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How To Start Managing Poor Sales Performance Today

How To Start Managing Poor Sales Performance Today

Managing poor sales performance takes effort.

Much more effort than managing sales performance when the team are operating in line with expectations.

That’s why it’s always ideally more sensible to work hard to keep the sales team performing to target, as opposed to let things slip.

That’s really hard work, I know. High performance sales teams don’t just run themselves.

But it’s worth it, because the cost of turning around poor sales performance is high. Challenges around behaviours, skills and attitudes that contribute to less than optimum sales performance causes tension, resentment and disruption. Not all sales teams survive, so any aspect of sales under performance shouldn’t be seen as ‘the norm’ but addresses sensitively immediately.

If you’re struggling with any aspect of poor performance within the sales function, sales not being as you’d like, not being able to reliase the real sales potential within your business, you can claim your FREE SALE AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT HEALTH CHECK

The Number 1 Rule for Managing Poor Sales Performance

If you’re responsible for managing poor sales performance, then face it head on. Acting fast at the first sign of sales dipping.

When sales start dipping, and that will happens, learn how to maintain control, so that you ensure your sales results are, at best, put back into a climb, or at worst, maintained whilst you run your repair and rebuild process.

Selecting to avoid managing poor sales performance may be the easy choice but it’s never the wisest.

Managing poor sales performance is fraught with all sorts of hurdles.

Taking responsibility, you have to do right by the sales person, right by the business, stick within the realms of good HR practice, document everything, engage in endless good sales and best practice performance management programs in the hope that everyone can dig in, pull tight and trade through.

Sometimes it works well, and when it does, that success is a huge reward and acknowledgement of your skills as a sales manager and the untapped potential of the business

But, sometimes you’re fighting a battle out front with all of the responsibility and none of the control whilst someone’s drilling holes in your efforts…

Why Proactively Managing Poor Sales Performance So Important?

Managing poor sales performance is an art form.

Poor sales performance costs money, time, resources and missed opportunity, and the very worst part is, you’re most likely contributing to your competitors growth.

Managing poor sales performance efficiently, effectively and with minimum impact on the rest of the sales function is vital.

After all, sinking time and effort into managing poor sales performance is a huge risk with no guaranteed short term payback, so anything you can do to:

1. speed up the process

2. reduce risk

3. guarantee success

4. let business as usual continue in the rest of the sales team…

Will automatically minimise the negative impacts associated with having to manage, support, train and develop poor sales performers, as well as make the rest of the team/business feel you’ve not deserted them.

What’s the Cost of Not Hitting Sales Targets?

It’s estimated that in any one year between 50% and 55% of sales staff don’t make sales target.

The reality is, if you’re not managing poor sales performance in your company,  managing it so every sales person hits target in your business, you could be missing out on the opportunity of doubling your sales turnover without increasing your headcount!

That’s right

”…you could be missing out on the opportunity of doubling your sales turnover without increasing your headcount!”

Now that’s a shocker.

So, how do you think about your sales people not hitting sales targets?

You could think about this cost as:

1. factored into the business running costs

2. the payback for being in business

3. pretty much par of the course and to be expected

4. only 55% not hitting target? I wish!

How you think about it will dictate what you’re prepared to do to eliminate it, and how tolerant you are of your trading conditions. Can you afford to be tolerant? How happy are you with the results/performance you’re getting?

But what about when poor sales performance impacts more than your sales results?

How about when it severely hampers your speed of growth, your business stability… your sales future.

Managing Poor Sales Performance – What Are You Prepared To Do When Sales Targets are Missed?

Personally, I hate under performance…it means there’s something wrong, it’s expensive and I never know when a sales dip’s going to bottom out, so I favour fast repair and reboot…

But before any repair or reboot can be done, you must identify where the fault sits in terms of things that cause poor sales performance.

