Truth and Consequences for Non-Performing Salespeople

Make no mistake, sales management is tough. Your job is to get the most out of people, who themselves have a challenging job. There’s a reason top salespeople are paid well. They’re a rare breed and they perform well under difficult circumstances. And every sales manager wishes she had more of them. But alas, for every top performer, there are scads of average performers and even a handful of sub-standard performers. The average performers, well, that’s where the sales leader really earns her keep. Getting them to improve their performance, be it activity driven – efficiency, or improving their delivery – effectiveness, that is where the leader needs to spend most of her time. And by moving the ‘B’s closer to becoming ‘A’s is not only rewarding, but also extremely profitable. Invest time, energy and money here! Train, train and train some more. Get out in the field and do ride alongs, call shadowing, coffee coaching and monitor things like the Salesforce Kanban Opportunity board together. This is where your greatest ROTI (Return on Time Invested) will pay off.

But, what about the poor performers? How do you spot them, and what to do about them?

Fortunately, tools like Salesforce have made things a lot easier for sales leaders to spot poor performance much faster. If you run your sales team using Salesforce, it become evident very quickly who is working to keep their pipeline full, and who is moving Opportunities through the pipeline with high velocity. Sure, there’s the tired old argument that salespeople can always fudge the data in Salesforce to make things look good. True, but that only works for so long. Sooner or later, the real numbers catch up to any pretender, as a full pipeline with no Closed Won Opportunities over time is a dead giveaway.

And not only does Salesforce allow us to peer into the performance of our sales teams, but it also provides us with tools to manage our teams from afar and help to keep them honest and on track.

Let’s have a look at some of the truths and consequences for non-performers and how to use Salesforce to first, spot it, and then, either rectify it or, help you when to cut bait.

Sub-consciously Training Sub-Performers

No, not the kind of formal training you’re thinking about. I’m talking about the sub-conscious training and messaging you’re sending when we, as sales managers, allow substandard performance. In effect, you’re training for, or encouraging this performance. When we don’t hold our people accountable, in essence, we train them to believe that not achieving sales targets and personal goals are okay. “No, not me. That wouldn’t happen with my sales team” you’re thinking. Yes, you. Read on.

Depending on where you live, you’ve been trained to break the law so long as you’re not getting caught doing it. There’s a posted sign on a road I drive daily prohibiting left hand turns between 4 pm and 6 pm, Monday to Friday. I was dutifully obeying this sign until one day at around 5:40 pm, a long line up ahead of me, I decided to break the law and turn left. No biggie, left hand turn made, and I was on my way, and back home about 10 minutes faster than taking the ‘lawful’ route. So, the next time I found myself in the same spot around the same time, remembering my time savings from before, I just did it again. Now emboldened I must have repeated this manoeuvre 5 or 6 times. Then one day, imagine my surprise when I made the turn, and a constable was standing right there, flagging me down. Nailed!

I got the $110 fine because I had been trained to ignore the posted no turn sign. It was an expensive lesson.

Salesforce Tip #1 – The Kanban Board

With Salesforce, a sales manager can use the various reporting mechanisms to keep people honest. Just by watching, and letting your people know you’re watching, is a great deterrent to slacking off. Just like, if the cop had been on the side of the road making himself totally visible, you can bet I would have followed the rules.

One of my favorite tools is the Opportunity Kanban Board. If you’re watching your sales team’s deals on the board, you can quickly spot whose Opportunities have closed dates in the past, and who doesn’t have a next step in place. All you need to do is send quick notes – this is also a great use case for Chatter – to send subtle reminders that an Opportunity needs updating.

Sending Mixed Messages

What message do we send our people when there is no consequence for non-performance? I’m not just referring to missing sales targets but things like not getting expense reports in on time (or just in, period!), showing up late for meetings, not completing sales reports, or simply not doing what they said they would do.

Apart from the fact that some of these things show blatant disrespect for the sales manager and other members of the sales team, they help create an environment where this type of performance (or non-performance) is acceptable.

Those of us who have, or have had, small children know that they’ll constantly test the limits set by their parents and if you give an inch, they’ll take a foot and go for the whole yard if they think they can get away with it. It’s often the same with salespeople. They’ll constantly test the limits and guidelines you set for them until they learn, like kids, that they can’t get away with what they are trying to get away with.

Salesforce Tip #2 – Time Based Report Subscriptions

One of the great features of Salesforce Reporting is Report Subscriptions. This is where, as a sales leader you can set up a report to be automatically send out to your team on a regularly scheduled basis. Here’s the suggestion – if you’re holding regularly scheduled team meetings to review the pipeline, state of the union and so forth, set up Salesforce to send the Opportunity Pipeline report to the team one hour ahead of the scheduled meeting. The instructions should be clear – the meeting is in one hour, and I expect you to come, on time, with all of your Opportunities in Salesforce up to date and ready to discuss.

