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Poor Performing Salespeople


At a major business show recently I met an owner of a manufacturing business and he told me a counter-intuitive story about his sales team.

Before Covid he had a small team of salespeople that were doing reasonably well. Unfortunately, he had to trim his team all the way down to just two salespeople and even then he could only have them working two days a week.

One would suspect that he’d be looking to re-hire by this point. Not a bit of it. His scaled-down sales team is still only working two days a week and they are outperforming the old team’s figures.

What does this tell you?

Firstly it’s clear that many salespeople aren’t doing a good job. Too often I hear business owners complain that their salespeople aren’t performing, in fact aren’t covering their costs even after 12 months. What, then, are those salespeople doing? If two half salespeople can do the work of a whole team, what on Earth are the others finding to do?

The list of non-productive activities that salespeople get caught up in is long and dispiriting; researching, doing proposals and demos with prospects who won’t ever buy, updating the CRM system, social media, internal meetings, replying to RFPS, plus lots more.

However, whose fault is it?

Who hired them without being 100% sure they would do the job? Who isn’t making it absolutely clear what they are supposed to be doing and how it should be done from Day One and then keeping them accountable to that plan of behaviour? Who allowed them to get away with being busy without being productive?

In any team that’s not performing (think of a professional sports team for example) the first person who is blamed is the manager of that team. And that’s right. If the manager has the power to hire and fire, coach and train, then he or she has the responsibility for making sure they perform well.

The trouble is, for small businesses in particular, there’s not any training and coaching for the managers. If selling needs training, managing salespeople needs even more.

It’s not just small businesses that don’t have training for managers. Typically if you’re any good at your role, you are given promotion and that means a move up the ladder into management. No consideration as to whether the new manager has the skills or experience or attitude or mindset to be a good manager.

Management somehow has to come by the light of nature, through experience and just doing the role. The result? Poor performing teams, missed revenue targets, low profit margins, and a worrying future.

It doesn’t have to be like this. If you want your team to perform better, take a step back a moment and ask who is responsible. Check that they have the right training and support to do their role. If they don’t, (and that could be you), and you are based in Kent Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire or Sussex, contact me and we’ll make sure your managers get to be great leaders.

Paul Glynn

Paul Glynn

Sandler trainer