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Ray Makela

By: Ray Makela on October 7th, 2019

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Sales Rep Performance Improvement Plan for Increased Performance

Sales Management

The short answer is "it depends." In this video, we share four proven management actions you can take to improve performance. Watch now to learn step by step how to solve performance issues or avoid wasting time with someone who's just not a good fit.


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***Enhanced Video Script ***

Managing an underperforming sales rep can be one of the most challenging things a frontline manager is faced with in their day-to-day responsibilities.

If you think about it, you've hired this person with high expectations. You thought they had all the tools when you looked at it on paper, and you were excited to see them perform and develop into a superstar.

Yet they're underperforming their quota. And they're not demonstrating the behaviors you're looking for. What's going on? What can you do?

In previous blog posts, we've discussed how important it is to define expectations and manage behaviors to improve performance. There are four specific steps that can help you get them back on track. 

#1 Define Critical Success Factors 

The first step is to communicate and monitor those success factors. What's most important to the business and to the team to achieve your results? These are things like growing new account business or expanding the sale of a specific product. So, what are those highest-level areas that you need the team to perform?

#2  Identify Performance Indicators and Behaviors

The next step is to identify those performance indicators that are going to drive the performance you're looking for. These are the leading and lagging indicators that are going to tell you if they're on track. This may include things like the number of phone calls, the number of face-to-face meetings they're having, and the quality of the performance that they're producing. Then, you're looking to see the performance gains. Are they exceeding expectations or are there gaps? In other words, were they lagging or behind your expectations?

#3 Determine the Cause of Performance Gaps

If there is a gap in performance, you want to determine the root cause.  This could be due to a lack of motivation, lack of skill, insufficient resources, etc. We really want to understand why there's a gap in performance before the final step, which is to take the appropriate action.

#4 Take the Appropriate Action

You have a number of actions available to you as a manager, such as coaching, counseling, motivating, training, etc.

The challenge is to select the most appropriate action based on the situation. So, if there is a gap, unfortunately, we often jump to that last step, and we want to fix it without considering the root cause.

Let me quickly walk through a checklist of six questions that can be very helpful to evaluate the performance and determine the appropriate actions to take.

Does the Salesperson Know the Expectations?

The first question you want to ask as a manager is, does the salesperson know the expectation? Have you communicated that expectation clearly? And the only way you really know is by asking the individual, and can they explain it back to you? Can they repeat what you're expecting them to do?

Are They Meeting that Expectation?

The second question you want to ask is, are they meeting that expectation? If the salesperson is meeting the expectation, you should provide positive reinforcement and delegate as much responsibility as possible to that individual.

Does the Salesperson Know How to Meet that Expectation?

If we've set expectations, we're monitoring performance, and the salesperson is not meeting our expectations, we should ask, do they know how to achieve that expectation?

In other words, have they had the training and the coaching to be able to perform at the level you're expecting? And if the answer is no, you know what to do, we probably need more training, more coaching, and more reinforcement, until the salesperson can demonstrate the behaviors you are looking for.

Does the Salesperson make the proper effort?

If we feel like we've trained and coached them, and they're still not performing at the level we're looking for, we should ask the question, does the salesperson make the proper effort?

This is the case where maybe we've seen them do it before at a proficient level. But, for some reason, they're not making the effort. And maybe they have a motivation or an attitude issue that's getting in the way of their performance.

The appropriate action here is to counsel that salesperson and really understand what's getting in the way, or what's impacting their attitude or motivation. Then determine what can we do to address it.

Is the Salesperson Receiving the Appropriate Rewards and Consequences?

Next, we want to consider if the salesperson is receiving the appropriate rewards and consequences in alignment with the expectations. And I'm not saying to throw out the comp plan or revamp the bonus plan every time. But we may want to look at, are we rewarding the salesperson through recognition, maybe some fun contests. Or, even just telling them they're doing a good job regularly to reward the actions we want to see?

And, are we providing consequences if they're not performing? A consequence might be seeing their call plans. If they're not doing enough preparation, another consequence can be meeting with them one-on-one and having them walk through their plan for next week.

Are There Obstacles Blocking Performance?

If we don't feel like we're getting the activity levels we're looking for, the next step is to determine if there are obstacles that are blocking their performance.

So, this may be the case where they know how to do it, and they've been trained, and are making an effort, but something's getting in the way. As their sales manager, we need to determine and remove those roadblocks.  This might be resource issues or maybe they're not getting the product or support they need. Is there somebody or something that's really getting in the way of their performance and how can we help address it? 

Is this Person a Good Fit?

After we have gone through all of those questions, and we're still not getting the performance we're looking for, we should really ask, is this person a fit for the position?

If you've used this checklist, and we've done everything within our power as a manager to enable this person to be successful, it might be time to consider reassignment or termination of that individual. We should feel confident we've done everything we can to empower that person to be successful.

In Conclusion

By asking these questions and thinking about our own role as a manager and enabling that individual to be successful, we can feel pretty confident that we've tried everything we can. We can set them up for success, and then the rest is really up to them.

Do you want your sales managers to become great coaches who develop a strong team? 

The Sales Readiness Group is here to help. Our expert facilitators collaborate closely with your sales managers to teach them how to manage, coach, and lead high-performing sales teams. Imagine what your team could achieve with the right guidance, tools, and skills. Don't wait; let SRG help your team reach its goals. Schedule a complimentary consultation today.


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About Ray Makela

Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.