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Sales Eye - Diagnosing the problem (March 29th, 2005)



Diagnosing the problem

29 March 2005

When was the last time you fired a sales rep? Every time you fire a sales rep, it means your recruitment or training program has failed, and you must understand why.


You need to set up a review process at critical junctures for any underperforming reps. Then you must diagnose the problem, and prescribe the patient a treatment.


Here's a short list of possible diagnoses, each with its own remedy.


Poorly trained: If you're hiring inexperienced sales reps, this is a common problem, unless your training program is great. Throwing sales reps to the sharks before they are ready is a sure-fire formula for failure. You can avoid this by testing reps at the end of training, listening to their sales phone calls and going to their meetings.


Low activity level: Spending too much time in the office is a common flaw. Set the standard high for them, make them fill out activity reports, and fry their butts if they aren't meeting their targets. Tell them: "We can forgive you having low sales in the beginning, but we cannot forgive your not making enough calls."


A bad strategy: A young, new rep spends all his time chasing one big client, and fails to build a diversified client base. That's simply a bad strategy. You know better, so don't allow them to make this mistake.


Poor communication skills: There is no single winning sales personality. However, a winning sales rep must have decent communication skills, both in person and by phone. If your rep is weak in this area, either provide personalized coaching, or move on.

Wrong personality: Most winning sales reps are self-confident, handle rejection well, and are hungry for sales. They don't whine and they certainly don't cry. If you hired a teddy bear instead of a pit bull, you might want to reconsider. Try to weed out these hiring mistakes earlier in the process.


Lazy or distracted: Senior sales reps sometimes get lazy, based on their success. New reps have no such luxury. If you notice laziness or lack of commitment, you need to be very direct. We expect long hours and hard work in the beginning, until you build up your sales - with no exceptions.


Not motivated properly: We had a sales rep once who was so content with his base salary that it didn't bother him if he didn't earn any commissions. If your base salary is too high, you may be causing the problem yourself. You want sales reps who are hungry.


Unclear sales targets: Every sales rep, new and old, must be given his sales target in writing. It must be crystal clear that "if you don't make your numbers three months in a row - out you go," or whatever your own policy is. Just make sure your numbers are achievable.


No belief: Your sales rep must be convinced that she is selling a quality product. If they don't believe, they will never sell. You must create enthusiasm in the training program, and let them spend a couple days with your top reps.


Not cut out for sales: Sometimes, after observing a sales rep for a month or two, you simply conclude this person isn't really cut out for a sales career. Do everyone a favor, and cut them loose, gently explaining that they would be better suited to a desk job.


A good doctor always inspects the patient, does some tests, and asks lots of questions in order to understand the patient's ailment. A good sales manager needs to do the same: ask smart questions, review the activity reports, and test the sales rep's skills by making sales calls together.


Only after you've diagnosed, can you write out the prescription.


From Warsaw Business Journal by John Lynch, Matt Lynch -"The Sales Brothers"