By Steven Rosen
Performance management can be a dirty job. Many managers shy away when having to deal with performance issues. My approach says “bring it on.” I believe that non-performing players need to get their act together or there is no place for them on the team. Here are a few considerations when addressing sales performance issues.
What happens when one of your sales people is not performing? Companies have set up a process for addressing performance issues. Some of these processes can take 3 -6 months to determine whether the sales rep can address their performance gaps or if not are fired.
When addressing a reps performance, sales managers will use formal Performance Improvement Programs (PIP). These are formal procedural documents used to demonstrate that the manager is serious about a reps poor performance. The manager’s task is to document areas that require improvement if the rep is going to remain on the team.
Managing a PIP is time consuming and stressful. Much of the documentation is in the manager’s hands and of course there is added tension between the sales rep and manager. This results in strained communication and mutual lack of trust.
Focusing on a non-performing sales rep diverts a sales managers’ time from important activities, such as coaching reps with greater potential. Many sales managers do their best to be fair and give the rep a chance to prove themselves. They give the rep the benefit of the doubt and allow the PIP to drag on. We all know the opportunity cost in terms of lost sales as well as additional management time spent on the individual. As a rule, do not allow a PIP to linger for more than 3 months. Either the rep can perform or its time to part ways.
Stay Focused on the Desired Result
It is critical to assess the issues when dealing with poor performing sales reps. Depending if it is an attitude or effort issue, a decision needs to be made if the rep is to remain part of the team. I know HR must follow proper procedure, but if you have a bad apple you throw it out. You need to focus on the outcome that you think is right for the organization. Being very clear with what you want as the end result is required up front so you don’t waver through the process. Managing a 3-month PIP means determining if the rep is a player you want on your team and then managing that PIP effectively to achieve the outcome. If you believe the sales rep can pull up their performance then you give them the chance. It’s not about lying or deceit, it’s about making sure you have the right people on your team. Clarity will ensure that the process is seamless and effortless.
Enough with the Perpetual PIPers (PP)
We have all come across the PP. This is the sales rep that can do a high quality sales job but is not willing to put in the time or quantity of activity that would up their performance. I call them the “talented slacker”. They are content to meet annual sales objectives, but not exceed them.
The disparity arises when a new manager joins the team and their performance gaps become glaringly apparent in relation to their peers. The new sales manager gets tired of pushing the talented slacker to do more and eventually puts them on a PIP. Because the sales rep doesn’t lack the quality, they temporarily up their activity and thus satisfying the terms of the PIP.
Overtime the perpetual PIPers will fall back into their old habits until a new manager arrives and the process repeats itself. Once a rep is on a third PIP, I say 3 PIPs and you are out! The third PIP is a termination letter.
All your reps should be on a SIP! A SIP is a Sales Improvement Program. If you want to proactively manage performance, every sales rep in the organization should focus on at least one area of improvement to take their performance to the next level. Even your STARS have opportunities for improvement that can take them to a higher level of performance. You can call it a SIP or a coaching journey. Regardless, proactive sales managers are always looking to elevate the performance of each of their sales reps to maximize results.
Every rep should be on a program as a means of improving their performance. Companies who are truly performance based should be focused on continual improvement from all their sales reps. If a rep is not performing you need to be clear, concise and expeditious when addressing a performance improvement program.
What is the duration of a PIP in your organization?