7 Ways to Fix Underperforming Sales Reps Right Now

Identifying the root cause of underperforming sales reps is always the first step to a solution. Avoid applying an impulsive decision like throwing more training at them or quickly terminating. Take the time to uncover why they’re not performing then apply your remedy. A good place to start? Determine if your sales rep is actually wired for their sales job. If so, then continue your search for sources of lackluster performance. However, if they’re not wired for their sales job, you’ll need to make some changes.

Use an in-depth sales assessment to help you determine if your sales rep is wired for their job and the action you need to take to improve the situation. Here are seven things you can do:

1. Underperforming sales rep needs you to manage them differently.

I’ve seen sales managers that were overbearing dictators and others that conducted no oversight or accountability with their reps. Those are both extremes. You must understand the wiring harness of your reps and then manage appropriately. For example, a remote sales rep who is not motivated by a high level of independence, would do better in an office with a sales manager present. Likewise, a strong independent sales rep requires more autonomy to flourish. Therefore, give them the latitude they desire to be more entrepreneurial.

Here are a couple of reflective questions to consider:

  • How effectively am I identifying each of my sales rep’s strengths? Weaknesses?
  • How would my sales reps rate my management style?
  • How substantive are my sales meetings?
  • Do I really know the root cause of the problem for each of my underperforming sales reps?
  • What are my management strengths? Weaknesses?
  • Who do I have to help me improve as a sales manager?

2. Underperforming sales rep needs training.

Your rep may need training in the entire sales process or in a certain step such as Qualifying. They may also need product training to improve their ability to see and apply solutions. Invest time in training reps on the specific things they don’t know – product features and benefits, asking questions, handling objections, assessing value, differentiating themselves from competitors, etc. Pick one that needs the most work that’s relevant to their job and train on it until your rep develops competency.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your sales training program sufficient to teach how to be successful in sales at your company?
  • How well do your underperforming sales reps know the sales process?
  • Do you have proper reinforcement aids?
  • How often do you observe them selling in the field or on the phone?
  • Are your sales meetings training focused?
  • How often do you revisit training with your sales reps?

3. Underperforming sales rep needs coaching.

Even more than selling skills, I find that personal skills need the most coaching. Underperforming sales reps need a sales coach – someone dedicated to helping them be better, not only as a rep, but as a human being. Coaching requires a standard for performance. That’s what your sales process is for. However, reps need a coach to help them execute it well. This requires reinforcement and repetition. In other words, you need to work with your sales reps on specific steps and tactics within those steps over and over again until it becomes an unconscious competence.

Good sales coaches are not solely focused on results. They focus on the means with which to achieve the desired results. Unsuccessful sales leaders obsess about quota. Great sales leaders focus on developing their reps’ skills to help them achieve quota. That’s a big difference.

Consider these questions:

  • How would you rate the quality of your one-on-one coaching sessions with your sales reps?
  • Are you currently working to develop a specific selling skill with each of your reps? 
  • Do you spend more time coaching or playing parent to your reps?

4. Underperforming sales rep needs support because they’re going through a personal crisis.

At some point in the past, your sales rep may have performed well. However, they’re in a slump and you’re not sure what to do. You may need to probe a bit to find out if there are any external factors affecting their performance. If you have a good relationship, ask if there are any personal issues they might be facing that they feel free to discuss. If so, take appropriate steps to support them. You can read about some ways to support your sales reps here.

5. Underperforming sales rep is not wired for their sales role and would be better suited for a different sales role.

Got a Hunter who is not hunting? You may have a Farmer in a Hunter sale role. Perhaps your sales rep struggles with prospecting. They may need to move to Account Retention. In other cases, call center sales may be a better fit. The important thing when analyzing a sales rep’s performance is to start with alignment.

Think about these questions:

  • How well aligned is the sales rep with what the specific sales role requires and rewards?
  • Do I need a decisive extrovert or a relational introvert?
  • Is the compensation plan weighted too heavily on commissions or salary for this rep? (Your sales rep may want to make more money and a move to a Hunter sales role might be the right decision.)

6. Underperforming sales rep is not wired for sales at all but is better suited for a non-sales role in your company.

You may find that a sales job is not the right job for them. After analyzing their personality style, motivators and thinking patterns, a better role might be in operations, marketing, or customer service. Cross train them and make a lateral move into another department. Always keep good employees.

7. Underperforming sales rep is not a good fit for your company.

Some underperforming sales reps should have never been hired at your company. Unfortunately, they were and you’ve had to suffer the consequences of that decision. There is no reason to keep them while they drain your resources and adversely affecting team morale. These are not pleasant decisions but must be made to preserve your company’s morale and reputation.