Fire that poor performing salesperson, but before you do…

Keeping a consistently poor performer hurts the business financially and affects the team morale and therefore productivity.

How long should I keep a non-performing sales newbie? The short answer to this question I get asked often is this: three months is too short, a year too long. The floor is informed by the need for going through the learning curve. The ceiling is informed by research into this matter that shows that close to 80% of consistently high-performing sales organizations fire a poor-performing sales rep within a year, compared to 63%, average, and 52%, underperforming sales organizations.

Could he have excelled the following year after you fire him? Possibly. Can he join another organization and skyrocket in performance? Maybe. So maybe I should keep him that bit longer? No. Anything is possible where performance is concerned. Even stellar sellers can become mediocre upon being poached. That’s not the point. The point is that keeping a consistently poor performer hurts the business financially and affects the team morale and therefore productivity. “But Juma doesn’t deliver as much and you don’t push him”; or, “Nothing happens here even if you don’t perform.” These are debilitating statements that complicate an already tough job.  The longer you retain a non-performer, the longer it takes to find the performer you need.

But! Before you fire him, let it because all avenues for improvement have been exhausted. And not  because, “I don’t like him (or, he wasn’t cut out to sell) and our prescribed window for improvement is closed.” It’s best that the reason be as objective as possible.  Measurability could include varying your ways of motivation. Not all sellers are motivated by the extra shilling they can make; some are motivated by competition, while others are excited by recognition. Different strokes for different folks.

Objectivity should also be from studying their performance. Selling is a step by step process that doggedly executed, snowballs into an avalanche of closed sales. The poor performer could be selling to the wrong prospect. He could be selling the Kes. 100 million holiday home to a mid-level bank manager because, “he looks like he can afford it.” Or, making presentations intended for senior executive to the receptionist because that is his comfort zone.  It could be he pitches perfectly to the right audience and has a back log of potential sales begging to be closed but alas, he just doesn’t know how to do so; which means conversion is his challenge. Perhaps they are choosy. They are comfortable with the salary and would rather focus on quality than quantity. So they sell only the high-end wine with higher profit margins and longer selling period and therefore struggle to meet their (quantity) targets which are based on number of cases sold despite the thin margins. Whatever the reason, the sales manager can genuinely report, say in month seven: “Despite varying the motivational styles, and repeatedly showing him how to convert sales and whom to target, unfortunately there has been no meaningful improvement and we must let him go.”

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