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When Their Poor Performance Becomes Your Poor Performance (A Note to the Sales Manager)

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
November 5, 2010

It is sometimes difficult to release—or fire—people. Other times, even though it may be difficult, you can’t wait to release someone, usually because their behavior is so bad that you can’t wait to remove them from your team before they infect others with the crud that is their negativity. But sometimes it is difficult to release someone because you are uncomfortable doing so, and you hold onto them for all the wrong reasons.

Some excuses that you may give yourself are inadequate and indicate that you are postponing the inevitable because it makes you uncomfortable. Their continued poor performance as a salesperson becomes your poor performance as a sales manager.

I Want to Wait on This Big Deal

They have made the sales call on the big dream client. You may have even been with them when they made the call. You know with an absolute certainty that your dream client likes your underperforming salesperson. The salesperson insists that, given a little more time, they are going to win this opportunity.

So you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Meanwhile your underperforming salesperson spends their time selling you on how wonderful things are going to be when he closes this deal. If he spent as much time and energy working on other deals as he did selling you, he wouldn’t be an underperforming salesperson. The truth is that you want to be sold.

A salesperson’s future performance for your sales organization is best determined by looking at their past performance, their beliefs and behaviors, and their pipeline. No past performance, poor beliefs and behaviors, and a weak pipeline mean that you are holding on to a salesperson that isn’t going to perform for you (provided you have done all you could, and then a little more).

Another salesperson can take over their dream client opportunity, and your dream client will like them just as well. You can take over their dream client opportunity, and they will like you just as well. You can close the deal yourself if you have to.

Not taking action on underperforming salespeople means you are an underperforming sales manager.

You are also not being fair to your salesperson. If they are not going to succeed working for you and your company, you need to help them find someplace where they can do more fulfilling work and where they can make a meaningful contribution.

I Want to Give Them More Time

They don’t need more time.

What you have seen in the first ninety days of your salesperson’s employment is what you can expect to see in the future. If they haven’t done the prospecting that you have agreed to during that time, they aren’t going to. If they haven’t met their activity quota, they aren’t going to. If they haven’t built the pipeline or won the opportunities that you agreed to and that are what should reasonably be expected of them, they aren’t going to.

At least they are not going to by simply adding time.

They may need more training. They may need more development opportunities. They may need to learn how to sell from the ground up, and you may even owe them all of these things.

But they don’t need more time.

You don’t need more time either. You have either given them what you owe them, or you haven’t. If you haven’t, then this is about you. If you have given them what you owe them and they have still not done what is expected of them, then this is about their performance.

You make their performance issue your performance issue when you allow it to continue beyond what is right and fair to your salesperson—and to the company who has trusted you to be a good steward of their resources, especially the budget they have given you to acquire the only real asset you will ever have as a sales manager.

No one should ever be surprised to be released or fired. There should be enough conversations, interventions, and attempts to help improve their performance that have been coupled with a discussion of the consequences for failure, that no one should be surprised by their release.


    1. Are you holding on to an underperforming salesperson because you are uncomfortable doing what you need to do?
    1. Do you have a 100% clear conscience knowing that you have lived up to the obligation that you owed the salesperson that you either hired or were charged with helping to perform as their sales manager?
    1. Do you really believe that it is important to hold on to this salesperson in order to win the dream client opportunity that they continue to promise and sell to you? Even if they were to win this dream client opportunity, would it be enough to justify keeping them? Are their activities, beliefs, behaviors what they need to be to produce results? Why have they failed to produce before now?
  1. What do you hope will happen for your salesperson by allowing them to have nothing more than time? Is time something that normally produces improved results?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4729.

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Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 5, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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