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If your team isn’t delivering, take a beat before filling out termination paperwork. Managing underperforming sales reps can be more effective and less costly—as long as you know where to start.

If you manage a business of any kind, you will run into situations where someone on your team isn’t performing the way they need to. There are a lot of reasons this could happen. Sometimes it’s as simple as a new hire who’s having trouble acclimating to new processes and cultures. Sometimes it’s a person who performed well in the past, but suddenly, their numbers are dipping. Other situations are more challenging, such as changes in the market that result in low performance. Whatever the reason, managing underperforming sales reps back to health may be your best resolution strategy.

But how do you find the weakest link? And once you know where to start, what does managing underperforming sales reps look like, and how will you know if your approach is effective?

Whether you’re dealing with your first low-output employee or you’ve been doing this for years, you can get your revenue back on track without disrupting the structure of your organization.


Track data metrics and see the big picture with software like Call Logic. Schedule a free demo today to learn how we can help you bring out the best in your employees!


managing underperforming sales reps

Your 5-step process for managing underperforming sales reps and bringing them back from the brink

1. Find your weakest link

While revenue-generation is a crucial indicator or who’s doing well and who isn’t within your organization, closed deals are not the only indicator of staff success. Many other employee engagement factors play into success, and if a team member is struggling with one or more of those, that may be what’s impacting their low numbers.

In addition to revenue, look at things like repeat customers, service level, response time, and other key call center metrics that can help you see a bigger picture and weave together a complete narrative of what’s going on. That allows you to hone in on who’s engaged and how that plays into their revenue generation. You may find that someone who appears to be a top performer is actually, let’s say, closing with lots of repeat customers. Still, they aren’t doing much to generate new business, meaning their numbers drop off when those repeat customers take a break from buying.

2. Regular 1:1 meetings

Even before you get to the point of managing underperforming sales reps, one of the best practices for managers is to hold regular—weekly or bi-weekly—one-to-one meetings with each of their team members to stay abreast of what’s going on for them both professionally and personally.

On the professional side, these meetings typically cover sales targets, closed deals, overall customer satisfaction, and how each of these things stacks up against employee goals, among other things. If an employee doesn’t have goals or needs them tweaked, this is the arena in which to do that.

But work shouldn’t be only about work. That’s not to say these meetings should be anything like therapy sessions—they shouldn’t—but they are the perfect opportunity to ask an employee how things are going for them outside of the office. If they feel that their manager cares about them, they are likely to divulge at least surface-level information that can help you determine whether or not forces outside of the workplace may be interfering with their performance.

3. Continue, stop, start

“Start, stop, continue,” is a common method for coaching and delivering feedback when managing underperforming sales reps. It simply means to tell an employee something you want them to start doing, something you want them to stop doing, and something they should continue doing.

However, we suggest tweaking it slightly to, “Continue, stop, start.” Why? Because people respond better to criticism when they don’t feel defensive. If you begin the conversation by addressing something you want someone to continue doing, it will build their confidence, even if they know they’re in a meeting about underperformance. That will make it easier for them to accept the thing you want them to stop doing, and then they’ll be ready to hear what you’d like them to start doing. In short, it’s another way to demonstrate your belief in and commitment to them, which usually drives engagement.

4. Provide resources

In a recent analysis, 92% of employees said that having the right technology to do their jobs contributes to their job satisfaction. The same is true of non-technological resources. Employees who have the tools they need to work efficiently are much more likely to perform well over employees who struggle to find the resources they need. That doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend a fortune on resources, but it does imply that you should re-evaluate whether what you provide to employees to achieve their goals is current and competitive.

5. Learn about and play to strengths

When someone isn’t meeting expectations, we tend to focus on the negative—what they’re not doing. While managing underperforming sales reps requires attention to these subpar factors, there’s another often-overlooked component: their strengths. If you don’t already know, take the time to determine what the underperforming employee is good at. Look at data relative to their performance on the job, ask them questions about what interests them and what doesn’t, and if this fits with your culture, you might even conduct peer reviews or 360-feedback to learn about an employee’s strengths from the perspective of their co-workers.

If you know a sales rep is good at two or three particular things, try to pivot their day-to-day to include more of what they’re good at. Doing so should enhance their confidence and engagement, which prepares them mentally and emotionally to tackle things they may not be comfortable with.

The key to successfully managing underperforming sales reps, or anyone, really is to keep a line of communication open. Be transparent, be clear, be honest, and in most cases, you’ll get the same back from your employee. Only then can you begin to develop a strategy that will build both the employee and the company up for increased success.


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