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Separate Potential Superstars from Sales Laggards

Your mid-range performers are your untapped sales performance gold mine. Here's how to separate your low performers from your mid-range sales reps.

5 min read

By identifying reps with the greatest capacity for improvement, you can improve performance by as much as 19 percent. Today, I’ll zero in on how managers can separate their low performers from their mid-range sales reps. With effective sales training, the latter can become top performers. The former cannot. Your mid-range performers are your untapped sales performance gold mine. I learned the value of training the right sales reps when I first became a sales manager. We sold desktop graphics workstations for 3-D design. When I was promoted, the departing sales manager told me I’d probably need to fire one rep. I was reluctant to fire this rep right away. She had an ideal background for sales at our company—a degree in mechanical engineering, high motivation and a burning competitive spirit. Instead of a pink slip, I offered her mentorship. Every week, she and I sat down and reviewed her challenges and progress to her goals. Within a very short time, she completely course-corrected. She became one of my top reps, carrying an annual quota of $2 million. Later, she became one of my top managers. I learned some important lessons about sales coaching with Susie.

1. Assess strengths and weaknesses for each rep What strengths and weaknesses do each of your reps bring to the table? I used to make lists together of what my rep did well and what she could work on. Then, we created an action plan for improvement together.

2. Know the difference between will and skill Sales people need certain basic, inherent skills to be successful. For example, they need to be competitive by nature, so it’s a good idea to look for individuals who played sports. Other skills must be refined over time. As an example, you can improve their understanding of your market or coach them to execute more effectively. But beware of the sales reps who don’t have the will. You can’t teach skill if there’s no will. Make sure your reps have the “get up and go.” If they don’t, you may need to let them go.

3. Create a detailed action plan I created an action plan for improvement with my rep in our 1:1 meetings. We set specific long-term objectives for her, and developed a strategy to get where she wanted to go. To do this effectively, make sure you:

4. Measure early + often Today, it’s also possible to give reps instant visibility into their progress with sales performance dashboards. Our customers’ reps hit quota more often than other companies using similar systems. Setting an up official review periods every quarter will allow managers to maintain a birds-eye view of performance data. They can trouble-shoot potential sales scenarios before implementing new plans. What can be measured can be improved. Conclusion Know when it’s time to coach and when it’s time to pull the plug. If a rep consistently falls within the bottom 10%, she or he may simply not be ready for the big time. You should dedicate your coaching time with other more promising reps. Effective training for the right reps will undoubtedly improve your team’s performance.