Your 'Underperforming' Sales Rep
"What Do I Do With My Underperforming Rep?"
If this were a, "Dear Abby" column instead of a blog, my response would be:
Dear "Perplexed and Frustrated,"
I feel your pain. Many managers that I speak with bring this same question to me. They want more from their salespeople but not all of them are willing to comply. Managers call these reps, "underperforming," but that is more an opinion that it is a fact.
If you asked them directly, they're doing fine! They're happy with their sales and their growth and their revenue and their income and their performance.
Life is good!
But the boss is never content with status quo unless status quo includes a growth plan. He or she always wants more regardless of past successes and they consider any rep without a similar viewpoint to be lackey.
Managers, think of this as a sales call. In this case, you are the salesperson. You want more sales. You want growth. You want more and better and larger customers.
Tell me, if a sales rep walked into your office and said something like, "I keep calling my clients and prospects and telling them that I want their business but they won't give it to me. I keep calling and they keep ignoring me," what would you say in response?
You’d probably respond with a reminder that sales is not about what they want, it's about what the customer wants. "It's about figuring out their needs and meeting them with your solutions," you’d say.
In other words, solve the problem and earn the order.
You, Perplexed and Frustrated, need to bring that same thinking to this sales challenge because that's exactly what it is, a sales challenge. Managers need to forget about what they want and focus instead on what these so-called "underperforming sales reps" want. The same thinking applies here: Keep concentrating on your agenda and continue to ram it down their throats and you will find resistance every time.
Perhaps a sales rep values material things. Or maybe he/she seeks praise. It might even be something that they don't want, such as the loss of their major account, that drives them. Every sales rep is different but every sales rep has something that drives them. Find out what it is and work from there.
There is an exception to this thinking. Some salespeople are making all the money they need and are working as hard as they want. They have no interest in anything to do with sales growth. What can be done about them? Joe Davis, then the CEO of Consolidated Graphics, once told me that he believed half of his sales force fit this description. He wanted more from them, of course, and asked me what I thought he should do about it. My reply upset him at first: "Nothing. Make sure that their compensation is in line with their sales volume, thank them for coming to work every day, and leave them alone."
The next day, Joe found me and said he'd thought about my answer overnight, and as frustrating as it was, he believed I was correct.
Good managers bring the best out of their salespeople. This is an area where you need some serious skills (or perhaps outside help). Your solution to this problem is to stop thinking like a manager and start thinking like a sales rep. Solve the problem, earn the "order."
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