When you recruited people into your sales team you must have seen something that convinced you that they would be a valuable asset to the team.
Like many situation, most sales results fit the Bell Curve, in that most of your team will be hitting target, a few will be missing their target, and a few will be over performing against the targets, with relatively few either out performing or under performing to extremes. True, this may fluctuate occasionally, but on the whole, sales team performance will follow this pattern.
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Should you be satisfied with this pattern of performance?
Your decision entirely, you may want to consider the following points:
1, What would it mean to the business is you could move that bell curve just slightly to the right indicating that more of the sales team would be hitting target or be above target….
2. What are the poor performers costing you? Consider not just the salary bill, car, benefits etc, instead think also about the lost opportunities, the increased time between interest and purchase order, the higher sales acquisition cost, the likely reduced margin….
What do you do?
- Some organisations will put a revolving door on the sales office for the poorer performers…the under performers either make the grade or they go. In fact, many larger organisations will adopt a process of forced ranking where the bottom 10% will be asked in improve within 3 months or find alternative employment either within or outside of their organisation.
- Some organisations will look at the sales team as a whole and maintain the performers, exceptional performers and under performers in the same environment, on the basis that they accept the bell curve model and appreciate that this is possible as good as it gets.
- Some organisations may invest heavily in the poor performers training, coaching, mentoring and offering additional support.
Every sales management team and business will have its own way of dealing with poor sales performance.
The most common comment from Sales Management when dealing with poor sales performance is the time it takes addressing the individuals and their problem(s), being supportive and investing so much time and effort with no guaranteed return can be a thankless task. However, worth every minute when it works!!
Collectively, over the years we have designed a few techniques to address the issues associated with poor sales performance.
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Here is a quick summary:
1. Start an informal performance management action immediately. If it works then there is no issue, if it doesn’t work out and the sales performance doesn’t improve then you will have a documented course of action to support our recommendations and decisions.
2. Set tight and short targets to help them focus…half daily if necessary. Some under performers feel swamped and clarity and direction maybe lacking.
3. Ask them what hurdles they are experiencing – and remove them temporarily from their desk…whatever that takes. Give them freedom to deliver and see what difference it makes.
4. Explore each deal in the forecast/pipeline with them and agree on a strategy to make things happen – time consuming but often pays very high dividends
5. Put the responsibility for their success firmly in their hands, whilst making yourself as accessible as possible.
6. Have daily meetings to discuss performance, so they can update you on progress…don’t let them lose heart and let them know you are on their side.
7. Encourage them to concentrate on what they have in their pipeline and have already qualified, as opposed to random cold calling.
8. Complete accompanied visits with potential clients and the under performer.
9. Generate a time sensitive to do list daily and together – manage this list of activities tightly.
10. Watch the attitude as well as the skills. Perfectly competent sales people can under perform when the attitude is wrong, even if the skill levels are high.
11. Address any obvious sales skills that are poor/missing.
Early intervention is vital. Don’t leave the performance management until the relationship between management and staff is strained or has deteriorated. People can become defensive and uncooperative and these are counter productive responses to what you are trying to achieve.
This is a time consuming process, it may or may not work. I have seen some sales people take upwards of 12 months to reach their full potential. I have also seen some sales people who should have got better results, been unable to pull in the sales results required to secure their position….who have gone on to very highly regarded positions in other sales roles and soared through their targets.
I guess my personal philosophy on the matter is that as long as the sales management is sufficiently robust and committed to be able to say and prove that they have done everything within their power to assist the under performer then there is no harm in saying good bye…and can greatly benefit both parties.
As always, good HR advice will be invaluable, as will good legal advice and both should be sought as part of your solution before any action to dismiss is taken.
Do you want further insight into your sales team and their capabilities? You can claim your Free Sales Health Check using this link – just click through and complete the details. I’ll get back to you within 24 hrs. UK wide
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Carol Griffiths – Principal and Lead Consultant
Morton Kyle Limited
0779 002 1885