It could be that:

1. the sales targets are set wrongly, so chances of success are limited

2. the sales recruitment is off track because the business needs a different sales skill set than originally thought

3. reward and recognition program is failing, hence staff aren’t motivated to achieve and bear no consequence for under achieving

4. sales management is failing, and this can be for a number of reasons

5. the market has changed and you’ve been caught napping

6. the competitors are getting stronger, more aggressive, focused, tenacious

7. a region is not performing as well as it should for geo/economic/political reasons

8. pricing is out of line and not responsive or dynamic

9. not trained the staff well enough

10. not coached/supported the staff often enough

11. failing to keep accurate temperature of the market forces and prospects fads

12. not buying/creating good quality leads or data

13. don’t have a great lead generation system or new business development plan

14. targeting the wrong type of prospects

15. targeting the right type of prospects with the wrong offer

Any combination of the above sound familiar?

Good News About Managing Poor Sales Performance:

And here’s the good news, the reason I hate sales non-performance so much is that 99.9% of the time, it’s fixable.

Yes, totally fixable.

To manage poor sales performance is not a black art…it’s about identifying a leak and fixing it to get the desired sales results.

And what’s even better is that, when you do fix the poor sales performance, it doesn’t just help the poor performers, it typically helps the whole sales team.

So, managing poor sales performance to eliminate the issue quickly, smoothly, efficiently, effectively, with minimum risk and maximum chances of success?

Not a tall order at all!


When you recruited your sales people into your sales team you must have seen something that convinced you that they would be a valuable asset to the team.

At the point of recruiting that sales person there was a business costs and a commitment to train them in their post.

Most companies forget this bit.

Very few sales people hit the ground running, regardless of their pedigree, past performance or skill set.

There still needs to be a typically immense investment by the business in getting the new recruit up to speed.

This is where it often falls down – a business might use the ‘sit with Nelly’ school of training…which means good habits get repeated, bad habits get repeated and no-one gets trained…but the sales manager can still tick the box and sign off to say it has.

Why am I telling you this?

Because this is where poor sales performance starts.

Right here!

This can also be the point where it stops.

Right now!

Cut the risk of having to manage poor sales performance before it even starts.

PLUS, and this is an absolute must if you’re a hungry sales manager…everyone is on a continual performance management program…every single one of the sales team, performers, plodders, super stars, the nearly there and the abject losers…keep everybody on a sales performance program ALL THE TIME.

Start date? The minute they walk on to your team.

That’s why, if you capture and train your new sales recruit early, you’ll be less likely to need any kind of program for managing poor sales performance later on, and if you do find your self in this position, the cause is usually fairly simple to identify and remedy.

If you need any help in recruiting great sales people – check out these two free reports, just hit the link for an instant download…

Beware of the Twins – How to Build a Pipeline of Great Sales Talent and Recruit Great Sales People

How To Find Out If Your Sales Recruit Is Really THAT Good!

Ok, so that’s for what to do next time.

Now, let’s look at what to do if already have a poorly performing sales team and need help on managing poor sales performance.

First of all consider why you should be alert to managing poor sales performance:

1. What would it mean to the business if you could move the bell curve that typically denotes sales team performance just slightly to the right indicating that more of the sales team would be hitting target or be above target….

2. What are the poor performers costing you? Consider not just the salary bill, car, benefits  etc, instead think also about the lost opportunities, the increased time between expressions of interest and purchase order, the higher sales acquisition cost, the likely reduced margin….

3. Consider the impact of not managing poor performers on the morale and motivation of those sales people who always hitting target, carrying the poor performers? After all, sales is a meritocracy, so why should the performers and the non-performers be treated in the same way and both allowed to keep their jobs?

What could you do as part of managing poor sales performance?

  • Some organisations will put a revolving door on the sales office for the poorer performers. The under performers either make the grade or they go. In fact, many larger organisations will adopt a process of forced ranking where the bottom 10% will be asked in improve within 3 months or find alternative employment either within or outside of their organisation.
  • Some organisations will look at the sales team as a whole and maintain the performers, exceptional performers and under performers in the same environment, on the basis that they accept the bell curve model and appreciate that this is possibly as good as it gets.
  • Some organisations may invest heavily in the poor performers training, coaching, mentoring and offering additional support.

