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How Do You Motivate Underperforming Sales Reps?

“How Do You Motivate Underperforming Sales Reps?”

No one feels worse when a sales rep is underperforming than the sales person. The personal stress level a sales rep feels only compounds the situation and makes things worse when they aren’t hitting their numbers, and it not only effects the work place, it can (and usually does) spill over into their personal environment as well.
If a sales rep is consistently not meeting company revenue expectations there are three key areas their sales manager can look at in order to help decide which is the best course of action to correct the situation.

Diagnose the Problem

Step 1) Attitude
First things first – you have to determine if a hiring mistake was made. Does the salesperson have the desire to be successful, or do they just not care?
If they WANT TO SUCCEED but are struggling, go to Steps 2 & 3.
If they do NOT want to succeed I’ve found it best to cut the cord. It’s almost always best for both parties. Hire slow and fire fast is a motto that has been around forever and it’s especially important for small businesses because they can’t afford to pay someone who is not a good fit.
Sometimes things aren’t working out because both parties aren’t right for each other. Some sales people know deep down that they are in the wrong situation but are too afraid to make a change. For those reps, I HIGHLY recommend a book called WHO MOVED MY CHEESE. It’s a powerful book for those who struggle or fear CHANGE. And it helped change MY LIFE for the better when I was in a very similar situation.
Step 2) Skill Level
If the desire to succeed is there, you have to look at the skill level. Start by role playing – but break the sales process down into specific categories such as:

  • Voicemail
  • Gatekeeper
  • Openers
  • Qualifying (Finding Hot Button, Identifying Role, Purchasing Ability, etc.)

Asses the sales rep’s skill level on a scale of 1 – 5 on how well they can handle all of the important aspect of a sales call and mentor them until their skill level is top notch.
It makes NO SENSE to simply tell a sales rep that is underperforming to “make more sales calls” if their skill level is subpar. The “even a broken clock is right twice a day” theory of selling is NOT going to make an underperforming sales rep successful. It just means that they got lucky once or twice but will eventually quit and the situation will be a lose / lose (turn over is expensive).
Step 3) Output Level
If the desire and skill level is there, you have to look at the output.
A conservative number as it relates to the expected number of deals per leads is 5%.
Meaning, if a sales rep has 1000 leads, they should expect at least 5% of those leads to convert to sales.
5% times 1000 leads = 50 sales.
Each lead should be called at least 3 times and there are only 20 working days in a month.
I personally do NOT believe in the 100+ dials a day (unless you are using an auto dialer such as InsideSales’ Power Dialer or RingDNA’s auto dialer) because if you are making 100+ dials a day, that tells me no one is calling you back or you aren’t having any meaningful sales conversations – which is a SKILLS issue.
I’ve personally found that a minimum of 50 dials a day (and/or 3-hours of talk time) is the key to sales success.
So if you are making 50 dials per day, and you are trying each lead a minimum of 3x (we can discuss later if you should make more or less attempts) and there are 20 days in a working month, that’s 1000 dials a month (50 times 20 = 1000).
1000 dials divided by 3 = 333 leads per month that you are working on. Out of those 333 leads, you should expect to close 5% of them, (conservative number) which is 17 deals per month (I rounded up). Again these are “rule of thumb” numbers.
It’s not uncommon for underperforming sales reps to have very low or extremely high output levels. The former are mostly suffering from call reluctance and the later are working scared.
Showing them that you care and are willing to help them with a detailed game plan is almost always the best way to help underperforming sales reps reach their potential. You first have to both diagnose the root cause and both parties need to be willing to work on it.
– Michael Pedone
Michael Pedone is a straight commissioned sales person with 20+ years experience selling by phone. He is the CEO/FOUNDER of SalesBuzz.com – an online sales training company that shows inside sales teams how to eliminate call reluctance and close more sales.


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  • How to Warm Up and Close Cold Leads
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Presenters: Michael Pedone