Do You Have the Wrong Sales Reps?

Lolita might have been a bad fit for a fast paced startup

When I am hired, my clients always say two things:

“Our Sales Team isn’t selling enough!”

“We’re not sure if our Sales Team is doing all the right things.”

To address either of these, I begin by assessing the reps.

Why is This Important

Having the Wrong Reps will destroy your team. Unfortunately, it’s very common for a sales team to have some good, some mediocre, and some awful reps. This happens for several reasons:

  • It’s a byproduct of having the Wrong Sales Manager.
  • It’s the result of reps being hiring by people who are not experienced Sales Managers.
  • The company has changed over time and some reps are no longer a good fit.

Since I’ve never been asked to help a team where everyone is an All Star, even in cases where I’m hired to help expand a successful team, I’ll begin with an assessment of the reps.

Assessing the Sales Reps

I begin by meeting individually with every rep.

The purpose of the meeting is to understand the rep, assess his fit for the job, and begin building a relationship with him.

I want to learn what motivates him, how he handles challenges, and learn if he is internally or external driven. Although it’s unrealistic to learn all about a person from one conversation, a surprising amount will be revealed.

Prior to meeting, I’ll ask each rep to be prepared to discuss 4 things:

  1. What brought you to this job?
  2. What are we doing right?
  3. What are we doing wrong?
  4. Tell me something personal about you that I’d never know otherwise.

During our discussion, I’ll share some of my personal experiences including my mistakes, my concerns with this team, and how I have dealt with similar challenges or opportunities.

I’ll outline a few of my ideas regarding my sales strategy and will solicit the rep’s input. Most reps love to be included in these higher level discussions.

When a rep makes a good suggestion,  I’ll incorporate it into my sales plan and give the rep full credit publicly for the idea.

I will ask about the Rep’s sales process, his daily schedule, how he prospects, forecasts, and manages his pipelines. This will help me quickly understand where the sales team needs training & guidance. It also helps identify potential All Stars. The All Stars always stand out because they will articulate a process they follow that enables them to be successful.

Some reps are nervous, having rarely met with Senior Management before and wondering what might happen. Others are excited that someone is asking for their opinions and actually listening to them. Rarely will a rep be indifferent.

I try to make this meeting enjoyable and nonthreatening for the reps. I want them to feel comfortable approaching me to have a conversation.

Here are some of the interesting things I’ve been told during these meetings:

  • We have no pipeline management method. Every rep just does it the way he wants. 
  • I never wanted to be in sales, I just liked the people I met at the career fair. 
  • I am an artist – I do this because I need the money. (He actually brought a sculpture to the meeting).
  • I’m very money motivated (or I’m not money motivated).
  • I went to college for Furniture Making (or Agriculture or Accounting or International Studies or Economics).
  • I don’t need a sales process – I email blast or cold call indiscriminately and see what sticks.
  • All I want is to be able to go fishing every day at 5 PM. 
  • My goal is to make enough money so I can sponsor my family to help them immigrate to the US. 

Although these meetings help me assess the team, the true benefit is starting a relationship with the reps who makeup my new team. This has paid off for me innumerable times.

So few leaders do them, it’s a shame.

Administrative Recommendations for you

Take notes in your notebook during the meeting because there’s no way you can remember everything.  I suggest transferring these to your staff log later.

Each meeting should last 30-45 minutes. Give yourself a break if at least 15 minutes between meetings. You’ll need this to clear your head and empty your bladder.

With teams of up to 10 Reps, you can cover these meetings in a day or two.

The largest team I ever took over had 60 Reps.  I had 5 days of back-to-back meetings my first week on the job. It was exhausting but built a foundation with my team.

After meeting with the Reps, I’ll dig into the sales metrics, CRMs, statistics and other data that’s available. I’ll meet with managers from other departments, my boss, and others who regularly interact with sales.

After doing this, I’ll review my notes and will start to identify 4 groups of reps:

  • All Stars – These are clearly the right people for the job, are doing great and should be groomed for advancement asap.
  • Potential All Stars – These reps seem to have the right attitude and some of the right skills but need more training, mentoring and coaching.
  • Mediocre reps – These reps are just filling a seat. They meet minimum performance standards (the pre-Inside Sales Dude standards)  but have no interest in developing themselves or in helping the company. Some of them are here for the paycheck. Others are using sales as a springboard for another position in the company. A few might blossom under the Right Sales Manager but most will probably leave the team.
  • Wrong Reps – They need to go asap. If they are good employees in the wrong role they should be transitioned out. If they are bad employees they should be fired asap.

Many reps were working for the Wrong Manager.   If they never had the benefit of working for someone who knew how to help them, I’m going to give them the chance to prove themselves with me. That’s why I won’t just come in and clean house.

That said, the vetting process will still be fast. Within 3 months, the Wrong Reps will be gone, the Mediocre Reps will either be improving or on their way out , and the Potential All Stars & All Stars will be advancing their skills and careers.

My gym. I am self motivated.

What Makes the Right Sales Rep?

I purposely avoided listing the attributes of the Right Sales Rep up until now.  If you want a list of the “Top 10 Characteristics of a Great Sales Rep”, you can find this anywhere on the Internet.

I’ve managed many outstanding reps who didn’t fit the mold.  So instead of looking for natural born salespeople who are former athletes, highly competitive, Type A, extroverts who are money motivated, I want people who:

  • Are self motivated. A Rep needs to have an inner motivation that drives him. I can tap into his motivation to help him, but I cannot create that motivation.
  • Are a good cultural fit. Some sales teams are hard charging. Others are more analytical. Some are competitive. Others use team based selling. Startups, SMBs, and Enterprise teams all require different skills. I look for reps who can adapt to the culture I am trying to create.
  • Have All Star potential. All Stars share common traits like determination, fact-based decision making, a willingness to learn, and self confidence tempered by a dose of humility.
  • Have a strong desire to achieve goals. The goal might be sales results, career advancement, money or something else. I’ve found that reps who are not goal oriented usually end up being mediocre.
  • Display empathy for others. I don’t want the hard-charging, cowboy rep who refuses to be a team player. No matter how good his numbers are, he’ll become a cancer on the team.

Depending on the specific role, I may want people who have specific technical skills or experience. But usually I’ll make these prerequisites for new hires. With existing reps, if they are willing to put in the work, I’ll teach them the skills they need.

Next Steps

If you are saying any of these things:

  •  “Our Sales Team isn’t selling enough!”  
  • “We’re not sure if our Sales Team is doing all the right things.”
  • “Do we have the Right Sales Reps?”

Then you are overdue for a Sales Assessment. Start by looking at your reps. Then your manager. And finally your processes and systems. If you want some help, give me a call.

The answers are right in front of you.

If you want some help building your sales team or improving sales, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you. 

If you liked this article, please forward it to a friend, send me a note, comment, or like it on LinkedIn. 

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