Turnover is not necessarily a bad thing. When you’re managing a salesforce — a group of individuals — you might always want to be asking yourself, as you would with any business asset: Should I sell it, fix it, or close it? Salespeople perform at different levels, and they tend to stay at those levels unless challenged. The truth is that you should regularly be replacing the bottom 10% of your salesforce.

Say you have a sales rep who is just not cutting it. Here’s the question to ask: Should I work with him or replace him? And the way to answer that question is to ride with the rep.

Someone who is not performing will go pretty quickly once you begin to ride with him. If they know they’re being watched, non-performers leave.

Listen Up

That first appointment is going to be the hardest one. If the salesperson is really not competent, you’re sitting there watching a presentation go down in flames. What you’ll see is that non-performers aren’t hitting their numbers because they’re no longer following the fundamentals of selling. It’s no more complicated than that.

We think these guys are doing the same things, the right things, all the time. That’s not the case. The biggest thing that goes wrong is that they don’t listen to the client. They’re not asking questions, and they’re not listening to answers. Beyond that, they’re not really reading the customer for type. People buy for different reasons. Some are energy buyers, some are low-maintenance buyers, some really want to improve the look or the aesthetics of their house. The salesperson needs to find out right away what is motivating the customer and respond to that.

Say you go in and the homeowner is buying because the energy bills are too high, and the salesperson spends 20 minutes talking about how beautiful the windows will look. Then, at the end, the sales rep presents his price and hopes the prospects buy. They don’t, and it’s because the rep has been playing the wrong music.

The third reason these reps don’t cut it is because they don’t ask for the order. The salesperson doesn’t ask for the business because he wasn’t taught to ask or because he doesn’t have the courage to ask. Some people just shouldn’t be in sales.

Possible Turnaround

If the rep has the willingness to learn — and few in that bottom 10% do — there’s a chance that this might work out. You make that determination by asking him a question, any question, and then seeing if he will listen to constructive criticism. The important thing now is the meeting back at the bar or the diner over coffee or beer at which you discuss what happened in the appointment. Ask him what he thinks went wrong. If he makes excuses, blames anything other than himself, does anything other than take ownership of that lost lead, then he needs to go. —Sales veteran and trainer Mike Damora has been the sales manager at several large home improvement companies. Reach him at madamora@optonline.net.