Tag Archive for: Successful Salespeople

How to Deal with Underperforming Sales Reps

On any sales team, there are top, mid-level, and bottom performers. It’s easy to know what to do with the first two – keep paying them to produce results! Sales leaders often have more trouble dealing with underperformers.

When I consult as a Fractional VP of Sales, I typically see two problems with underperforming reps: 1) they are left on the team to dwindle or; 2) they have a high level of staff turnover. So, what is the right way to handle your underperformers? Hint: the answer is not to immediately fire them!

How to Assess Your Bottom Performers

As a sales leader or business owner, you need to approach unsatisfactory sales performance from a place of curiosity. In other words, you should be asking why your bottom performers are struggling to get results. Here are three questions you can ask to get to the bottom of poor sales performance:

  • Why is the person in question producing at that level?
  • Why is that person going about their sales job in the present manner?
  • What is motivating this salesperson to chronically underperform?

An astute manager will flip this hierarchy of questions around and start by asking about motivation. It’s something that I don’t see managers consider very often, but it is absolutely the most effective way to get to the crux of the problem. That’s because there are two main drivers for success as a salesperson: competence and motivation.

How Competence Influences Success as a Salesperson

If we consider competence to mean knowledge and the skill needed to apply that knowledge, then it’s possible to teach salespeople things to empower them to improve their performance.

If someone is performing poorly in sales, it could be that…

  • you’re not giving them what they need to succeed
  • they don’t know what tools to ask for
  • they know what they need but are afraid to speak up
  • they don’t know how to use the tools they already have

For example, the CRM provided to a sales team may be either insufficient or too complex for some salespeople. Or perhaps they are expected to use technology platforms they’re not adequately trained on, which negatively affects their interactions with potential customers.

Whatever the specific issue may be, you can ensure that competence is not the problem by providing all the tools and training necessary for a person to improve their performance.

How Motivation Influences Success as a Salesperson

If you understand a person’s motivators when it comes to their job, you can feed them those motivators to set the stage for success. To know what motivates someone, you as a leader need to get to know your people.

Whether you choose to do that in a direct or roundabout way, you need to understand exactly what drives a bottom performer. Is it achievement? Do they enjoy competition? Do they prefer to work as part of a team? Do they shy away from public recognition, or thrive on it? Perhaps they’re motivated by a mix of money and an innate desire to help people.

Every person has a different mix of motivators that drive them to perform. Note that not every salesperson has money as their number one motivator. With that being said, if money is not in their top three motivators, they’re likely in the wrong job.

The Influence of the Interpersonal

As a business leader, you need to know how your people are doing as human beings in general. What’s going on in someone’s life outside of work can have a profound impact on how they show up in their job. In fact, one of the top indicators of job performance is the direct relationship between an employee and their superiors.

If you have no idea how they are doing as people, you’ll likely be at a loss for how to help them succeed. How you choose to get to know your people is up to what is appropriate for you and your style. Take whichever path you’d like, as long as you get there – or else, risk high turnover.

How to Deal with Bottom Performers Based on Your Assessment

So, now you have your diagnostic checklist for assessing a poor performer:

  • Are they competent (have you given them the tools they need to succeed)?
  • Are their motivators the type that will position them for success as a seller?
  • What’s going on in their life outside of work?

With all this information, you can figure out whether you’ve got what Jim Collins would call ‘the right person on the bus’.

You may find that with the right training and motivators, a bottom performer is in fact in the right seat on the bus and can get results when given the right tools. But not all salespeople are cut out for the role.

Someone may be an amazing fit for a different role in your company. For instance, you may find you have a bottom performer on a sales team who doesn’t have a competitive streak and doesn’t like asking for business. In that case, they’re not right for a sales role, but may be amazing in a customer service or account management role. In other words, they’re in the wrong seat on the right bus. Now it’s a matter of moving that person to a different seat on the company bus where they can excel.

If you’ve been through the diagnostic list and determined that someone is not capable of performing well in any role in the company, then they’re not a fit for your business. They’re on the wrong bus altogether, and it’s time to exit them (in a respectful way that allows them to succeed in the future of course- but that’s a topic for another post)!

If you’d like to talk through how to approach bottom-tier salespeople on your team, reach out to me and I’d be happy to help.