Every sales management team and business will have its own way of dealing with poor sales performance.

What type of organisation are you in, and what are you doing at the moment to manage poor sales performance?

Sales Management complain that when dealing with poor sales performance, it is the huge amounts of time it takes addressing the individuals and their problem(s) that causes the biggest upset. All sales managers should be supportive and invest, of course, but many fully understand that it’s so much time and effort with no guaranteed return can be a thankless task. And that mindset brings it’s own set of problems.

However, let’s not forget, it’s worth every minute when it works!!

Collectively, over the years we have designed a few techniques to address the issues associated with poor sales performance and managing poor sales performance.

You might also want a second opinion – at no cost to you whatsoever.

In fact, you can claim your FREE SALES HEALTH CHECK – just click on the link here and I’ll get back to you within 24 hrs. UK wide.

I want to claim my FREE SALES HEALTH CHECK

Managing Poor Sales Performance – 22 Point Quick Summary

1. Start formal sales performance management action immediately. If the sales person hits target and works then there is no issue. BUT if they don’t hit target and it doesn’t work out and the sales performance doesn’t improve then you’ll have a documented course of past remedial action, such as is needed to support your recommendations and decisions. Managing poor sales performance needs immediate ongoing action.

2. As part of managing poor sales performance set tight and short term targets to help them focus…half daily if necessary. Some under performers feel swamped so clarity and direction maybe lacking. Make it easy for them to perform.

3. Ask them what hurdles they are experiencing – and remove those hurdles temporarily from their desk…whatever that takes. As part of managing poor sales performance give them freedom to deliver and see what difference it makes.

4. Explore each deal in the forecast/pipeline with them and agree on a strategy to make things happen – time consuming but often pays very high dividends. This is a crucial part of managing poor sales performance.

5. Put the responsibility for their success firmly in their hands, whilst making yourself as accessible as possible. Under performers need to understand the tactics and techniques for driving sales performance when their sales hit a dip. As part of managing poor sales performance, you need to give them those skills and insights.

6. Have daily meetings to discuss performance, so they can update you on progress, in other words, don’t let them lose heart because they need to know you are on their side.

7. Encourage them to concentrate on what they have in their pipeline and have already qualified, as opposed to random cold calling.

8. Complete accompanied visits with potential clients and the under performer. This is vital. The more time you spend with the under performer, the greater their chance of success, and the sooner they’ll start to perform in line with expectations.

9. Generate a time sensitive to ‘close’ list daily because side by side management of this list of activities build confidence and action mindset.

10. Watch the attitude as well as the skills. Perfectly competent sales people can under perform when the attitude is wrong, even if the skill levels are high.

11. Address any obvious sales skills that are poor/missing.

12. Find out what their motivators are, and use them.

13. Partner them with some of your more professional and performing sales people – accompanied visits, but don’t saddle the performing sales person with your responsibilities.

14. Conduct sales pipeline analysis – where in the sales pipeline are deals falling over, getting stuck or falling apart? It may be a skills deficiency or a simple mind set shift that’s needed, consequently you can determine which it is.

15. Get them to go back to established and happy customers to get referrals, to cross sell, to up sell. Anything so that they get to taste success because this is so important. It’s tough to break a long line of sales failures, hence tasting success is a valuable jump start because everyone needs that.

16. Strictly assess skills…do you have a farmer in a hunter role? Do you have a customer service super star trying to climb a mountain of new business…look for their strengths and not just their weaknesses. and subsequently place them where they play to their strengths, where this is possible.

17. Let them see you selling and making profit in their sector. Being successful on their patch with their clients because that’s when they get to see what’s possible, when you show them what’s possible

18. Test their market knowledge – total immersion, because that’s the only way to find out what they know, what they don’t know, what they should know and make sure they close the gaps.

19. Do not load too much pressure on the under performer because it won’t help, moreover, it’ll most likely send them backwards.

