How to Handle Underperforming Sales Reps

Posted on 02. Nov, 2011 in Blog, Newsletter

Every sales team has them: sales reps who consistently miss their quota, don’t appear motivated, or, when you try to help them, do better for a while and then drop back down into underperformance. As a manager or business owner, it’s frustrating trying to get these underperforming reps to do better. And as a sales rep, it’s also frustrating not making quota and being under the gun all the time. What can you do about it? Read on, I’ve got some suggestions for you.

To start with, I’d like to share a somewhat shocking study with you. In their book, “How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer,” Herb Greenberg, Harold Weinstein and Patrick Sweeney compared results from hundreds of thousands of assessments that were conducted over several decades with actual sales performance measurements and concluded:

1) 55 percent of the people earning their living in sales should be doing something else,

2) Another 20 to 25 percent (of salespeople) have what it takes to sell, but they should be selling something else.

I don’t know about you, but when I read those statistics I almost fell off my chair. As I thought about it, though, I began to compare those results with my actual experience. I work with a lot of companies and a lot of sales teams, and as I’ve written over and over again, almost all sales teams have the 80/20 rule going on: the Top 20% of the producers are usually generating about 80% of the revenue and income, while the bottom 80% are struggling to make quota.

And isn’t that true in your sales organization as well? If you’re like many inside sales teams, you’re constantly trying to get your underperformers to produce more, but how much real success do you have? Again, sad to say, many bottom 80% producers simply don’t improve that much and that’s why most companies are constantly hiring and replacing reps. When you look at it that way, the numbers from the conclusion above begin to make senseā€¦

OK, so what’s the solution? I mean, you can’t just fire 55% of your sales team. The good news is that there are steps you can go through to train and raise performance, and once you go through these steps you’ll know who can become a productive member of your sales team and you’ll have the structure in place to onboard new reps more quickly and efficiently. Here they are:

1) The first thing you need to do is to give every member of your sales team the specific tools and training they need to be successful. Many companies I work with, including the sales managers themselves, just don’t have specific, effective sales skills, techniques, scripts to give to their sales reps. As a result, while their Top 20% seem to intuitively know what to do, the rest of the team struggle because no one is training them how to be successful in their sales environment.

The solution is to take the time to develop a “Defined Sales Process” by identifying what steps 80% of your successful sales go through and defining the best practices at every step of this sales cycle. Once you have defined your best practice sales process, you need to:

2) Script out the best practice techniques and turn these into your company’s training program. In other words, you need to give each of your reps the exact tools and techniques and scripts they need to successfully navigate every step of your sales cycle. Next, train and reinforce these skills with every member of your team.

You see, before you can properly evaluate who can make it and who can’t, you have to give them the training on your best practices first. Only then will you be in a position to know who has the talent, motivation and work ethic to succeed in your sales environment.

3) Once you’ve defined your sales process, turned it into your company training program and actually trained your reps on it, it’s now time to objectively evaluate each member of your team to see if they have what it takes. I use the word objectively here because it’s now up to you to record your reps, create a “sales process or script” grading form to measure adherence to your best practices. At this point your reps either are or they aren’t doing what you know it takes to succeed.

The good news once again is that after about 90 days of measuring, coaching and managing reps to adhere to your new best practice sales process, you’ll have a very clear idea of who is going to make it and who isn’t. At this point you can begin replacing those reps who clearly won’t.

4) Now that you have your DSP in place, a solid training program that teaches the most successful best practice techniques, you will be in position to hire and quickly train and evaluate your new sales reps. With this kind of a proven system in place, you’ll get a lot more production out of your new reps much faster, and you’ll have a very clear idea of who isn’t going to make it much sooner as well. This will make you more money and save you money and frustration at the same time.

There is obviously a lot that goes into building this kind of structure, but it’s well worth the time and effort. In fact, according to CSOInsights.com, sales teams that have and follow a “Defined Sales Process” average more than 33% in production and revenue than sales teams that don’t. 33% – now that’s significant! Just ask yourself how much that would mean to you and your company’s bottom line.

Copyright (c) 2011 Mr. Inside Sales

Mike Brooks, Mr. Inside Sales, is the Best Selling author of “The Real Secrets of the Top 20%” and “The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts.”

Mike also works as an executive coach with business owners and sales managers. To learn more about how Mike can help you and your team succeed, visit: http://www.mrinsidesales.com/ManagementTraining/index.html

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