Stop whining about sales problems

Rick Davis

Got a sales problem? Then fix it, fire it or ignore it. At least stop whining.

These are the words I use as my mantra for sales managers and executives. It seems that the consistent theme I hear from managers is that their salespeople are “not motivated, don’t get it, or simply aren’t trying.” They complain that salespeople react senselessly to irrational customer demands or make their own mistakes that cost the company money.


In short, managers feel victimized by poor sales performance. If you feel this way, then opt for one of the three, and only three, options at your disposal. Fix the performer if you can. If you can’t, then you must decide to fire the performer, or ignore the problem.

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Ignore the problem when…
You have a highly profitable producer. This is a case when you should ignore a problem. It sounds strange, but it might be worth investing your management energies elsewhere. The top producers in your company deserve support and should be treated as special cases so long as you believe there exists a causal relationship between performance and results.

The cause can be a factor of growth or profitable maintenance, because let’s face it; often a profitable producer is nothing more than the “last person standing” and the recipient of accounts because other salespeople have left the company.

A service-only sales representative is certainly an asset and, even when the performer isn’t a grower of business, still worth retaining…and ignoring.

Profitable salespeople who are resistant to personal coaching and systematic reporting structures are usually worth ignoring when it comes to performance guidance. So long as they are profitable and not creating costly mistakes, just support them.

Fix the problem when…
You have a young talent to groom or an unprofitable veteran. This is a situation where you can tailor a training schedule and management routine to build the performance you seek. Underachievers and new hires deserve the guidance necessary to produce profits and, more importantly, gain the sense of security that is so elusive to the profession of selling.

Several clients of mine use reporting structures set up only for salespeople who are not producing desired sales results. This affords them the opportunity to monitor performance and offer the guidance necessary to reach goals. If the salesperson achieves performance objectives, an entire organization can learn together how to create a franchise model of selling.

If the salesperson fails to achieve performance objectives, it’s a different story.

Fire the problem when…
You have a salesperson who is not achieving desired results and also rejects coaching guidance. Capable sales managers know it is time to take coercive action when this occurs. This means enforcing a reporting structure, scheduling joint ride-alongs, and closely monitoring the correlation between leading performance indicators and sales results.

If you don’t see improvement after a corrective action plan is in place, then it is time to do everyone a favor and part ways. Most organizations discover only after firing an underachiever that customers were frustrated as well as co-workers. Truth be told, the change of working environments is often a favor to the employee as well.

Own the results
I argue that results are the responsibility of managers. If our salespeople don’t get it, then it’s our fault. This means identifying the strengths and weakness of each individual on your team and catering a game plan for each performer. It’s not fun to deal with sales problems, but the attempt at solutions is better than letting the problems fester.

Get to work on those problems. Fix them, fire them, or ignore them. But, for Pete’s sake, stop whining.

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