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How do I know if I have a poor performer?

In a recent LinkedIn article, JD spoke about the 4 reasons Directors hold on to poor performing sales people. One of the questions we've been asked is "How do we really know if they are poor performers?".

On the surface this is an easy answer "Zero sales". But this is not easy for many Directors to really be sure about. Mostly this is because they are not wise to the "tricks of the trade" and fear  the loss of "the big deal is due any day now". Here are my tips to get started on this.

1. Don't hire reps who have a consistent 1-2 year track record.  My rule of thumb on a good rep who is coming in to grow my business is that in year 1 their sales need to be at least 80% of a generous target.  The great ones will find a way to hit target even coming in to a poor or new patch.  In year 2 all reps should be over-achieving even if only by a whisker. In year 3 they should be smashing it.

At the opposite end, the 1-2 year consistent job changer is possibly a great closer who just closes what's in the pipe but cannot build a pipe . It is unlikely this type of rep is always on a 1-2 year cycle.  Someone will recognise their talent and feed them deals they can close to ensure a longer tenure.

The typical rep with this consistent short term history will not close much in the pipe and will not build the pipe.  They will use the pipe as an excuse for poor performance.  They will use the product/service as a reason.  Market conditions.  The big deal that is taking time and is just around the corner.  Weed this out in the interview process if you let them get that far.

2. Get close to them. Really close. A new sales rep is not "set and forget". Take on responsibility for their success. Enable them. Empower them. And stay close.  Their success is your success.  You are both equally invested.

You don't send an expensive race horse out on the track without the proper preparation.  Same for a sales rep.  Be clear on product messaging, value, business cases, customer stories - oh we love a good story, especially ones with a happy ending.  Don't send a stayer to a sprint race - know your target market and target personas.  Qualify hard and only compete where you can win.

Go to meetings with them.  Help them with presentations.  Ask lots of questions about their prospects.  What does the rep know about the prospect without mentioning your product?  Help them get access to customer executives and go to those meetings.  You'll soon know if you have a keeper.

3. In staying close you will understand how they tick and what motivates them. Some reps love commission, others love an incentive trip, others seek internal kudos. Some are looking for a home.  Understand this for each rep.

I've had reps who are financially independent work for me.  They were not motivated by a 5% commission.  They loved the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of xxxx (some it was winning or the "kill", others it was being seen as success every day, others it was helping their customers solve a problem).

Are their children in private school?  Are they expecting a child?  Do we need to be flexible in their work hours? Does their spouse look forward to the incentive trip at the end of the year?  My wife ran a very successful business for many years and the end of year incentive trip was one of the biggest motivations because we got to travel to exotic destinations together. We could celebrate her success together.  We met other great couples who we still see today.  She really wanted to earn that trip each and every year.  I became an advocate in selling it to other spouses of her team members which cascaded the motivation throughout her team.  I was very interested all year in how she was going against target.

4. Measure for success. No point in only measuring an annual revenue target in the first year if the sales cycle is 12 months and the rep is opening a new territory with no pipeline. You'll be at least 12 months in before you have any hint of failure.  The temptation is to measure quantity or volume as an indicator of effort.  To a degree this can work. For example, in  a complex B2B sales environment, 8 to 10 belly to belly calls per week is expected.  Any less than 5 should raise a red flag for you.  This does not stop them meeting 10 friendlies per week for free coffees and lunches.  It's not going to grow your business.  It doubles down on the cost of the poor performer.  Staying close will help mitigate this risk.

Add in other short term goals more indicative of engagement and quality rather than quantity.  I've used ones like "be invited to present a solution by 2 customers this month", and "do 5 factory tours this month".  Then mix in some medium term goals like "add $1m in qualified deals to the pipe by month 3" or "have 1 prospect ask us to help them prepare a business case to secure funds for your project by January".

Sales Director Central can help with any of these scenarios.  Contact me at [email protected] with any questions or to discuss your situation.

As a Director in the business with responsibility for sales, you need to be on your toes to catch a poor performer as early as possible.  Before they join is best.

Link to JD's original article on LinkedIn.

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