How do you deal with failing sales team members?

When you lead a sales team, dealing with team members who aren’t hitting their targets is part of the job. How is the best way to keep the team performing when one individual isn’t? 3 top SaaS sales leaders tell Sales Confidence.

Last month we staged our 3rd Sales Confidence live event at Level 39 in Docklands. 350 SaaS devotees gathered to hear 3 of the most knowledgeable sales leaders in London tell us their secrets. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our articles.

Any questions

After our expert panel had finished their talks, I asked for questions from our large audience of SaaS sales professionals. Our first question was about what makes your team stand out from the crowd, you can read the answer here.

The next question concerned people who stand out in a different way.

‘How do you handle individuals who are failing?’

Jacqueline De Gernier

Jacqui, our sales leader from DocuSign got the ball rolling on this. She had one golden rule, speed.

‘Deal with it quickly. You always have a clear sense if somebody isn’t going to make the grade. Perhaps it was a bad hire. Perhaps they’ve lost their relish for the role. If you see that’s the case, act quickly.’

Jacqui’s second piece of advice was whatever you do, make sure you stay on the right side of employment law.

‘Engage with your HR partner, internally or externally, from the start. This gives you a clear idea of the process you need to follow. You don’t want to waste time or cost your company money.’

Peter Crosby

Peter, our award-winning CRO from Triptease, echoed Jacqui’s sentiments, but added one of his own, concerning the effect of a failing team member on the team’s culture.

‘There’s often a fear that you’re going to destroy the culture or make people really unhappy when you have to deal with people who are failing. In fact, it’s the reverse. People in sales teams tend to know who is underperforming, and they can’t understand why they have to meet their targets why this other guy doesn’t.’

Peter also said moving people on from a company can actually be a blessing in disguise for the salesperson concerned too.

‘The amount of people I’ve had where we’ve had to move them on because it wasn’t quite working, where they’ve come back to me 2 or 3 years a later and they say ‘I’m having this incredibly successful career and it wouldn’t have happened without this thing that happened to me.’ It makes you realise you don’t have to worry so much about it.’

Anna Mazzone

Our final panellist to answer was Anna Mazzone from Aravo Solutions. She told us a story of when she had to make some tough decisions.

‘I decided I had to let someone go after I’d brought them on, after just 90 days in the company, not something our company would typically do. A CEO told me ‘Anna, one of the things you have to think about is you only have so much bandwidth in your brain to deal with running a business, scaling that team etc. If that individual is taking up that much bandwidth, you aren’t able to give it to the rest of the business.’ Making that decision was good for the overall business, because they were starting to drag the rest of the organisation back.’

Amazing advice, there are only a finite number of hours in the day, you can’t waste them on people who are pulling the team back.

James Ski

No one asked me to weigh in on this at the event, so I guess I better do it now!

All our panellists offered great advice on how to handle people in your team who aren’t performing. I would add a couple of things though.

I’m big on self-awareness, as you probably know. While I definitely subscribe to the panellists’’ view that it’s probably best to move failing team members out of your organisation sooner rather than later, I think it’s also an opportunity to look at yourself. How could you run your team differently so people are less likely to fail? Could you be monitoring your team better? Do you have a playbook, and is it still relevant to the kind of business you’re doing? Are you removing enough obstacles from their way?

Keep looking at how you can improve, so your team can improve with you.

Over to you

What do you think? Do you subscribe to the ‘hire slow, fire fast’ mantra, or do you believe you can turn round a consistently underperforming salesperson? How do you deal with failing individuals in your sales team? Leave the Sales Confidence community a comment to let us know.

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