When All Else Fails, Dump Your Duds

Are you guilty of hanging on to your poor performers far too long? Sales Managers often are too soft-hearted when it comes to a salesperson’s poor performance.

We tell ourselves that our long-time employee is just having a bad week (month, quarter, year) and that he’ll snap out of it soon. Or that the new hire that isn’t up to speed yet, is going to be okay, even though our stomachs say otherwise.

Too many sales managers don’t hire smart, support poorly, tolerate mediocrity and then complain because business is bad!

First Things First

Frankly, I think of firing someone as a last resort, not the first. When you think you’ve got a dud, make sure that you’re not the reason the person is a dud. Assuming you’ve hired smart, are you doing the right things at the right time?

Provide Support

Too many companies give tons of product knowledge training and little or no training on how to actually sell the products. In addition to sales training, make sure your people, not just your dud, have the tools to get and stay organized. Does your dud have the tools and the training to be a non-dud? If so, has he or she taken advantage of these tools and training? Help the person do so by providing some personal attention and encouragement.

Also make sure you have a system in place to track sales opportunities, forecast accurately, and help your people stay on top of their sales. You should be having a monthly, if not a weekly, sales meeting with your people to keep them motivated and catch situations before they become problems. Be a coach and mentor. Motivated people don’t become duds.

Set Performance Targets

Sit down with your problem child and set mutually acceptable quotas, activity levels, and a timeline for reaching them. It’s important that he be given enough time to bring his performance up to an agreed-upon level. Your job is to assist him to hit the targets, on time.

It’s important that the targets be mutually established so the salesperson will feel responsible for reaching them.

If a salesperson isn’t meeting his sales targets, look at his sales activities. Is he making the required number of calls necessary to make quota? If so, what’s happening or not happening on those calls? Why isn’t he closing the business? This may be the result of a skills deficit and some training may be in order. If he’s not making the required number of calls, why not? You may have an organizational problem or perhaps a lazy salesperson.

Retrain Before Replacing

You need to give the person every chance to perform and positively impact your bottom line. You’ve got to help him to help you. Sometimes the help and experience needed doesn’t lie within your organization. Or perhaps you’re simply overloaded. Outside assistance to provide additional individual training or an objective assessment of the situation may be in order.

The Last Resort

If you’ve hired smart, provided the support and tools to succeed, set targets and monitored activity, coached and chided and still the performance is lacking, then what do you do? It’s time to fire the person.

The parting of company should never come as a surprise to the departee. He should be aware that his continued employment depended upon his performance.

Keep It Short

When it’s time to do the dastardly deed, do it quickly and properly and don’t do it alone. Have someone with you as an impartial observer. I recommend you do the deed on a Monday, not a Friday. You want the person out the very next day looking for gainful employment, not stewing over a weekend.

Have all the termination paperwork ready to go along with any final salary and commissions due. Collect all your sales material, customer information, computers, cell phone, company car, key/security badge to the front door, etc, and set the person free. If he drove into work that morning in a company car, arrange for a taxi to take him home. Above all, don’t give someone two-weeks notice and expect him to hang around the office or continue to make sales calls.

Avoid Post-firing Disasters

Stay with the person until he walks out the door for the last time. Once the shock of termination wears off, some people can become angry and vindictive. It doesn’t take long for a vindictive person to reformat the hard drive that contains the company’s database or simply make a copy for his personal use.

In the End

If a person’s performance simply isn’t there and isn’t going to be there, it’s time to fire them. Do it properly and fairly, but do it. In this economy, you can’t afford any duds on your sales team.

For more information on sales coaching and training, please refer to The Right Skills.

Salesforce Training & Consulting is a professional sales training firm and registered Salesforce.com Consulting Partner based in Toronto, with offices in Boston and Chicago, providing sales coaching, sales management consulting, salesforce implementation, sales training and sales personnel assessments.

by   Mark Christie