Interview: How to Manage Underperforming Salespeople

Interview with Tommy Sim: How to Manage Underperforming Salespeople

Transcript for Managing Underperforming Salespeople:

Ben Lai

Hi, guys. It’s Ben Lai from Sales Ethos. Today I’ve got a returning special guest, Tommy Sim from beyond HR and Inject. And today Tommy, I’ve got a difficult question for you. And that is that when you have underperforming salespeople, what’s the best way to manage that situation and that person?

Managing Underperforming Salespeople tip #1: Have the right measures

Tommy Sim 

Well, I think the first thing Ben is to make sure you have the right measures in place. A lot of companies have just revenue as their performance measurement, and particularly in b2b sales, where there are long sales cycles is that they look at the number and ask the question as to why the numbers not there. And there can be a conversation, particularly if a salesperson feels like they’re under attack, there can be this defense mode that takes place. And when people are defensive, then you’re not getting the real story.

Ben Lai 

Hmm, absolutely. And so what are some of the things to avoid to cause them to feel that way?

Managing Underperforming Salespeople tip #2: Create a safe space

Tommy Sim 

Yeah, well, I think they want to create a safe environment for them. And this is even when you have somebody who may not even be right for the business. Because if you’re at loggerheads around what the facts actually are, as to what’s actually taking place, you spend all your time arguing and debating as to, you know, what, what information is there? And what the facts actually are. If you’re on the same page as to what the facts are, you can then have a proper discussion.

Ben Lai 

And and so you mentioned that you need to have the right measurements in place. And this is something that I really firmly believe in that it’s not enough just to measure revenue, right? It’s, and I would go so far to say that even the number of meetings or the number of calls is still not, not good enough. But in your opinion, what, what do you think are the better metrics to use so that a person can know that, “Hey, I’m not doing that well!” aside from the revenue?

Tommy Sim 

Yeah, I mean, and and you’re right, in terms of the number of meetings on its own is not always a great measure. Because you’ve got the quality of those meetings, and you’ve got the number of meetings with the target market. So you think about sales results, you’ve got the activities, and you’ve got the technique. So these the two variables in there. So is the person performing the right activities? And are they doing it in the right way? So you need to know those things. So of course, sales managers are going to go out on the road and to see their sales people in meetings with people. That’s the first thing to see, to watch and observe them. So are they going to see the right people? Are… Do they know the strategy? A lot of people can be doing 10-15 meetings a week with the wrong types of prospects? And then they have a false pipeline. It might… They might actually believe that this pipeline is real themselves, but they’re kidding themselves. And they feel very busy. And the sales aren’t coming and the conversations are coming and coming, but they’re not.

Ben Lai 

And so therefore, going along with them to see how it is that they conduct those meetings, is important. And I guess that’s kind of a call for sales training, the thing that I do!

Tommy Sim 


Ben Lai 

Or coaching in order to help them to constantly improve on those skills, so that the activities are producing the right sort of results.

Managing Underperforming Salespeople: Provide training & coaching

Tommy Sim 

Yeah, and one of the… We in Australia, we love this kind of “She’ll be right mate!” approach to things where it’s like you… You tell the person what they meant to be doing. So just say you go you observing this person. You say, okay, now what you need to be doing is this, this, and this. And then you say that to the person. “So what do you… Do you understand what I’m saying?” And the answer, of course, is “Yeah, of course I understand what he’s saying!” And then they go and do it completely different to what you… What you say. So, there needs to be that muscle memory. If you think about what we… How we teach someone to say kick a footy, or to do something else is to you know, explain to the person, you know, you hold the ball this way, you drop it that way. Okay, you know how to do that, and then they go out to the game. But, that’s not how that works.

Ben Lai 

Yeah, yeah, that’s a that’s a beautiful illustration. In fact, I shared a video recently about how Michael Jordan practiced. Then he said that the way that he practices is like, the real game. And so therefore, when he… When he gets out into the high pressure situation, everything is reflex, nothing is new. And so what you’re suggesting is that in addition to training, there has to be constant reinforcement.

You gotta revisit the same concepts and practice them over and over again, until they improve. And so for the underperforming salesperson, helping… If you want to help them, this is one of the ways that you can do that. Put them through the training, and get them to repeat the phrases and the ways that they hold the sales meetings. But in addition to that, I loved your insights about having the right metrics in place. Not just the revenue, but also… But not just the meetings, but the quality of those interactions as well. So I think you’ve covered that topic quite well, Tommy, so we’ll wrap it up there.


But want to bring it all back to you. What do you guys think? If you have an underperforming salesperson, what are the best things to do? Do you… What sort of conversations should you have? What are the metrics that you use in your organization? Leave a comment below. Don’t forget to click like and subscribe. And remember that integrity plus skills equals success! Thanks, Tommy!

Tommy Sim 

Thanks, Ben!

Related Articles to Managing Underperforming Salespeople:

Interview: What to look for when recruiting salespeople

How to Use Call Volume as a Sales Performance Metric

Should I Train or Fire an Underperforming Sales Rep? | Sales Management Training

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