lead to closed business, and as long as the salesperson is doing the right things the sales manager will usually cut them some slack, with the expectation that results will come.

It gets a little trickier when the salesperson appears to be doing all of the right things, but is still not closing business. At this point the sales manager should try to understand why the results are not coming.

Here are a few things for a sales manager to look at when their salesperson is not delivering:

  1. Is the salesperson actually having the meetings that they say? Stranger things have happened!

  2. Are they meeting with the right kind of people? Some salespeople like to “call high” but if the buying decisions are not made at that level then the effort might be wasted.

  3. Are they meeting enough of the right people?

  4. Do they have a good agenda heading into those meetings? Business focused.

  5. Do they understand what those clients really want?

  6. Do they understand their position against competition?

  7. Do they ask for the business?

  8. Are they diversified in the industries, companies, maybe even geographies that they have tried?

  9. Alternatively are they focused enough to actually make a difference? Sometimes salespeople can be “all over the map” and not focused in on the clients where the business should be coming from.

  10. Do they understand the client’s needs, and present your company solutions in a credible way?

“For every sale you miss because you are too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you are not enthusiastic enough!” Zig Ziglar

If, after getting the answers to these questions there is hope for the salesperson, then there should be a plan to help them to be successful. This might involves classic sales training to help them better understand the sales cycle, it might be “role playing” to ensure that they are executing effectively; and it might mean “4 legged” calls with the sales manager so a better assessment can be made.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, and as with any employee it is better to understand that sooner rather than later!