Is 4 to 5 Weeks Too Early to Fire a New Sales Rep?

Years ago I attended a National Association of Quick Printers event in Chicago. For a change, I wasn’t the speaker.

This was an Owners Conference and presenting was Russ Evans, from Printtec in New Jersey. On the subject of hiring and firing sales reps, this is what Russ had to say: “We make the thumbs up/thumbs down decision on a new salesperson after four to five weeks.”

While I was absorbing that comment, Russ spoke on.

Wait. Stop. Rewind…Play.

Did he say “four to five weeks?” That can’t be right. I raised my hand to interrupt and point out this clearly egregious error…

“Um, Russ? You said four to five weeks is the decision point on new reps but you meant four to five months, right?” I asked.

“Actually, no. I meant weeks,” he said. “What we have found is that when we thought about the reps that didn’t make it, we discovered that we knew they weren’t going to make it after about a month but we waited several months longer before we fired them. Now, we look for the signs and make a quicker decision.”

As I considered the wisdom of this, it began to make sense to me. Early indicators of a sales reps’ potential for success or failure are indeed evident: Is the effort there? Are they asking good questions? Are they making good mistakes? Surely, a manager must get a gut feeling about their young salesperson. It’s an easy choice to give it a while and see how things play out, and sometimes they do. But it’s an expensive choice as well.

Over the years, I have quoted Russ’ comments many, many times and heads nod in the audience. Afterwards, I am frequently told stories of new hires that went too long before being let go.

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • Harry

    That "four to five week" philosophy may work int the quick print world but, when you’re trying to establish a long term relationship with a customer, a contract or move a substantial amount of business, that kind of expectation isn’t very realistic. It’s a good thing Russ is an owner, because as a sales manager I suspect he stinks.

  • Rick

    Bill, have Russ post his website of work! I might be able to help him out. I’m a Mfg. Print Rep in OH. that has worked in the industry for 30yrs. I’d welcome the opportunity to help him out by sending him my noncompete!! However, I’m only willing to give him 4-5 wks. to do so! Thanks, Rick

  • Kim Morris

    I agree with Harry