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Use “Why” to Turn a Struggling Sales Professional into a Superstar

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Having real conversations in our lives is often uncomfortable. We will leave things unspoken because we are afraid of what might happen. We might offend someone. We might lose a relationship. We might give people the wrong impression. Yet, the longer we let these unspoken issues go, the bigger they get.

It could be something as simple as the guy in the next cubicle is constantly sniffing. Initially you are willing to let it go. When you asked him the first ten times if he was sick, he just said “no, but thanks for asking.” As time went on, it didn’t stop. It didn’t matter what season it was, the sniffing just wouldn’t stop. So as a joke/hint, you buy him a box of tissue for his desk. You both get a good laugh but nothing changes. You then ask to be moved and your boss says no. Then one day, you are trying to get out a critical proposal and you can’t concentrate because this guy won’t stop sniffing!!! Finally you explode and say something like “Will you please get that thing fixed! You are driving me and everyone else crazy with your constant sniffing!” Oops. Talk about setting a bridge on fire and blowing it up with dynamite.

The point is, the earlier we have honest, and most importantly, frank conversations with people, the better off we are and the more likely it is we can find a solution. This occurs most often when it comes to a struggling Sales Professional. Sales Leaders often diagnose the problem and have the solution before the meeting ever happens. The conversation circles around activity and numbers and making things happen. The struggling professional is often told to “ride along with Joe” who is the top producers and “see how he does it.” Then a couple of weeks or a month later, the same conversation happens with the same non-results.

Then the question comes up, “Why is it so difficult to let go of a nonperforming sales professional?” Before you go down the path of “letting go” of someone, you need to back up the conversation. It drills down to one question you need to ask that person:

Why are they doing what they’re doing?

In other words, why are they here? Why do they want to be a Sales Professional? Does this make sense for them? Their family? Their career goals? Does this align with who they are as a person?

Why is it Important?

The reason this question is important is for their well-being. Not the company’s. You need to focus first on the individual. You need to create a relationship with your team where they can be open with you and know you are genuinely interested in them. The worst thing anyone can feel is that they are “stuck” in their job when they really don’t want to be there. Is it a difficult conversation? Yes! There are few scarier things for anyone than realizing they are not in the right job and may have to figure out what else they should do professionally. The problem is, if they don’t, they will be miserable. They will not perform. They will not be successful. Obviously, it will hurt the company but it will also hurt their self-confidence and their work record because they will be let go from their position.

A Path to Success

After the conversation, the answer can go two ways. The first is, you agree they are not a fit for the job or organization. Slow to hire – quick to fire right? This in general can be true but remember, you and/or your organization made the decision to hire this person. You need to own that decision and the ramifications that come with it. So here are a few things you can do:

  1. Give them the opportunity to resign. Don’t just fire them on the spot. Give them the opportunity to leave with some dignity on their terms.
  2. Connect them with Career Counseling resources. There is a difference here–not just a recruiter, a Career Counselor.  Recruiters generally have an agenda in mind when they talk to somebody. A Career Counselor is going to explore with the person where their talents and interests are in order to help them make a good decision on what path to take.
  3. Introduce them to your network. This is a relationship. You never know where your paths with cross again in the future. Make introductions to people in your network who might be able to help. Give them a chance to meet with people in the industry or professional positions they may be interested in for their new career. Besides, you could end up needing a favor from them one day as well.

The second way the conversation may go is if they say “yes.” They feel this position is the right one for them. You have come to an agreement with them that you will work together to make them successful because this career opportunity fits their values and the path they want to take as a professional. In this case you need to make sure they can see the road to success. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Put together some very easy metrics for them to follow to create a success plan. They must be written with timelines and volumes clearly spelled out. If it is a 30, 60 or 90 day plan, break the goals into smaller chunks you can measure weekly to make sure things are on track.
  2. Give them the tools they need. You need to evaluate whether you are supplying them with what they need to succeed. I see this with companies of all sizes. Cliché’s like “get ‘er done” and “I never had…” abound in these organizations. Invest in the right tools for your team so there is no reason for them to be distracted by what they don’t have.
  3. Give them the mentoring they need. It’s not micromanaging. It’s supporting them. Check in with them daily if necessary and see how they are doing. Go on appointments. Help them improve their networking skills by attending events with them. If they see you making the effort, they will make the effort. Leadership is about modeling behavior and showing the way.

So take the time to determine each team member’s “why.” The outcome for you is a healthier sales team that you know are the right fit for their job and driving better results for them and your organization.

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Jack Kelly
Jack Kelly
Jack founded the Corlea Group in early 2009 with his first client coming on board in January of that year. Jack loves to coach. He coaches his clients and he helps coach his kid’s teams – it’s his passion and has been for over 25 years as a professional, father and volunteer. Why? Because he likes to help a team succeed.
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