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often know the source of their poor performance as well. “You have to do the asking before you can do the fix- ing,” he explains. “It’s just like with a customer.” They know if their product knowledge isn’t up to snuff. Or if they just haven’t been able to bite the bul- let and make those dozen-a-day cold calls. Or if they’re lagging because of pressures and stress on the home front. And it’s usually readily appar- ent whether they have what it takes to make the needed adjustments and get back with the program. Once you’ve identified the core is- sues, you’re in a position to work with the rep to create a plan. One sales di- rector for a regional telecom relies on the “SMART” approach to goal set- ting for her team of 10: Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and realistic, and Time-bound. “Figure goals over the next month, next quarter, next six months,” she recommends. And then follow up. “You don’t just set those goals and walk away,” she said. You check in on a regular basis and meet with the rep one on one. Even with this level of knowledge


and attention, turnaround unfortu- nately isn’t a sure thing. Once you’ve taken these specific steps, “you’ve probably got about a 50% chance of keeping them,” she says. The prob- lem is that, often, the salesperson is just incapable of making the changes needed to come up to par. So, after a reasonable amount of time, you may need to cut the rep loose. “Hanging onto people too long isn’t a good thing,” she says. Basically, as soon as you’re sure they can’t make the grade, they need to be cut. Remind yourself that you’re doing the employee a fa- vor, too, she says. “They’re struggling. Let them move on to something that’s a better fit.” The sales director recommends taking the same analytical approach with a rep who’s causing problems because of their attitude. And both managers warn against letting a bad apple slide just because they’re pulling in the biggest orders. Poor at-


titudes can be poison not just for your sales team, but for the entire organi- zation. Difficult as it may be, you must confront the individual about unsatis- factory behavior. Unlike the rep whose numbers are


suffering, the prima donnas often are surprised to be called on the carpet, says the general manager. “Most of them are shocked,” he says – not because they weren’t aware of their poor behavior, but because they had thought their status in the President’s Circle exempted them from team requirements and common courtesy. Don’t beat around the bush or


sidle up to the topic; come to them with a list of specific examples and a warning, he suggests. Present the evidence and say, “Your behavior is going to cause me, despite your per- formance, to think about letting you go.” The specifics aren’t only ammu- nition to counter their defensive pos- turing, but are necessary to cover your bases if it comes to the point that you have to terminate them. You must provide a road map of their problems and your attempts to encourage them to change. “You have to have three, four, 10 different examples in differ- ent situations,” he says. “You have to document things. You have to make


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Rejection just motivates me to keep trying and to try to do better. SASHA GREY


things as specific as possible.” Specificity is important when laying out how you want your rep’s behav- ior to change, as well. “Once you’ve shared the feedback with them, you have to have a way of measuring improvement,” he continues. Break down the precise behavior changes you need to see and traits they need to exhibit. Examples: coaching less- experienced reps, working effectively with other team members, supporting other departments. Then coach them toward these results. For example, the sales director says some of her diva salespeople often play the “blame game” and say the reason they chewed out the manufac- turing team was that they deserved


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