The Good, But Struggling, Sales Rep
Hi, Al. It’s me. How are you? Hey, I’ve got a problem rep and I’m thinking about letting her go. Since you were my sales manager and mentor all those years ago, I thought you might be able to provide some clarity. Do you have a few minutes to talk? Great.
It’s been six months now and Christine does not have a lot of volume to show for her effort. I expected more by now, to be honest. She came highly recommended and had excellent credentials. But numbers don’t lie and hers just aren’t there. Yup, today is her last day here…
That said, she sure does have a history of putting in the effort. Rare is the day that I come in to the office and her car isn’t here. It’s like she’s doing that George Constanza thing where he slept in his office to give the appearance of hard work. But selling print is not an episode of “Seinfeld;” it requires a lot of actual work and a lot of actual results. And, because of that, she’s gone…
But I’ve got to be honest here, Christine really takes direction well. I mean, she’s got both a sales manager AND a sales coach, and both report to me that they see call-to-call progress. And both have used the word “coachable” when describing her. Surely, that has to count for something. A suggestion for behavioral change is made and during the next conversation, Christine reports back with results. She has no ego, doesn’t fight or resist advice. I wish all of my reps had that unique quality. The rest of them know far more than me, as I am constantly reminded through both their words and actions. But not Christine. Wait a minute. Once again this a very nice quality—admirable, even—but it does nothing to move the sales needle. As such, she’s history…
Except for the fact that Christine does an excellent job of asking for help. Yes, I know that is a little thing, but at least she is not hiding from me, purposely staying out of the office to make it look as though she’s doing the work. She has been honest from the get-go that she is struggling as a salesperson. It was refreshing then and it reassures me now that she will continue to admit her failings and seek out assistance as a way of improving herself.
So many of my other salespeople are either blind or let their pride get in the way of reaching out for assistance when they stumble. My top guy lost half of his business last year when his biggest account was bought out. He acted as if nothing happened and, despite my efforts to be of help, he suffered in silence. To this day, I think one of the biggest reasons why he lost some other business was that his attitude had gone south.
But the problem is, Christine is simply not selling enough and that is why she is asking for help. I feel as though I’ve given her all the assistance that I can. I’m empty. She’s empty. She has to go…
But I also need to consider that she is a terrific communicator. Everyone in the plant loves her. The CSRs tell me that what few orders she does bring in are clear, concise and accurate. I had the opportunity to speak with one of her customers the other day and he raved about how well she passed along information regarding the order that he had placed. He was made aware when the proof would be in his hands and then was given an accurate and up-to-date timeframe for delivery. Not only that, he told me, she called up after the job was delivered to find out how everything worked out at the client’s trade show.
The customer said that he would be bringing more business our way as a result of Christine’s excellent customer service skills and her ability to communicate with such clarity. But that’s not going to amount to a lot of business, certainly not enough to keep me from firing her today…
It’s just that I’m going to miss how Christine challenges everything that she does practically all the time. With her prospecting efforts, she started with a process that she learned in a sales training program. It consisted of various step-by-step, week-by-week sales activities. After a month or so, she completely changed everything about the process and then did it again six weeks later. You have to admire someone who tweaks, alters, adjusts and modifies, and has the presence of mind to see that there is a better way to do things.
I wonder if the other salespeople are taking note of this. They could use the same kind of assumption-killing approach when their own new business activity does not yield any fruit. But that’s just it—it’s been six months and I just haven’t seen the orders necessary to keep me from the inevitable…
You know what? I’ve done a lot of thinking here and I’ve come up with a lot of points in her favor. Perhaps it would help if I summarize them:
Effort—Christine works hard. She out-hustles all of the other salespeople in the office and definitely any other new sales rep who we’ve had in the past.
Coachable—Christine takes direction, listens to her mentors and makes the most of the resources for improvement that I have spent money on.
Curious—Christine wants to learn what I know and what the other reps know that she doesn’t. She is constantly asking others for assistance and is not afraid to reach out to anyone.
Communicator—Christine works very well with both fellow employees and customers. She is highly regarded for her attitude and follow-up. She even writes thank you notes to the pressman for a job well done.
Challenges—Despite the fact that Christine has yet to achieve the desired outcome, she continues to change the formula, making adjustments as she goes in an effort to find a process that would yield quality sales appointments.
I honestly don’t know what more I could ask for from a salesperson, other than orders, I mean. The sales volume I want is not there but, as I think about it, all of the key indicators to sales success are present. If I was handed a piece of paper with these various qualities listed on it and asked to rate her on a scale of 1 to 10, the lowest I would be able to go on any one of these is eight.
So, that’s the whole story. What do you think? Oh, you’ve had this happen to you in the past? Really?
There was a young rep who was struggling but showed all the signs of success? He worked hard, took direction, asked for the help of others, communicated well and challenged his process but didn’t sell anything—and you thought about letting him go? What did you end up doing? Where is he now?
What do you mean, “I’m talking to him?” PI