Coaching to increase sales
Handling poor performers
Poor sales performers crop up in nearly all organisations, and all too often they’re tolerated and permitted to continue in their jobs. This can be a costly error in policy.
If you rank your sales force based on top performers to bottom performers, you’ll usually find that the bottom staff are responsible for less than 6% of sales. All in all, too much time is spent on poor performers. The sales manager should spend more time with people at the top.
We believe a poor performer can’t get better unless they learn by doing. Give poor performers the opportunity to grow their own skills. If you see they’re not doing the right thing, you pursue a diagnostic path: Is it a skill problem or an attitude problem? Your options are to coach, counsel or terminate.
The sales manager must meet sales performance problems head-on, but always in a positive manner. Telling a sales rep they have to meet their quota “or else” is inadequate and probably self-defeating. Help them learn how to achieve this goal. Maybe they need to improve their sales presentations or try to reach different decision makers in the customer’s company. A sales manager’s specific recommendations enhance the overall chances of success with individual sales reps.
To help turn around a poor performer, we advise these steps:
- Document the situation. Gather facts. Identify problems in the salesperson’s performance.
- Advice and counsel. Meet with the sales rep, making it very clear that your goal as sales manager is to help them become better at their job. Avoid placing blame or delivering ultimatums. Instead, demonstrate your confidence that, with coaching, the problems can be overcome.
- Look for problem behaviours. Ask the sales rep what they think should be done to overcome gaps in performance. Does it mean adjusting selling behaviour? Making more new business calls? Find out what difficulties, if any, they anticipate in changing their behaviour. Address these difficulties before they occur.
- Design a recovery plan. The plan, developed jointly by sales manager and salesperson, should be comprehensive and results oriented. Set targets based on (1) improvements in sales with each account; (2) new business penetration; (3) increased number of calls.
- Have a follow-up plan. Following agreement on a recovery plan, the sales rep must understand that the sales manager will closely scrutinise sales efforts and results. The follow-up plan will track results and progress, supplemented by weekly follow-up meetings.