If you’re leading a direct sales team, you will eventually have to address a rep’s performance issues.
It will happen. As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you will hire somebody who seems like they should be knocking their numbers out of the park and… well… just isn’t doing that.
If you’re a direct sales team leader, you’re probably scratching your head. (Especially if you followed our guides for recruiting the best candidates.) You may panic, and second guess your hiring decision. Was this person a bad fit after all?
Well, take a deep breath. We’re going to help you determine whether your rep’s performance issues are due to bad habits that can be fixed, vs a bad fit which leads to you parting ways.
What’s the first step in this process?
Track, Track, Track
It’s not enough to just count up the number of sales at the end of the month. That can tell you a rep’s results, sure. But it doesn’t give you an insight into their habits.
For that, we’ll need to measure more metrics than just won deals.
You’ll want to be tracking all the aspects of their job you possibly can.
Is hitting the phones a part of their process? Track how many calls they make. Track how many times they actually talk to someone. Track how many appointments they set.
Are they not making enough calls? Are they making a ton of calls but not getting a hold of anyone? Do they talk to plenty of people but have issues setting appointments?
All of these can be indicators of bad habits. But they are totally different bad habits! Having the right data to pinpoint the right issues can make all the difference.
Be sure you’re measuring the number of touches, the number of demonstrations, and the close rate for your reps. Having that data will help you figure out where the issues are, so you can try and address the issue through follow-up training.
Find, And Address, The Breakdown
Take a look at your rep. The one with the performance issues. Look at all those numbers you’ve been tracking.
Now, take a look at your top-performing sales rep. Look at their numbers. Look for the differences.
Your top performer is making more calls or knocking on more doors? Has a higher rate of demonstrations? Higher close rate? Identify where the main departure happens and focus on that area to try and address habits.
Do this with training. First, follow the rep on a demo and watch their process. Ask yourself if they are following the steps according to your team’s tried and true processes. Are they able to break the ice? Can they give an effective demo? Are they able to answer questions thoroughly and confidently? If they aren’t, you should be able to see precisely where those problems are happening.
Once you’ve got a good idea what issues need to be addressed, pull them from the field and into a classroom style environment. Seriously.
You don’t want your rep to hit unnecessary rejection. You want to teach them how to overcome rejection! And you certainly don’t want to burn through customers.
Take the rep into a secure environment and do some training on that one problem issue.
Make sure they can fix the issue and run through a process correctly 3-4 times before you send them out. It’s hard to change habits, you’ll want it really cemented into their process before you send them back in the field.
This could take 20 minutes. This could take a few days of consistent practice. Work at the rep’s pace and make sure they’ve got it down.
After all, you want the people on your team to feel confident that they can perform! Taking the time to empower a struggling rep when they need it will pay dividends for them, for you, and for the whole team.
Less skilled? That’s okay! Give them a plan.
If this previous training process takes a while, many leaders may throw up their hands in frustration. This rep isn’t as skilled as the top performer, they may never reach the top of the leaderboard, hiring them may have been a mistake.
But honestly, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. A less-skilled direct salesperson can still be incredibly successful. It’s all about playing the numbers.
If you have a direct sales agent who maybe lacks the skill and finesse of your leading rep, they may just have a lower default closing rate. That’s a hurdle, for sure, but not an insurmountable one.
If they have a predictable, consistent close rate, it is fairly easy to reverse-engineer a formula to get them to their goals.
Let’s say your top guy has a 30% close rate, but your lowest performer has a 15% close rate. If they have a goal of 15 sales per month, your top sales rep needs to get in front of 50 people. Your lowest performer can hit that same number, but they’ll need to get in front of 100 people to do it.
And that is fine! As long as they work hard and are willing to put in the hustle, they can have a thriving direct sales career. As a leader, it’s your job to empower them to do just that.
So don’t discourage a struggling rep, give them an actionable plan to achieve their goals!
Bad Attitude = Bad Fit
But what if a low-performing rep doesn’t have any real issues with process… just attitude? They cut corners in their demo, they don’t make the effort to get out there and make contacts, they refuse to pick up the phone?
If someone is motivated, driven, and coachable, they have the ability to be successful in direct sales. If they aren’t, they won’t succeed no matter how skilled they are.
In short, a bad fit comes down to a bad attitude more than skill level.
Unfortunately, no amount of training can fix a bad attitude. Which is why the most important way to save your team from it is to identify and disqualify it during the hiring process.
Gauge Their Attitude In Interviews
When you’re interviewing new talent for your sales team, look for indicators of attitude.
Look for things like how well they maintain eye contact. Do they have good communication skills? Do they seem genuine, likeable, and interested?
Are they enthusiastic? Ask questions during the interview to try and get them excited. See how they respond to the most exciting aspects of direct sales. And ask them about their personal passions! After all, if they can’t get excited about their own interests, they won’t be excited about the product or service that you’re selling.
You’ll want someone open, genuine, and willing to engage. If they have that attitude, there is much that can be forgiven.
Verify Their Attitude With Personality Assessments
Let’s be real: the job interview isn’t exactly the most accurate representation of a candidate’s real personality. A candidate is putting their best foot forward, and they may be telling you what you want to hear.
Which is why it’s always smart to use a personality assessment tool to verify whether the candidate has the traits and temperament needed to succeed in direct sales.
Look for objective personality assessment tools that show reliable personality traits. (We’ve seen good results with Strengthsfinder, but there are other options available. Even the Myers-Briggs test can provide some helpful insights!)
Support Is Key
As a direct sales leader, you may be worried that you’ll hire a bad fit without knowing it. And you know what? You probably will. It’s okay. Everyone is bamboozled once in a while.
However, the more you’re able to identify the hallmarks of a poor attitude vs a natural, coachable enthusiasm, the easier it will be to make that call before the hire, when it matters most.
As long as your team is motivated to succeed, you as a leader can support them to do so. Isolate the issues, provide the support and training needed, and give them a plan for action, and you will see bad habits transformed and soothe your ‘bad fit’ worries.
As a sales team leader, you need support too. Solcomm is a direct sales leader in the telecom industry, and we provide support and assistance to small and growing direct sales organizations as they take the industry by storm. See how partnering with Solcomm as a master dealer can benefit your team today!