What to Do with the Salespeople Who Become Your Biggest Problem

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 03, 2019 @ 14:05 PM

problem-child

I coach a lot of sales managers and sales leaders and when I ask them what they want help with today, it's rarely a big opportunity, it's seldom coaching best practices, it's hardly ever targeted metrics for their team, and it's almost unheard of for them to request that I help them improve as sales managers,  Oh no.  They almost always want  help with their biggest problem child.  Every sales team has a maverick - the person that can't be managed, but leads the company in sales.  Over the past 33 years, I've met a lot of mavericks and the best advice I can give a sales manager is to ignore and thank your mavericks but don't let them near the rest of your salespeople!  This article is not about managing your mavericks!

This article is about the ineffective salesperson who is lazy, or has an attitude problem, or is stubborn, or isn't making the calls, or can't close any deals, or has an empty pipeline, or won't adapt to the new way of selling, or can't seem to grasp the importance of getting traction, or claims not to know what's expected in the way of performance.  While you can objectively read the description in the prior sentence and say, "Easy. Terminate and move on," when the sales manager is emotionally involved, they aren't objective, think they can fix this person, and believe that giving up will reflect poorly upon them.

We can spend many hours over many weeks and months working on ways to motivate, change, improve, coach up or fix these salespeople.  The problem is that most of these problem children can't be fixed.  It's not that poor performers in general can't be coached up; it's that poor performers who are problem employees usually can't be fixed.

50% of all salespeople are weak and these salespeople definitely fall into the weak category.  But there's something else that makes them problematic.

I usually take the following steps to make my case to their managers and senior executives:

  • We review the OMG sales evaluation for the problem salesperson - the root cause of most issues can be found right in the summary and usually have little to do with the 10 selling competencies and more to do with the 5 competencies in Will to Sell (grit) and/or the 6 competencies in Sales DNA (strengths or weaknesses that support or sabotage the 10 selling competencies).
  • We develop a plan for the sales manager's next coaching conversation with the problem salesperson.  This is usually one where we attempt to change the offending behavior or move toward replacement
  • We present the plan to the sales manager's VP Sales and/or CEO for buy-in.
  • In most cases, the problem salesperson is managed out, not coached up.

Even though we can manage the problem salesperson out in a fairly short period of time, most sales managers misdirect their energy on their problem salespeople instead of using that same, limited energy to support and coach up their cooperative and more effective salespeople.  MAKE GOOD USE OF YOUR TIME!  DON'T WASTE IT ON PEOPLE YOU WILL END UP TERMINATING AND DON'T FALL INTO THE TRAP OF BELIEVING THAT YOU CAN FIX PEOPLE!

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales evaluation, sales attitude, OMG evaluation, problem attitude, sales maverick

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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