20. Punch drunk training sessions – role play and role play some more. With you and them in a room, hit them with every single objection and sales avoidance technique you have. Either way, just kill them with the speed, ferocity and force of your NO argument and help them work out how to fight back with their YES sales position

21. The sales person should display a high energy state every day, what that means is no slouching into the office, got to show up pumped for another day to turn this around.

22. Do a psychometric test  on the under performers, because at this point, like Sherlock Holmes, you’re looking for clues to indicate where the blockage is…

I know – you’re shaking you head wondering ‘what the hell’.

I’m hearing you. It’s a valid reaction.

But the truth is you have a few choices. You can seek to find and cultivate the skills and attributes you identified when you recruited this person and work with them to make their and your dream a sales reality.

Or, you can call HR. Go through the process and start again. You always have that choice and that’s a conversation you’ll probably have every time the poor performer comes into you mind or crosses your eye line.

Managing sales performance is a day to day activity, and managing poor sales performance is no difference.

That’s your job. One of the hardest parts!

That’s why managing the solution at speed is vital, so very vital for both parties.

Either way, early intervention is vital.

Performance management shouldn’t be left until the relationship between management and staff is strained or has deteriorated. People can become defensive and uncooperative and these are counter productive responses to what you are trying to achieve.

Managing poor sales performance is a time consuming process, it may or may not work.

I have seen some sales people take upwards of 12 months to reach their full potential.

I have also seen some sales people who should have got better results. They were unable to pull in the sales results required to secure their position. Yet, on moving to another firm have gone on to very highly regarded positions in other sales roles. Roles where they have consistently hit their targets. So, some times we all have to recognise that that fit doesn’t work.

I guess my personal philosophy on the matter is this; Manage sales and commit to doing everything within your power to assist the under performer, however, there is one caveat. If improvements don’t appear, there is no harm in saying good bye, because at that point that’s all that’s left, moreover, it can greatly benefit both parties.

Getting good HR advice is invaluable. AS is good legal advice. Both are part of your solution before any action to dismiss is taken.

If you want some starting points for managing sales performance, one of the easiest places to start is to look at the sales metrics you’re using to manage the team. Available now –  download just hit the link for an instant download – The 7 Sales Metrics You Should Measure, Monitor and Manage

Claim your Free Sales Health Check using this link. Simply click through and complete the details. I’ll get back to you within 24 hrs. UK wide.

Here’s the link to register: I want to claim my free sales and business development health check

Managing Poor Sales Performance - Sales and Business Development Support UK

Managing poor sales performance is key. Simply put, avoiding it won’t make it go away. Plus the sooner you and the business accept that managing poor sales performance is a must do; the greater your options for growth and sales success.

How to Boost Sales Revenues and Profits…Start Your Sales Engine Today!

How to Boost Sales Revenues and Profits…Start Your Sales Engine Today!

How to Boost Sales Revenues and Profits – 10 Ways You Could Be Leaving Money with the Buyer…

You’ll know I’m a keen advocate of delivering exceptional value – just check out these two posts to see what ‘delivering value’ is and what it could mean for your business if you decide to go down that route and commit to building a business that never has to worry about finding prospects, customers, clients or buyers ever again. Continue reading

How to Build Value in Your Sales Pitch

How to Build Value in Your Sales Pitch

How to Build Value – answer that question, specifically for your business, and the sky really is the limit.

You’ve seen the figures, the figures that claim 57% of the buyer’s decision making is done BEFORE they invite the sales person in…

Whether you believe them or not, the truth is clear…

If you’re trying to get to the decision maker or you’re in the sales process already you have one single aim and if that aim is reached, your chances of getting the order increase dramatically…

So, what’s the aim?

Your Aim is to Build Perceived Value and Fluently Communicate that Value to Your Buyer.

Such value that:

1. Competitors don’t exist

2. The Buyer would be a fool to walk away from you

3. You deliver such value and competitive advantage at such a reduced risk that your Buyer views price as a secondary consideration

(This is the quickest way to increase sales conversion rates AND profits)

You need to understand how to build value in the buyer’s mind so that every time the Buyer thinks about you, your company, your product, your services, anything, the Buyer’s associates high levels of value with your proposal.