Now, on its own, will this solve issues of reps continuing to come late and unprepared. No, of course not. The technology doesn’t solve it all. You’ll have to start having those difficult conversations on your own – but that’s what good leaders do. But what Salesforce Report Subscriptions will do for you is to ensure that the upcoming meeting and your expectations are top of mind, right when you need them to be, and you’re removing the excuse of “Oh, sorry, I just forgot to update things” off of the table.

“This training was excellent. Mark was a great trainer and I have made this known to my manager. I have even suggested they use him to train the business. I believe this would be very helpful to them and give them a better understanding of how the application works.”

“This training was excellent. Mark was a great trainer and I have made this known to my manager. I have even suggested they use him to train the business. I believe this would be very helpful to them and give them a better understanding of how the application works.”

Bridgette Lomax
Business Analyst, Blue Cross/Blue Shield

Talk to Salesforce training


Consistency and Consequences

One of the consequences of allowing poor performance is that the good performers often start to slack off. That’s when Paula the Performer tells herself that if Steve the Slug is still here after consistently under-performing, why should she work so hard.

Someone’s also going to figure out that no one seems to hold old Fred’s feet to the fire because he simply refuses to enter his call information into Salesforce, so they’ll back off awhile to see what happens. If nothing happens, they’ve just gained an argument for neglecting Salesforce themselves. They win and you lose.

Another bad habit some sales managers have is that they’ll cut their top performers some slack while still holding others accountable for performance. All they are doing is sending a message to the sales team that if you perform well you don’t have to be as accountable. Not a good message.

If you’re going to set rules for the team, they should apply to the whole team, not just selected members.

Salesforce Tip #3 – Criteria Based Report Subscriptions

So, this one is an all-time favorite of mine. Like the prior tip, it leverages the power of Report subscriptions. But instead of basing the subscription on time, say the same time frame each week, it sends all the recipients the report based on a certain criterion being met. The one that makes the most sense for this is when the Expected Value of the Opportunity Pipeline falls below a specified amount. Say what?

Ok, as a sales leader it’s pretty much a given that your team has an annual sales target. And based on the length of your team’s selling cycle you’ve divided your annual target into either quarterly segments, or monthly segments, meaning that you need to hit a certain amount of revenue (or units) sold in that specific time frame. OK, so now you create an Opportunity Pipeline report that displays the expected value of the team’s opportunities (probability x amount) and you summarize those amounts both by each individual rep and for the entire group. Next, you create a Subscription schedule based on conditions. If you know, for instance, that the team needs a total expected value of $1M in revenue for the quarter, you set a condition that the report is automatically sent to everyone as soon as the total expected value of all Opportunities with Close dates for this quarter falls below $1M. You can also create report subscriptions for individuals when their own territory or region pipeline falls below the required amount.

Using this function of Salesforce will keep everyone on the same page when it comes to whether the team is on track or not. There’s no escaping not entering deals into Salesforce as it will quickly catch up, and its one more way to hold everyone accountable, with Salesforce doing a lot of the work.

Recalibrate Your People

Maybe you’re the cause of the problem because you have been too slack with your people or maybe you inherited the situation from a previous manager who didn’t want to offend anyone by being too harsh. Whatever, it’s your problem now.

Before you ever consider replacing anyone, I recommend you try to salvage the person by helping him or her change their behavior. Have a meeting with the person and outline what has been happening, what you want to have happened, and ask him or her for ideas on how to make it happen. Use the following three-step process for uncovering and solving problems.

  1. What’s the problem? Get a general agreement from the person as to what the problem is.
  2. What are the causes? Let the person talk. Keep your views to yourself. It’s his or her problem and you want them to uncover the reason for it.
  3. What can be done to minimize or eliminate the problem? Let the other person come up with solutions. If nothing else, try to negotiate rather than mandate a solution. If you are taking action on his or her ideas rather than yours, good things are more likely to happen.

If you’ve set reasonable sales targets and some of your people aren’t meeting them, then you first try to correct the problem through coaching and/or training. If that doesn’t work, then you have to consider replacing them. This is always a difficult decision. Salvage first, replace second. Do everything you can to make it work but, in the end, you have to do what is right for both the person and the company and assist them in getting a new career.

The truth is, that to do anything less, is the wrong consequence.

Salesforce Training is a professional training firm with trainers in the UK, Canada and the US, that specializes in helping companies and their sales teams get more out of Salesforce. Our Sales Manager Game Plan is designed to provide sales leaders with a road map to leverage Salesforce as a proper management tool.