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  • Writer's pictureNick Klingensmith

If You Can't See The Problem, YOU Are The Problem

“Listen, here’s the thing: If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table then you are the sucker.” – Matt Damon, Rounders.

So, here’s my thing: If you can’t identify the reason your rep isn’t succeeding, then you are the reason.

A few months ago I shared a Post discussing how too many sales leaders abdicate responsibility for the success of their sales reps (When Sales Reps Fail). Too often the decision to let go of under performing sales reps is taken too lightly.

I was taught that we should never let a rep go without them knowing why and that we did everything we could to help them.

Several years ago, one of my Sales Managers told me he wanted to let one of his reps go.

It was clear in the numbers he wasn’t succeeding. So, I asked him why not.

“He’s just not getting it.” He said.

“Well, is he coming to work on time? Is he making the calls? Following the process?” I asked.

“Yeah he’s putting in the dials. He’s just not getting it.” He replied.

The other reps in his hiring class were all doing well, so I felt comfortable in the process, training and resources.

“So, why isn’t he getting it?” I pushed.

He couldn’t answer.

“If you can’t identify the reason he isn’t succeeding, then you are the reason.” I told him.

Much to his dismay, I sent him back to work with the rep. Over the course of several weeks he sat side by side with him, observing his calls, having constant dialogue and taking copious notes. After the first week the Manager came back to me with the answer he found,

“He’s just not getting it.”

I sent him back again, this time with tangible objectives. I wanted him to pay closer attention to which types of calls he was making and to observe the various skills required at those stages of the sale.

Another week went by and the Manager returned having observed specific and tangible items the rep could improve upon. We designed a performance improvement plan and presented it to the rep.

A week later the Manager returned with his observations and cited a lack of any improvement. We met with the rep again and revisited the performance improvement plan, specifically pointing out the things he needed to do differently. The Manager was actually a top tier coach and we spent some time role practicing those items to try and increase his comfort level.

A week later we had to let him go.

We gave him the specific playbook he needed to follow in order to succeed. We trained him on how to execute it and coached him on how to improve. The responsibility was now the reps to act in order to improve. He did not.

My boss wasn’t thrilled with me carrying the guy an extra month or tying up my management resources, but in the end, we had done the right thing.

When we let him go, he shook our hands and thanked us for our efforts. In the process, my Manager knew he was accountable for reps successes and failures; the sales team knew we would roll up our sleeves to help; and we created a system for identifying the reason a rep wasn’t succeeding and a vehicle for addressing it.

Most of all, we knew we had done everything we could and could feel comfortable in our decision to let him go.

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