That way the Buyer is forced to view you as a serious contender.

How to Build Such Value

That you become a  contender without competition.

Once you know how to build value, you need to know how to communicate that value, how to translate it so that it connects at a DNA level with your Buyer…such that your value’s not a want or a need any more.

You’re value just became a MUST have for this Buyer.

Before we look at how to build value at this level, let’s be super clear what sort of value we’re talking about.

Your Aims

Firstly, what are the aims of the Buyer interaction?

The long term goal is to secure the opportunity to impress the Buyer so that the business can be secured at a price and with terms that are acceptable to you, the provider.

In the short term, the aims maybe to also to:

  • Kick the competition into the long grass
  • Demonstrate high levels of expertise
  • Operate in partner mode and not supplier
  • Push the Buyer’s thinking and the boundaries of their understanding in order to seek a better solution
  • Advise from a position of strength and experience
  • Challenge pre-conceived ideas
  • Offer a future proof solution or at least sign post future hurdles and propose solutions or work arounds
  • Be open to ideas, highly communicative, transparent, client centric and accessible
  • Freely express wisdom, knowledge and insight to the Buyer and his team
  • Be the expert in the room with a wealth of information to share
  • Share experience and insight

Not much to ask then:

What do we mean by ‘Value’?

So, as well as being all of the above, where does your ‘value’ and that of your business come in to the process?

My clients often lack a certain clarity around this area, namely to do with the term ‘value’.

Too often it’s a term that’s misconstrued as ‘giving stuff away’ or as being a major cost with no guarantee of return.

That’s not what we mean here when we talk about value in this context, or in any context really.

Instead, think about value in terms of that special set of factors that only you can bring to the Buyer’s table.

Example of How to Build Value

Let me give you an example to help you work out what your value is,  and how to build value because once you’ve done that, then the aim is to amplify that value for the Buyer, so, here we go…

In order to build value ask yourself:

What are you/your business REALLY  great at?

In fact, what are your biggest success stories?

What can you do better than anyone of your competitors?

Where is your prime expertise? What buyer/customer problems have you solved in the past?

What are the biggest wins you’ve ever made for your clients from solving those buyer problems?

Think in terms of ROI, was it that you provided a service or solution that:
  • Allowed your customer to out perform their industry?
  • Win a big order?
  • Solve a huge problem in their own business?
  • Save chunks of time?
  • Save oodles of money?

Many firms seek to create value in their supply chain, such functions as Operations, Customer Service, Human Resources, Buying etc.

There is likely a vast supply chain that’s evident within your business that allows what you sell to be delivered to your Buyer; thinking about that supply chain what is it that your business does that serves your customer and prospective Buyer at a higher level?

How Does Your Supply Chain Build Value for the Buyer?
  • It could be that you only recruit people with a specific qualification.
  • It could be that you only deal in one specific vertical market.
  • You may have a set of quality control procedures that none of your competitors have.
  • It could be your delivery policy.
  • Your money back guarantee
  • Your help-desk and customer service SLA’s
  • It could even be your industry accreditation, awards and recognition

Now, at this stage you should have quite a brag sheet there. It’s a huge list of all the things you’re great at. How you’ve helped clients in the past. How you’ve solved complex problems, saved money/time.

Now, the simplest way to think about magnifying this value for your Buyer’s and using it to impress upon a prospective Buyer the quality and calibre of your business is to ask one single question against every entry on your list.

The question is this:

What Does the Buyer Get?

For example, if you only recruit skilled professionals who have a certain level of accreditation. Perhaps you’ve been in the industry for a certin period of time, have worked to a certain level and standard with certain industry systems.

Firstly, is this important to the buyer?

Secondly, how and why is it important to the buyer?

Thirdly, what does this mean for the buyer?

It’s that last question where we need to spend the most time.

