What to Do with the Salespeople Who Become Your Biggest Problem

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


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

Why Sales Leaders and Salespeople Get Frustrated

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 06, 2013 @ 11:08 AM

frustrated with salesOK, so you do get frustrated with sales or you wouldn't have clicked the link.


Do you get frustrated with:

  • Salespeople?
  • Prospects?
  • Results?
  • Effort?
  • Forecasts?
  • Effectiveness?
  • Focus?
  • Discipline?
  • Consistency?
  • Growth and Improvement?
  • Pipeline Velocity?
  • Change?
  • Behavior?
  • Attitude?
  • Sales Selection?
  • On-Boarding?
  • Ramp-Up?
  • Coaching Stickiness?
  • Coachability?
  • Efficiency?
  • Distractions?
  • Commitment?
  • Motivation?
  • Enjoyment?
  • Something else?
The point is that any one, two or even three of these (while frustrating) can be handled either internally or externally.  There are obvious, viable solutions; however, when several, many or most of these things begin to frustrate you, it can become overwhelming.  So much so that it interferes with your ability to do the right things, do things the right way, act professionally, perform effectively, and eventually, get the results you need and want.  It becomes a catch-22, with frustration causing even more of the very things that led to your initial frustration.

You may not have control over external factors or forces but you do have control over how you react to them.  Take a step back.  Take a deep breath.  Clear your head.  Start over.  Choose one thing that you know you can fix.  Take action.  Then get help fixing everything that you aren't sure you can fix.  One thing at a time.  You can do this.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales and selling, sales results, sales attitude

The Importance of Positive Sales Attitude - A Tribute to a Friend

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 01, 2012 @ 09:10 AM

kevin dullyWe recently attended the funeral for a friend, Kevin Dully, who was only 53 years old.  He was diagnosed with Leukemia 20 years ago and had been fighting for his life for most of them.  He lived 19 years longer than he was expected to, but his best days were probably more like our worst days ever, in constant pain, discomfort, and with an inability to do many things which we take for granted.  Through all his suffering, he had a family, worked full-time, drove, and NEVER complained.  As a matter of fact, he had a lot in common with John Robinson.  Whenever he saw anyone, regardless of how he was feeling, he greeted everyone with a great big smile.  And when he was asked how he was doing or how it was going, he always said, "It's all good. I'm here!"

Kevin was a model of inspiration and it certainly wouldn't hurt for salespeople to embrace the characteristics which made him so special:

  • He was always fighting.  He didn't quit until his organs quit.
  • He had the most positive attitude of anyone I've ever known.  "It's all good!"
  • He was extremely likable. Great big smile.
  • He was a great listener and asked lots of questions.  
  • He cared more about those around him than himself. "How are you doing?"
Immediately following the funeral, I was the guest presenter on a Sales & Marketing Management magazine webinar (What's Preventing Your Sales Force From Over-Achieving) and I was acutely aware of how sad I was feeling.  I found it unusually challenging to alter my state of mind and the webinar was delivered without my usual dynamic.  It just reinforced my belief that when you have salespeople who aren't positive or kind, who complain or make excuses, or who lower your energy level or that of others, it is crucial that you replace them.  It is addition by subtraction and you must be more concerned with the energy level than with replacing the production of those who are terminated.  Trust me.  The increase in energy and improved production of others will quickly erase any temporary gap in revenue and then cause your revenue to surge.

I'm talking about "Outlook", one of the sales success elements which we measure when we evaluate salespeople.  It's quite normal for sales candidates to have poor "Outlook".  After all, they are in-between jobs and uncertain about their future.  However, when we evaluate a sales force and find that an entire team has an "Outlook" problem (a reflection on their sales manager) or worse, most of a sales force has one (a reflection on the company), the issues go far beyond those of any individuals (work problem or personal problem?).

"Outlook" supports "Bravery".   Even if a salesperson was previously unaffected by "Rejection", a poor "Outlook" will leave them with the inability to fend off and quickly recover from "Rejection" and that brings us to coaching.  The key to coaching is knowing that you are working on the root of the problem, not the symptom.  Always make sure that you fix the "Outlook" problem first! 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales assessment test, sales attitude

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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