You’re a sales manager and within the past year you’ve hired several new salespeople and all but one of them has been steadily improving. This one rep did start out strong but over the last several months has regressed. His number of sales calls are down as are the number of appointments and sales. You’ve worked with him and have had numerous phone conversations but no problems have surfaced. He says he likes the job but can’t or won’t offer any reasons why his numbers lag behind the other rep’s numbers. What are your next steps?
To begin with I would look at the following:
1. Is there a particular competitive salesperson who is better than your rep?
2. Has a new competitive rep come into the territory and seems to be making inroads?
3. Has the competition lowered the price on products as a strategy to take business away from your rep?
4. Are the competitors bundling products in order to reduce pricing?
5. Have there been delivery or quality issues with any of the accounts in this territory? (This does happen and typically no one in the home office knows it’s happening. I suffered through this with my largest account that always seemed to have their products back ordered.)
6. Did your rep experience any personality clashes with top accounts in the territory?
7. Have there been any personal issues that may affect your rep’s ability to do his job?
8. Is your salesperson working two jobs? (Contrary to popular opinion this does happen.)
9. Is the rep just not very skilled in terms of sales techniques?
It’s always possible that you flat out made a bad hire. Lord knows, we’ve all done it. If I were in this position I would do the following:
- Examine the sales numbers by account, looking for downward trends in sales, gaps in buying, significant returns or zero buying over extended periods of time. Look particularly at accounts where your company has significant business.
- Has the rep opened up any new accounts relative to what other reps have done?
- Have a private one-on-one with the customer service rep that handles the rep’s territory. Phrase your questions in a positive way so the CSR doesn’t leave the meeting thinking the rep is about to be fired.
- Informally, talk to other people in the company to see if they have noticed anything with this rep.
- Look at the region of the country where this salesperson works to see if there are any local issues that might affect the economy.
- If there does not seem to be anything that pops out at you then have a one-on-one with the salesperson. This is where you earn your stripes as a sales manager. This conversation has to be direct! You have to be honest and say that you are concerned about the rep’s performance but you are also concerned about the individual personally.
A salesperson’s poor performance is usually caused by personal issues, poor selling skills, unhappiness doing the job or very, very strong competition. There could be other reasons but these four probably represent about 90% of the reasons why people fail.
Oh, yeah, one other thing. Let your boss know that you have concerns about this rep and that you are taking steps that will help you understand the situation. There is nothing wrong with covering your backside!
The Final Thought: The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. Harvey Firestone