Where perhaps the answer leads you to sell the benefits associated with having a large and current knowledge bank. A highly skilled team, exceptional problem solvers recognised by time served and qualifications. Extensive industry experience – seen everything / done everything. Able to access their wide network of contact, understand the industry and it’s evolution. Already forecasting future trends, have manifestly operated with some of the industries best, are apt at constructing workarounds, industry recognised professionals.

You get the picture?

So, what does this mean for the buyer?

S/he’s in safe hands, with a knowledgeable crew, all things are possible, and they’ve trodden this path before…which all means, a lower level of risk for the buyer.

It could also mean a better solution, faster, potentially at a lower rate…it all depends on what you want from the order.

(Having said that high levels of expertise, and a faster, lower risk solution usually indicate a premuim solution and that means a premium price)

But only as long as you are clear to map this out for your Buyer, so they’ll knows what they’re getting.

After all there is little use in knowing how to build value in your sales pitch and constructing a value based sales proposition if you’re not able to effectively communicate it to your Buyer.

This is just a brief example,  this is simply an insight from taking one of the example entries you could have listed on your brag sheet.

Here’s where it falls down – if your brag sheet is identical to your competitors the you bring no value to the Buyer’s table.

Yes you can still win the business but likely it will be a battle over price and the cheapest provider will win. That’s not a great place to be…

Can every firm and every business display unique value…most can, not all, but most.

Often businesses and sales teams don’t see their value themselves as they are too close.

Often it’s simply a case of extracting the information and building the unique value into the sales presentation – then great things start to happen.

So, back to the example, let’s assume you’ve created lots of valuable insights you can use to support your Buyer and make their decision to pick you very simple…

Now, to really amp up the potency and value, go through and look at the value based benefits for the Buyer for each of the entries on your brag sheet.

Once you’ve done that, pick out the two or three that really make you WILDLY different from any of the competition.

I mean really different.

Not only are these the elements that will get you through the door, they are also the elements that will get you the order, because they will clear the field of the competition. They are also the elements to help you get the terms you want.

The bigger the gap you can create between you and the rest of the market. The bigger your opportunity to present a more valuable solution for your Buyer. The easier it will be to form a partnership where the Buyer recognises your contribution, values it highly. And is prepared to pay for it.

Plus, the bigger the value you deliver to the Buyer, the great the chance you’ll win the business. And at the price you want.

Learning how to build value. Learn how todeliver that value based message so that your Buyer understands and internalises your contribution and worth. This will shorten sales cycles, increase sales conversion rates as well as boost profits.

Perhaps at this point we can acknowledge that creating value is the wrong term, perhaps it’s about BEING of value.

Of such value that the buyer recognises the folly of moving forward without you on board.

In seeking to be of value, when thinking about how to build value do these three things:

  1. Play to your strengths, find out what you are GREAT at and play to those skills and experience
  2. Learn to communicate your value to the buyer so it resonates with them as being authentic, ethical and low risk
  3. Demonstrate your value before the order is signed

It’s only by being a provider of value can you hope to be of use to the Buyer.

Leaning how to build and communicate  value in a way the buyer understands will pay ample short and long term rewards.

For more insights into how to build value in your sales function, sales pitch and your business download the free reports here and you’ll get them instantly.

Only Dead Fish Go With The Flow

10 Steps to Out Sell the Competition

Plus you can claim your free weekly email of sales improvement insights.

We’ll share insights into growing your sales, boosting sales results, increasing conversions, profits, market share and turnover including how to build value. Just use the link here – I want to claim my FREE subscription to the Advanced Business Achiever.



How to Increase Price, Win Business and Boost Profits – 3 Case Studies

How to Increase Price, Win Business and Boost Profits – 3 Case Studies

How to Increase Price, Win Business and Boost Profits…

Not a catchy title but it definitely covers three of the issues I’m most often asked to sort out.

I thought this week that I’d address the issues by looking purely through the ‘How to Increase Price’ lens.

To help I’ve outlined three case studies that will guide you through how you can do the same for your business… Continue reading