Sales Audit · Sales Leadership · Sales Management · Sales Recruitment · Sales Training · Sales Turnaround

Why Under Performance Might Be a Bigger Problem Than You Think…

…and what to do about it

According to the CSO Insights ( report earlier this year 42% of sales reps (their words not mine) failed to hit quota last year, an increase for the first time in three years.

The report reckons that this is due to firms increasing targets, and even though sales teams had battled it out during the slump, they may have reached their maximum capabilities and capacities for the time being.

However, the cold hard facts are this – if you are managing a sales team then it is likely that 40% or so of your sales team will not hit their targets this year….

I can imagine you thinking now that maybe that’s just the way it is. It’s a typical bell curve. A few sales people will perform very well, a lot more will perform ok, and a few will contribute at a lower level.

That’s just how it goes….no-one every gets a sales team where everyone smashes target every month do they?

I agree with you on the last statement…but that doesn’t mean this is something that you and I shouldn’t strive to achieve, because here’s why…

As sales leaders, if you and I continue to tolerate, permit, allow, support (you can pick the word that best suits your business) the under-performers then you and I are silently SHOUTING to the rest of the sales team that it’s ok to come in below target.

Our words, our voice, will never ever utter those words, but our actions will shout exactly those words from the roof top….sometimes over many months

As a manager of a team that’s a major fail – if you and I do that, then we lack congruency, and if that’s the case how can people ever trust us whenever we say anything? After all, if you and I did act in this way, then we’ve already shown that our words and our actions don’t match…and even worst, we’ve shown that we’re ok with that, because, after all, it didn’t just happen once did it, it happened month, after month, after month.

That’s the worse kind of reputation for a manager to have.

Now, think about this, if you were in a High Performers position where the basic salary, perks, benefits, holiday and sickness entitlements are all identical to the Under Performers…how would you feel if you saw a manager you couldn’t trust, letting your peers come in under target, maybe even consistently come in under target?

I can only state this anecdotally, I have no researched figures yet, but I can tell you from many years of experience that the minute a business and a manager tolerates under performance without it being a major issue, with associated consequences, then the team starts to break down…

Here’s the anecdotal evidence I’ve collected over the last 20 + years:

  • Managers start to feed the under performers higher numbers of leads in the hope of helping then hit their figures, leads that could have gone to the rest of the team
  • Managers start to spend a disproportionate amount of their time with the under performers – leaving them less accessible to other team members
  • Managers forget that performers need time, attention and developing too

In fact – let’s be blunt about it – your performers are the firm’s biggest asset and your under performers are a huge liability – internally and externally.

How you treat your performers dictates the success of your firm. Every time!

What to do about it?

No-one wants a revolving door on the sales office where sales people come and go at such a speed that there is no point even getting to know their name unless they’ve been there more than 4 weeks….that’s not good for morale, your reputation or customer relationships.

Therefore, you must recruit intelligently…but more on that next week.

Recruit intelligently and you will recruit on attitude and potential – the strongest building blocks and the personal attributes you can neither train nor artificially manifest.

After that, you must eliminate poor performers. There is no easy or sugar-coated way to say it. Look at it this way, your poorest performer sets the benchmark for the team.

Will you ever get to a position where everyone hits target every month? I hope you do but I suspect you won’t.

The difference is maintaining the high performers so that they stretch the rest of the team to follow and immediately take appropriate action to prevent the non-performers enjoying the same joys of employment and terms in exchange for continued failure, minimal improvement and being happy with being an also ran.

As a final point here – here’s my acid test for an under performer, you may want to use it, or develop a similar set of criteria for you to use in your business:

  1. Does the under performer take instructions well during training, development. coaching and peer sessions?
  2. Does the under performer implement all that he has been taught, regularly and competently?
  3. Does the under performer seek feedback and insight into how s/he is performing and what they could do better?
  4. Does the under performer show financial signs of improving?
  5. Does the under performer prepare for his/her sales days to a very high level – i.e. arrives with pre-prepared call lists, research done, planning done, so they can maximise their selling time?
  6. Are they seeking to develop themselves and their skill set in their own time, maybe books, journals, YouTube etc?

If I can answer yes to the majority of the above questions then I will be inclined to retain the under performer on the team and spend time and money developing. Why? Because I genuinely believe that where there is a will there is a way, and a keen hard-working person who is genuine and committed will find that way.

Where I can see little evidence of the above then I am less inclined to devote development time and resource – in a nut shell – I can’t want their success more than they do.

Hope that helps you think about how you deal with under performers and under performance in your team.

Happy Selling


0889 002 1885



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