How To Start Managing Poor Sales Performance Today

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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 release the real sales potential within your business, then you don’t need to just put up with it!

There is another way. A way that not only solves your sales performance issues today, but lasts long after next quarter’s revenues have been reported….you can find more details over on the Sales Audit page

But in the meantime…take a look at these to get you started…

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.

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 – jut book in a call, let’s see if we can introduce some workable solutions for you to think about – and I promise, no pitching, just advice that’s worked for others.

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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.

My Personal Philosophy on Managing Poor Sales Performance

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. If you’d like to get a sronger handle on your sales metrics, just fill out the contact form above and we can chat about simple things you can try…

Managing poor sales performance is key. Addressing it quickly, smartly and legally

Simply put, avoiding it won’t make it go away, the sooner you dig in, spot the signs and get a big spotlight on your cause then the greater your chances of success

So you can hope and pray or take proactive action today! Only one of those will help you sleep better AND put you back on the road to getting the very best sales results you possibly can. So why stress when you don’t need to?

Act Today!

No-one should have to tolerate the negativity that comes from not getting the sales results you want, need, deserve and have worked for, so whatever stage you are in your organisation, managing poor sales performance is a must do to give you the greatest options for growth and sales success.

Book your call today and make managing poor sales performance a thing in your past!

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