You’ve been a sales manager for almost a year. You have 7 salespeople in all. Two of them are remote from the home office. You’ve traveled with all the reps several times. You have two salespeople who are up and down. One quarter they both do well, the next quarter one is dramatically down while the other is just at goal. There never seems to be any consistency with either rep. They are nice people, both of whom seem to have their act together but not on a routine basis. The other reps in the region are doing well, running at about 18% over plan. One of the questionable reps is 5% below plan, the other is at plan. Neither have been on probation in the past.
Your boss, the VP of sales, calls you into his office and says that he wants you to fire both of the questionable reps. He doesn’t want you to waste any time so he says fire them over the phone. You ask why and the Veep says that their performance is far below the other reps; they’re basically pulling down the rest of the sales team.
You walk back to your office, close the door and ponder the situation. Your heart rate is running at 100 BPM. You’re a little flushed and your hero sandwhich feels like it’s going to exit. All of a sudden you’re wishing that you were back in a sales territory.
The brutal truth here is that based on performance, the Veep is right. How can two salespeople be so far below the other reps? Why the up and down numbers? Ah, but the real question is where were you as their manager when the fluctuating sales occurred? Your boss would have been smarter if he had called you into his office 3 quarters ago and asked when you were going to get the two reps back on track.
Sales managers need to be proactive when they evaluate the progress of their salespeople. Here are some obvious things to look at with these two reps:
1. Do they have a sales behavior plan?
2. Are they executing the plan on a daily basis?
3. What are their work habits?
4. Do their customers like them?
5. Is one or both interviewing with other companies?
6. Is the competition doing something different in the territories of the two reps? Lowering price? Bundling products?
7. Are there any personal issues?
8. Have they lost any key customers?
You also might look at these:
1. Check out their expense reports to determine their travel patterns.
2. Poke around the home office to see how the reps are received by others outside the sales department.
3. If your reps do weekly activity reports review these to determine their call patterns.
4. Review the times that you worked with these reps to determine how they did during sales calls.
Truth is, there are not that many Veeps who would call for these people to be fired. In my opinion it is a legal quagmire to fire someone without placing them on probation first. Although there are people who do fire salespeople over the phone it is cold and pointless to do it that way. People who fire others over the phone are weenies and wimps. Fire someone face to face and give them solid reasons why you are letting them go.
The Final Thought: Learn to help people with more than just their jobs; help them with their lives.