How to Handle Poor Sales Performers

Performance Improvement on the Mechanism of Metal Gears.

It’s frustrating.

When you see a sales rep struggling month after month, and missing target after target, it’s enough to make any sales leader uneasy.

The problem is most leaders handle poor performers the wrong way. There’s a tendency to have “tough conversations” or attempt to punish them into higher performance. Some leaders even give poor performers the “cold shoulder” and allow a rep’s professional performance to seep into their personal behavior towards them. These are all things that are extremely counterproductive and more often than not, contribute to more negativity and even worse performance.

Luckily, there are strategies you can put into place to help improve their results. 

I strongly suggest you put a struggling sales rep on a performance improvement plan…quickly.

Here are the three key items for an effective plan:

1. Be Specific!

The plan needs to be carved out clearly and specifically. The important point to remember is to not make the goals completely unrealistic. If this rep is only averaging around 20% of their target, don’t suddenly expect them to hit 100% just because you’re putting a plan into place. Perhaps a 50% goal is more realistic in this situation.

The real goal here should be to map out and expect progress. They don’t have to go from dud to stud overnight, but they do have to demonstrate some level of (achievable) progress in a given time period.

There should be three or four activity metrics that are agreed to and signed on so that both parties know they’re on the same page.

2. Regular Follow-ups

Back when I was on a performance plan at my first job (yes, I was on a plan too!), I discovered that weekly checkins with my manager worked best. Each Monday, I got together with my sales leader and we reviewed what I did last week, mapped out what I’d do the current week, and then I’d stick to my plan.

This way, both my manager and I knew that we were holding ourselves accountable to my success. I was able to constantly keep track of what was working and what wasn’t, and this was critical to my eventual success.

3. Hold Them Accountable

It’s not always sales, organizational or time management skills that are lacking in your rep. <– Click to Tweet

Often, it’s pure willingness to get the job done that separates top performers from their less successful counterparts.

By holding them accountable, you’re testing their willingness to succeed.

– Are they sticking to their plan?

– Are they demonstrating a higher work ethic?

– Are they identifying their strengths and weaknesses and working on improvement?

– Are they achieving better results?

These are all important points to consider as you carefully observe your sales rep under the performance management plan.

If you’re dealing with a lack of willingness, you may have to look into moving or removing this individual from your organization. It’s tough, but the last thing a business needs is a dead weight.

What’s one thing you do to help a poor sales performer in your business?

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