This is the second in an occasional series of guest posts from James Hughes, sales management coaching expert and founder of Sales Leadership Consulting. You can find Jim at www.salesleadershipconsulting.com
All of these answers may be appropriate, and if you have managed this team and this individual for quite some time, then you have probably done one or all three of the last 3 items and are ready for the first choice.
So, let’s focus on inheriting a new team.
The first thing to establish is what does your boss think needs to be done. They are not always right, so understand their perspective and accept it or shape your own plan and ask for support in implementing it.
One example is a team of 10 people I inherited (The entire sales force) where 8 covered territories in the US, a person on the west coast covered Asia Pacific and one person was in Europe. I knew the team was weak, but my boss, the CEO, wanted me to fire 9 of them right away. He was absolutely right with the goal of eliminating these sales people, but I asked him if he wanted ANY revenue in the next 3-6 months. (As it turns out the decision would not have mattered….see below) So we agreed on a plan that eliminated the performers who were weak AND had nothing in the pipeline. We finally got some activity in the pipeline, but less than 3 months later, 9/11 occurred and their key prospects/customers froze all spending in this area. The point is that you have to define a plan, or one will be made for you.
Once you and your boss get on the same page, it’s time to improve performance. Where do you start, and what do you do with the remaining poor performers?
Well, it’s easy to say leave your top performers alone, but what if they need just a little help from you to close even more business. Maybe they need a specific resource? Maybe they need help in handling an objection? What if they just need to show management involvement and the prior manager was not involved? Now, a top performer has probably handled all this, but what if your top performer had just been lucky? Never seen one of those? Lucky you! The key is making sure you ask. It could be the greatest return on your time investment!
Now what? Middle of the roaders? The remaining poor performers? This depends on a few factors. 1) How quickly can you hire someone and get them up to speed where the revenue will exceed the revenue produced by a poor performer? There are a lot of variables here to consider. 2) After your first brush with each rep, are there “mid-performers” who have some good skills but are missing on a few key skills. You may be able to improve their performance faster than hiring, or investing in the poor performer.
Once you have evaluated the team, and tried to decide where you will focus your coaching and development skills, (Your time investment!) Then, check yourself weekly. Is the investment in this rep working out? Is this person “Coachable?” Are there other factors impacting the team’s performance?
The bottom line is that the poor performers on your team, according to this year’s numbers, may not be the first people you fire. Evaluate their skills, put them on a documented plan, and if you see the kind of performance improvement you expect, then keep going. Always keep in mind the cost of hiring and training/development.
Here’s wishing you good selling and good coaching.
Sales Leadership Consulting