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  Our business has been struggling for the last year or so. Several of my salespeople are just not producing. I'm not sure I can continue to work with them. When do I decide to terminate their employment?
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by Dave Kahle
copyright (MMXII)

Personal note from
Dave Kahle
"I hope you enjoy this article. We have lots of resources on this site, ranging from dozens of similar free articles, podcasts, weekly features, books , CDs and video training programs. Enjoy! "

Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to ask this question? In an ideal world, everyone would succeed, and our biggest problem would be how to acknowledge the real heroes among a group of deserving colleagues.

But it is not an ideal world, and every sales manager is, at some point, faced with this decision. At what point do you decide to fire them?

This is a very personal decision embedded with emotional ramifications. There are all sorts of individual mitigating factors which influence the answer to this question. I just came from one of my clients, for example, where one of the non-performing salespeople has been with the company for over 10 years, and was hired by the company's president. Clearly that presents a different set of factors then the new hire who just isn't getting it.

While I can not sort out all of those individual issues for you, I can offer some over-all guidelines.

First, I'm going to assume that the salesperson is costing the company money; that the person is not profitable. This is an important assumption, because I think different rules apply if the person is profitable. I'm using profitable here in the sense that I describe in my Kahle's Kalculation. Depending on the type of business and the dynamics of the selling situation, if a salesperson's KK number is over 25% or 30%, that person is probably not profitable to the company. This is a far more sophisticated measurement than just looking at the gross profit or sales produced in that territory.

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So, let's assume that the salesperson is not profitable to the company.

Secondly, I'm making a disclaimer that there are certain legal issues that need to be attended to, and I am not in any way advocating short-cutting any processes or procedures that are required by your company or any government agency or institution. I am not advocating you do anything illegal. My only goal is to provide you some guidelines to consider. Suggestions on when to make the decision about terminating some one are one thing, where as the actual act of terminating is something else.

Having said that, here's a couple of thoughts:

You seriously consider terminating their employment when you conclude that they do not have the capabilities or the motivation to succeed in a reasonable amount of time.

I call this the "can do" and "will do" characteristics. They may not have the capability - not enough of the "can do." I see this so often in my practice. A new owner/chief sales officer/sales manager comes on the scene and inherits a sales force from his/her predecessor. The new manager looks at some of the individuals and asks, "Why was this person ever hired?" They just don't have the capabilities to do what the new administration expects.

Or, it may be an issue of a lack of the drive, determination and motivation. In other words, the "will do" characteristics. No matter what you do, this salesperson doesn't accept your direction, doesn't do what you want him /her to do. It's not that the salesperson doesn't have the ability, it's that he just won't make the decision to do it.

I most commonly see this among experienced salespeople who have been with the company for a number of years. They often become so set in their ways and so sure of their position that they will not make the changes that management wants them to make. If they would just decide to do it, you know they could. But, their energies are consumed with the debilitating task of proving that their established habits are the right ways to do something.

They lack the "will do" characteristics.

If you have any comments or questions, email them to me.
I do, of course, reserve the right to edit.

Here are a few articles by Dave
that you might be interested in reading:

  • What's the Best Way to Find a Good Salesperson... Good question! It seems that everyone has a favorite response. Some people only use recruiters, and others swear by networking. But classified ads continue to be the most common choice. Almost everyone who hires salespeople will, at some time, search for prospects via the "help wanted" section.... {Read More}
  • Is it Time to Revise Your Sales Compensation Plan?... If you're paying your sales reps straight commission, you're using an obsolete formula. If you're paying your sales reps a straight salary, you're also using an obsolete formula. Read this article to find out a much more effective way to compensate your sales staff.... {Read More}
  • How to Deal with the Salesperson Who Has Leveled Off... Every manager has, or will, confront this troublesome issue. It's arisen in every workshop for sales managers or branch managers I've done. One or more of your salespeople has leveled off. Their performance hasn't improved much in the last few years. Where before you were able to count on significant increases each year, now you can not. You know that these experienced salespeople can do better, but they seem unable or unwilling to break out of a certain level of performance. You are scratching your head, frustrated, and loosing sleep at night wondering how to improve the situation. What do you do?... {Read More}
There are also many other action-packed articles for sales professionals that offer how-to solutions to every day sales problems that you can read online at www.davekahle.com/article.htm.
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.
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