6 Questions To Ask Before Terminating A Sales Rep

Objectively evaluate the source of the problem before terminating a sales rep.

Terminating a sales rep is a difficult thing to do. At this point,  you’ve probably tried everything to correct the situation – training, begging, threats, performance improvement plans, mentorship, etc. Still, they’re not meeting your expectations.

Before terminating a sales rep, ask yourself these six (6) questions:

1. Have they produced results in the past? 

If your salesperson sold well in the past, then chances are they can replicate that success. Look for clues as to what they did previously when they were successful. Identify any changes in activity, behaviors or attitude that may have contributed to their decline. Discuss with them their past habits that made them succeed. Make a detailed list of their previous activities. Work through each one to help them recapture their past performance to get them back on track.

2. Are they experiencing any personal problems?

Many times a problem at home can derail a salesperson for a period time. You need to know if this is a temporary set-back or a potentially permanent one, such as divorce, illness, aging parents, troubled child, financial problems, etc. Consider using an in-depth sales assessment to measure your rep’s mental and emotional focus, as well as their capacity to manage stress. This can open up dialog about external factors that are impeding performance.

3. Are there any recent changes inside the organization?

Mergers, acquisitions, new management, changes in pay plans, corporate restructuring, and changing territories can all have a major impact on the performance of your sales reps. If you know major change is on the way, help your sales team by preparing them for it in advance to mitigate fluctuations in sales performance. If it has already occurred, then use your available resources to help support them through the transition. Organizations maneuvering through a corporate restructuring loose a lot of good sales reps.

4. Are they the right fit for this sales role?

Not all sales jobs are the same. And just because a candidate demonstrated a “sales personality” and has legitimate experience on their résumé does not mean that they should be in this particular role. If they fail to generate new leads on their own, consider moving them into inbound sales or account management. Want to know if they fit the sales role? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they exhibit traits of a good closer, but fail to develop an adequate pipeline?
  • Are they investing a lot of time servicing their existing customers?
  • Do they succeed at product knowledge and consultative selling, and prefer to work on bigger deals?

They sold before, but now the job, market or competitive landscape changed. They may no longer be a good fit for this role anymore.

5. Are they coached/managed properly?

Failure to manage, coach, train and support your sales reps properly contribute to under-performance. This leads to terminating them. Sales leaders are the coaches of their team. Here are a few coaching questions to consider:

  • Are you consistently observing them selling on the phone or in the field?
  • Do you conduct “sales rep focused” sales meetings?
  • Are you engaged in sales skill development during your one-on-one sessions?
  • Do you show more interest in quota than quality and quantity of activity?

Some sales managers terminate their sales reps because they fail to coach them. After the superstars get the boot, everyone suffers – the company, the sales rep and the sales manager. My advice? Check your coaching methods and get sales management training to improve your skills.

6. Are they better suited for a different role in the organization?

In many cases, underperforming reps can be shifted to another role in the organization. They might be a great candidate for a different department. Focus on identifying their strengths and sources of motivation. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What is their desire for supporting others (customer service)?
  • How well do they pursue product knowledge (training)?
  • Do they value research or aesthetics (marketing)?
  • Are they more processes and systems oriented (operations)?

Ask and answer these six questions prior to terminating a sales rep. There are many other factors to consider before letting someone go, but be sure that you haven’t overlooked these specific issues that could affect performance and lead you to a decision that may adversely affect you both.