A Difficult Decision: When to Let a Sales Rep Go

In business, it’s never fun to let someone go. It forces you to realize you made a mistake in hiring and that you knowingly have been risking the morale and performance of others on the team. Plus you will have to go through the process of finding a new employee.

However, before you swing the ax, there are some tips to keep in mind.

Stop and Think

There’s no other way to say this: If you’ve already made up your mind about an employee’s poor performance, then likely there’s nothing they can do to reverse your decision. Telling yourself or the employee otherwise will be a waste of everyone’s time.

Your business may have an HR plan in place before this happens that includes a verbal warning, written warning, probation, and so forth. But all of those things will just seem like an obstacle to getting what you really want—the moment of escorting the employee out of the office.

However, you will hopefully be able to give your sales rep a genuine chance to explain themselves and get back on track. Even if he or she has no explanation or intention of doing the right thing, it will show the other members of the team that you’re not the type of person who pulls the trigger without at least getting the other person’s side of the story.

Going Over Performance

The first step to dealing with a problem employee is having a face-to-face meeting where they can talk about their experiences when selling. Perhaps they’ve had a personal crisis happen in their lives, or maybe they feel as though the company has put them in a difficult position. If the problem is the employee’s attitude, then it’s worth noting that 18 percent of employers say a bad hire negatively impacts client relationships, which really can’t be risked. Whatever the problem is, showing them sales reports and giving them the opportunity to chat about what they think is wrong gives you some insight into how you can improve their time with the company.

This is also a chance too to see if an employee’s skills may not match up in the sales world, but may be better suited for another department. There’s nothing saying you can’t be creative when working with an employee who may not be measuring up to your standards.

Staying Fair

Sometimes an employee’s poor numbers have nothing to do with their efforts or their skills. If they are in a territory that is already well-serviced, they may not be culpable in terms of their failure to sell to people who already have what they need. In fact, desperate salespeople constantly trying to upsell may only cause businesses to question their decision to choose your company as a partner.

The salesperson might be doing you a favor by only pushing his or her agenda so much. Or perhaps they’ve been given truly terrible leads, and thus have gotten off on the wrong foot entirely. Some candidates may look like a good match on paper, but actively pitching them is another matter. Hopefully the employee has addressed at least some of these concerns before an official sit-down meeting, but the face-to-face may give you the means to see the bigger picture.

Improvement Plans

Regardless of where the problem lies, plans for improvement can be made for both sides. As a sales leader, you need to be willing to work with employees, rather than replacing them when possible. Replacing people takes time and money that companies don’t often have, and it causes confusion for clients who would prefer to have stability with the people they work with. It also means the potential of sending a message to your best employees that they’re entirely replaceable as well.

Give salespeople specific tips they can implement before they go back to their regular schedules, and make sure they have a clear idea of what you need to see from them so that they’re back on track. Be generous with your own improvement plans as well, whether that’s tracking down better leads or simply mixing up territories a bit.

Final Decisions

If you’re still having a difficult time with an employee after going through every official and unofficial channel, then that is the time to let the person go. At this point, everyone on the team should have seen the natural progression and how the employee was treated with a sense of fairness and respect.

In the long run, the employee will likely thank you for forcing them to make a move when they were likely too afraid to do so themselves. A disgruntled, unhappy, or otherwise jaded employee is only draining on the people around them, and neither your company nor your clients need that.

By Danny Wong