4 Crucial Tips to Managing Underperforming Reps

Are your underperforming reps struggling because of effort or effectiveness? Are they getting the coaching that will help with both their mindset and building skills? What is the true cost of underperformers to your organization, and how can you quickly move C players to B players and cut the reps who will not be successful in the role?

Great managers can get good performance from most of their reps, but how they spend their time with bottom performers can make a huge difference to save money and make more money. Here are 4 crucial tips to help you better manage your underperforming reps and achieve greater rep participation in hitting this quarter’s numbers and beyond.

  1. Focus on Mindset

This is the first step to ensure a rep buys into the goal of improving and delivering results. The manager must model the mindset that the rep has the ability to improve their skills and reach their revenue targets. If a rep believes, “I am not good at x,” the manager can coach them to shift their mindset. “Yes, you can be good at x, but it will require practice and role playing,” the manager should say, for example. Demonstrating the right behavior consistently, in turn, will reinforce the new belief. “Yes, I am good at x” because I have practiced it consistently and now feel more confident doing it.

Our experience is that many reps that have been high achievers academically or in a previous role, fail out in sales after having to make cold calls and being told “no” over and over again because they take the rejection personally. Helping them to separate their role as a sales rep from their identity and their intrinsic value as a human being is an important first step. Letting them know that we all expect a lot of nos in sales but we will get some yeses along the way will allow them to focus on the outcome of the call (and to keep executing on the behavior). Underperformers need to believe they can be successful and will eventually not take the rejection personally, knowing it is just a part of their role. If they put in consistent effort, they have a chance to turn around their performance and get better results.

  1. Practice Behavioral Change

Beyond effort, effectiveness only comes from practice, practice, practice.

Often, a coaching session becomes unproductive when an underperforming rep makes excuses (e.g., no one picks up the phone, the champion is gate-keeping me from the decision maker, etc.). Try shifting the conversation with the rep from excuses to behavioral change.

In your next coaching session focus on activities with skill-building, and practice that the rep can do. For example, if one of your underperforming reps consistently doesn’t have the ultimate decision makers in the right meetings, deal cycles can be very long. Often, the prospect’s champion nods and agrees to a demo, but when they have to share the pitch to their boss, they are not as persuasive as the rep could have been. Have your underperforming reps practice and be confident on insisting the decision maker is in the room for the demo. Those hard or direct conversations with the prospect get easier over time with practice, but they must be rehearsed and role-played to be successful.

As a follow-up have the rep put a plan together for role playing with you or another colleague on a different issue that they’re struggling with. Practice is critical.

  1. Virtual Best Practice Sharing

Remote management is one of the biggest challenges of developing underperforming reps.  Managers need to incorporate coaching and best practices sharing into their one-on-ones and team meetings to create a culture of learning and collaboration.

During virtual team meetings, have top performing reps break down the anatomy of a recent win, so others can learn from them in the moment and then also see them as a future resource. Have reps that are struggling in an area of the sales cycle identify a colleague who they can work with to share different approaches. Creating a safe environment that reinforces the importance of learning and continuous improvement will allow for informal discussions to happen as often as they would when reps are sitting side by side in a physical office.

  1. Hold the Rep Accountable with Documented Coaching

A rep has to be committed to their own development. Are they are responding to your coaching and getting better or are they continuing to make excuses.

The key is to take the emotion out of managing underperformers. Many managers operate on gut, but when emotion gets in the way, coaching is much less effective for both the manager and the rep. Objectivity is important. And so is coaching. A manager can’t just say, “Close the deal.” Just like a sports coach shouldn’t say, get another goal. Rather they should give direction on passing more, controlling the ball more, aiming where the shot percentage is highest, knowing what drills to practice, etc. Document your coaching sessions with each of your reps so you can see what they are working on, how they are progressing and have data to support your future decisions.

The goal is to move C players to B players, B players to A players, and retain the A players!

The Future

What is the impact of acting on underperformers more quickly? Save money and make money.

Business is about making money. With underperforming reps, there are hard and soft costs when keep them around too long. Costs of training, license seats, and company resources being consumed. Plus, the manager’s time, and often a morale effect on rest of team by keeping those who do not contribute or have a bad attitude. But most importantly, there is a huge opportunity cost of not tapping into that territory, accounts not being worked effectively.

With CoachEm, managers and HR partners can have confidence and make decisions faster on when to keep reps that will contribute to the team, and when to terminate.

CoachEm can help managers turn underperforming reps into performing reps and increase overall rep contribution. Managers should focus their time on the reps that earn the right for coaching, so C players can become B players and contribute to delivering better results. And don’t ignore the A players, who want to continue to grow and progress as well. A manager should focus their time on feeding these stars to retain them for the long haul.