Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dilemma of the Under-performing Sales Rep

Every Sales Manager faces the problem of having under-performing sales reps on the team.  There are several problems that have to be overcome in order to improve this situation.

First you must actually have a sales goal established for each rep that is attainable and realistic.  Next you must have a way to monitor it and help your reps maintain it.  But how do you handle an under-performing sales rep?

Your only option is to put the rep on probation, give them a warning or a put them on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan).  The consequences of these actions will bring one of the following responses:

  • Surprise!  I’m out of here. Be ready for this one. It usually happens within one or two weeks after the warning.  The rep knew he or she wasn’t performing up to expectations and needs the time to find a new sales job at one of your competitors.  Because most factories don’t have a training program for new hires, the rep will be viewed as a valuable asset.
  • Committed to Success.  For a small minority, very small, the warning or probation is a call for them to jump in action.  They ask for help and start doing what was expected of them in the first place.  These reps realize that they value their job and are upset about their slipping production numbers.  They were hired to be successful and will be looking to you for training and help.  Don’t let them down.
  • Just chugging along.  Some reps will work hard in the early weeks of being put on probation and you will see improvement. Don’t be fooled. They are just keeping you off their back long enough to find another job.
  • Waiting for the ax to fall.  Some reps accept that they will never do any better than they already have and just stay on to collect the paycheck until you fire them.  If you notice that the rep's energy level is dropping and they start taking all their sick days, vacation days and call in sick frequently, you need to cut them loose quickly.  They will have an adverse effect on your builders.
  • Waiting you out.  This may not be the first time you put this rep on probation and from your failure to follow through in the past, they will just “wait you out” and then continue to do what they’ve always done…under-perform.

Forget about what you’ve done in the past and commit to improving your training and selling.  Your sales reps deserve it and your factory expects it.  Go into a retraining program knowing that NOT following through on probation is WORSE than not doing anything. It shows the sales reps that they cannot push you around.

Placing under-performing sales reps on probation is the right thing to do.

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