Selling is a career that can provide compensation similar to that of law or medicine. The difference is that doctors and lawyers don't get rejected as often as salespeople. As salespeople, we're expected to take that rejection with a smile and move on to our next prospect. The reality is that it isn't always easy, especially when losing sale after sale. So what do you do when this happens with your top performer?
When a top performer goes sideways, it's not a time to wait and see what will happen. The behavior won't magically improve. If he or she is in a slump and behaving negatively, that will spread.
By taking action quickly, there's a good chance you can yank top performers out of their self-destructive spiral. When they understand that you may soon be seeking their replacement, and that they may need to look for another job where they have to start from the bottom, the little things that are causing negativity become unimportant. Retaining a position where they're a top performer becomes a priority.
One suggestion: If you're not already traveling on a regular basis with your top performers on sales calls, start immediately. Just the fact that you show you care may be enough to pull them out of a slump. Chances are they'll do their best when you're with them, and sales will start coming easier.
Following a non-sale, give them a self-evaluation form that asks them to indicate where they think the presentation went awry. Have them rate their own performance. Don't debate the accuracy of the score. Instead, ask them to explain the ratings they chose.
By the second or third evaluation, top performers will identify why they're having problems. At that point, they either self-correct or ask for help. Once they ask for help, there should be no defensiveness, and the problem's resolved. —Richard Kaller once owned a network of five home improvement companies and is a former director of the National Roofing Contractors Association. He operates Certified Contractors Network (www.contractors.net), a training and educational organization.