How To Make Underperforming Salespeople Successful

  • Most times the problem with a fired sales professional starts when hiring a salesperson.

  • The only time to really fire a salesperson is when they don’t deliver the sales performance.

  • Sales professionals need to do more due diligence when joining a sales organization.

  • Underperforming sales people can be coached back to sales quota in a couple of quarters.

  • The cost of firing a sales professional is on the average 2X the individual sales target.

I see sales professionals getting fired all the time, mostly for not making the numbers but also for saying the wrong things or not doing what they were hired to do... Sell. But firing salespeople, most of the times, isn’t the wrong action.

I work with many sales organizations, both as a Sales Coach or a Sales Productivity Consultant, throughout many different B2B sectors, and as a consultant, I have seen my share of misguided behavior from sales organizations.

Picture the fact that in any given week I may be in 5 different cities and talking to five companies... Last year alone I took 183 flights and crossed many timezones.

…Fired from a sales job? what does that due to the culture of the remaining sales organization?…


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If you look at the picture above, you will see some of the Q1 results. When you add the estimates of where you will end up at the end of the year you will see that 55%-65% of sales professionals in the B2B tech sector will miss their quota, 45%-35% will be in the range and 5%-15% will beat the number. I have more to add to the sales results graph, but I will add in a future article.


I like to think that a salesperson is the CEO of his own company...

…Every year you contract the sales professional to deliver an outcome partially monetary in the form of quota and partially how the makeup of the delivered target fits into the company's vision. Thus the only reason to fire a salesperson, other than for cause or HR issue, would be if he did not deliver the numbers, right?

Almost all sales issues that a particular salesperson displays are actually due to a bad hiring process or external issue that were not clear during the hiring process. Follow me on this one: the hiring process is a two-way due diligence event, it is for the salesperson to understand the company and for the management to seek fit of the individual both operationally and culturally.

Unfortunately, neither spend the right cycles doing its due diligence. The management does not really spend enough time to see if the individual has what it take to deliver the results needed, such as:

  • Have they been successful in the past?

  • Do they possess the skills to prospect for new clients?

  • How do they present in front of a client?

  • Can they follow a sales process and negotiate to a close?

  • Can they build and foster good relationships at the right level?

Today’s Recruiting Process is too Fast

Companies have a tendency to hire fast and fire even faster … the cost of this action will be felt for years to come

Also, the sales professional candidate does not do their homework on the company to see if they fit, such as:

  • What do the clients of the company think about its delivery capabilities?

  • Why is the current position open and for how long?

  • What do the current piers feel about the company?

  • What are the shortfalls of the environment?

  • What is the culture and sales management style?

Now back to the firing... the cost of firing someone is great. ok, so truth be told if you knew me, you would know that I am not afraid to fire someone and have, but only people that had no path back to success. As I said the cost of firing a salesperson is direct and indirect, for example:

  • How will the client feel?

  • Will he take IP and Clients with him?

  • How long will it take to hire a replacement?

  • What will it cost in training, ramp up and how will the process differ this time?

  • Is the company ready to sell or will it repeat the same issue with the next sales professional?

… I’m certain that most salespeople are not successful because they have never been coached in the skills of selling in today’s B2B selling environment and do not know the correct techniques to prospect, present, answer objections, negotiate, close or build relationships…

Actually, since I have been working to understand underperforming salespeople, we have found 83% of the group have a significant turnaround in 90 days and 61% are back to quota in 9 months. We still had our share of people moving out of the company involuntarily, but I have saved 8 out of 10 underperforming individuals, which results in a 300% ROI.

Here’s what’s next…

If you’re interested in how this could help you with some challenges, please get in touch for an informal discussion. No commitment, we’ll just discuss your situation. Maybe I can help? Here is my Calendar