A few days ago I received a call from a journalist. She was writing a story about how one knows that it is time to fire a salesperson. I don’t believe she expected the answer that I gave her. I do believe that she will use a lot of what I gave her in the magazine article she is writing.

Let’s assume poor performance. Here is as close as I can get you to the answer.

You Go First

The first question you have to ask yourself before releasing a salesperson is, “Am I clean?” It is almost always wrong to fire a salesperson if you can’t answer this question in the affirmative. You need to be certain that you have given the salesperson the time, the tools, the training, and the technology that they needed to succeed.

Have you given the salesperson your time and attention? Have you made your best effort to help them improve whatever they need to improve to succeed? Have you worked with them?

Have you given the salesperson the tools that they need to succeed? Have you given them clear goals and targets? Have given them planned dialogues? Have you given them an understanding of the value that you create and how they are supposed to compete with your value proposition?

Have you given them the training? Are you absolutely certain that you have given them the knowledge that they need to succeed?

Have you provided the salesperson with the technology they need to do their job?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you should reconsider firing the salesperson until you can honestly answer them with a “yes.”

I suggest you treat the salesperson in question exactly as you hope your son, daughter, or loved one will be treated if they struggle at work. That gets it right.

One Issue, Two Parts: Coachable

If you are clean, if you answered “yes” to all of the questions above, the next question you have to answer is are they coachable? Being coachable means a couple things. First, it means that the salesperson is open to new ideas. Second, it means they are willing to take action on those new ideas. That requires that they be open to change.

Some salespeople are extraordinarily resistant to new ideas. They believe they know all they need to know, so they reject any suggestions, even if the suggestion is delivered in a non-directive fashion. Because they aren’t open to new ideas, they aren’t coachable. If they won’t follow through and take action, they aren’t coachable.

The second part is almost as difficult. Some salespeople are unwilling to take new actions. They may get past the first test for being coachable; they may accept new ideas. But they refuse to take any new actions. They aren’t willing to try anything new. Instead, they listen, they accept your suggestions, and then they go right back to doing what they have always done.

If a salesperson is coachable, they can almost always be helped. If they are coachable but aren’t receiving the coaching, then you have to go back and make sure you’re clean!

Before we leave, there is one more factor to consider.


If the salesperson is negative, then you can forego most of what is above. Negativity is the only form of cancer that spreads by contact. It’s very difficult to overcome negativity, and it is unlikely that you have the time.

You have to protect your culture from infection, and that means releasing anyone that threatens that culture. Sooner rather than later.


Do some salespeople fail because they need additional help?

What does a sales manager owe their salespeople?

What makes a salesperson coachable? Uncoachable?

Can a negative person be made positive? How? At what cost?

Sales 2012
Post by Anthony Iannarino on March 4, 2012
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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