Tough call: The case of the complacent salespeople

As a group, your salespeople have stopped pursuing new business, because the company is already doing well. You need to shake things up. But how?

As the owner of an independent LBM dealer that very nearly went out of business following the Great Recession, you couldn’t possibly be more pleased at where your business is today. You and your team have made all the right moves over the past few years and, as a result, you’re the undisputed leader in your market. Getting rid of slow-moving products (and whole categories, in some cases), and adding the right mix of line extensions from brands you already carry, as well as rolling the dice on some new items that have proven extremely strong. Sales are strong to all segments you serve—new construction, remodelers and homeowners. Yes, there’s word of a coming economic slow-down…but you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it.

While most things are good, there’s been one unexpected (and unwelcome) side effect of business being so strong: complacent salespeople. It’s understandable, you suppose. After years of scouring the market and scrounging for sales, now that sales are strong, its only human for your hardworking salespeople to take a breather. For a while, it was fine. But it’s now been four months and counting since anyone has signed up a new builder or remodeler, so you’re getting concerned.

When you broached this fact in a recent sales meeting, you were surprised and disappointed at the response. “Who cares about signing up new customers when we’re busy serving our existing customers?” The problem with that thinking, of course, is that there’s no guarantee that current customers will be buying as much as they are forever. They may sell, downsize, go out of business, or switch to a different supplier. When you pointed out that reality to your reps, the message was met with indifference. They made clear that they’re doing all that they’re going to do.

- Sponsor -

You’re fortunate to have low turnover. In fact, most of your sales team has been with you for more than a decade. You’ve been through a lot together, and you wouldn’t be where you are today without their efforts.

However, as the owner of a business that you intend  to build until it’s time to retire, you know you’ve got to do something to light a fire under your sales team and get them reengaged. Otherwise, the competition is going to eat up all the new business and possibly take over the leadership position that you currently enjoy. You know that you need to take action before the situation gets any worse. The question is, what should you do?

Relieve the least productive salesperson of their employment with your firm, then gather the rest and let them know that others will follow if performance doesn’t improve.

Offer bonuses for each new account that salespeople bring in over the next six months, with prizes for the most new accounts, and the highest sales by new accounts.

Maybe their complacency can be fixed by tweaking your compensation and bonus plan. Take a fresh look at how you pay, and modify that to accomplish your goals.

Meet with them individually, explain your concerns—for the company and their future—and see if you can win them over, one by one.


What would you do?


Something else?

If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.


Stay Updated

Get our email newsletter with LBM industry trends, data, new products, and best practices.