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Low Performing Sales Reps: Coach Up or Coach Out?

Coaching Sales PerformanceIf you are like most CSO’s you are thinking about your upcoming sales rep performance reviews, and you probably have your reps segmented into two lists, “keepers” and “cuts”.  Before you decide to jettison a “cut” you need to take the time to determine the root cause of the poor performance. If the sub-par performance is a result of actions and activities directly attributable to the rep it’s an easy decision to make. But what if you have a low performing rep with the right attributes and a good attitude?   Is it possible that with a little help they can be saved?

Getting rid of potential future high performer would be a terrible waste of the time and not to mention the significant monetary investment already expended.

Obviously the first step in saving your low performer is figuring out what’s lacking. If you are working closely with your team you should at least have a theory about what’s wrong. After assessing the situation it makes sense to sit down with your rep and have a very candid conversation about the situation. It’s likely that your rep is frustrated with his or her current situation so this conversation should be easy to have.

This meeting should yield a jointly agreed to action plan. The plan must have a specific outcome; either the salesperson meets the action plan goals or they will be separated from the company.  The plan should be documented in writing and reviewed at least twice a month to monitor progress.

The plan must be based on specific actions and activities, below are some possible examples of action plan components.

  • Increase number on new prospect contacts by X%
  • Make a minimum of 5 company capability presentations each week
  • Improve gross profit margin by X% on each sale
  • Increase closes by X% over the next 2 quarters

The action plan should have a reasonable but firm timeline. If the timeline is too long the sale rep may not have the sense of urgency needed to improve at a fast enough rate. If the timeline is too short the sales rep will view it as “set up” and will immediately begin looking for a new position, you don’t want this to happen.

By monitoring performance on a regular basis you reinforce the seriousness of the situation and you can also determine if changes to the plan timeline are warranted. For example, if a rep is making good progress but needs a little more time, then making slight changes to the timeline or actions make sense.

Slow developing sale people can become some of your sales team’s most reliable producers if given the right help and coaching.  It takes a real commitment of time and resources but it is cheaper to help improve some low performers than to hire a replacement.

Many sales mangers take the easy way out and let quality talent fade away, don’t be one of them.

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