Top Three Sales KPIs to Ensure Steady Revenue Generation

When things are going well and your sales are up, you can sit back and relax, right? Wrong! Business leaders tend to sound the alarm when sales are already down – but if you’ve waited until your revenue has dipped, it’s already too late.

Find out why the best time to question your approach to revenue generation is when your sales are up, and the three leading indicators you should consider when doing so.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait for a Dip in Sales to Optimize Your Sales Process

Imagine you’re walking along in the mountains and you take a path going down toward a valley. If you go too far in that direction without being sure that’s the way you want to go, it’ll be a long hike back up.

If you’re already at the bottom of a sales valley when you realize you need to do something about it and ring the alarm, you’ve clued in much later than you need to and have made climbing back up the mountain very difficult.

Typically, sales are measured at the end of a quarter. When sales are trending down, business owners often don’t sound the alarm because they assume it’s just a temporary dip. The next thing they know, another 90 days have gone by and they’re in the valley of despair, sounding the alarm that something needs to be fixed. 

Unfortunately, two quarters have gone by and now there are only another two left to get sales back up. In other words, an entire calendar year can be negatively affected if course corrections aren’t made in the first quarter or two.

So, what can you do to make sure you’re not too far down the valley before you realize sales are going to dip? What you need is a map that can help you continue your journey without losing elevation. This is where leading indicators (KPIs) come in.

The Top 3 Indicators for Assessing Sales Performance from a Fractional VP of Sales

If you’re a business owner and you want to significantly decrease the number of times you find yourself in a sales valley, you need leading indicators in place that you and your team follow diligently to understand if and why your sales are going to go down. These are the top three sets of indicators to consider.

Leading Indicator 1: Sales Activity Levels

 This category of indicators looks at crucial activities that lead to revenue down the road. If two or three weeks go by and sales activity levels are below where they should be, it is virtually guaranteed that it will lead to a low-revenue month.

There are many specific indicators you could choose from, but the top three must-haves are:

  • On a per-sales rep basis, how many sales calls or meetings with potential buyers are happening per week?
  • How many proposals are being sent out weekly?
  • How many hours per week does the team spend prospecting?

In my role as Fractional VP Sales, I often encounter sales leaders in small to medium enterprises who are not comfortable checking in with their salespeople about these indicators because they don’t want to be perceived as micromanaging. If you want a clear picture of whether your sales are on track or not, you need to keep track of these metrics.

Leading Indicator 2: Top-of-Funnel Health Check

The next set of crucial indicators for assessing and optimizing your sales process relates to the top and middle of your sales funnel. Bearing in mind your conversion rate from proposals issued to deals won…

  • At the top of the funnel, you should have at least three times the revenue opportunities that you need to meet your target for a given period. For example, if your monthly target is 100k in revenue, you should have 300k worth of opportunities at the top of the funnel. This is because typically, two-thirds of your opportunities won’t convert into paying customers.
  • In the middle of the funnel, you should have at least two times your target revenue forecasted to close in the next 30 days (if you’re measuring monthly) or 60 days to close (if you’re measuring quarterly).

If at any time you’re not meeting one of these minimums, a month or quarter down the road, you won’t meet your revenue goals. Based on these metrics, it will be obvious what you need to do to course correct depending on where you’re stuck.

Leading Indicator 3: Revenue Closed

Although this is classically a lagging indicator that shows what you’ve done, it can also be a leading indicator of what your team is capable of doing. It helps you understand your conversion rate and forecast the results you can get if you continue to do what you’re doing. Thus, it’s another opportunity to gain some insight to inform course correction to achieve the targets you want.

When you’re at the top of a sales peak, your valleys can be anticipated by looking at these leading indicators. The pitfall for most business leaders is to be happy when things are going well and then focus their attention elsewhere. Instead, you should be asking what will happen to sales in 30, 60, and 90 days based on your assessment of these indicators.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to applying these high-level tips to your business, and far more detail than can be covered in a blog. I’m always happy to have a conversation about how this applies to you, so please contact me for more information.



How to Assess Your Sales Strategy and Execution

Even if a business is well established, the sales strategy should be assessed at least once every six months. A good leader will pause to assess the sales results, then course correct on strategy and execution to ensure the company stays on track to hit its goals. As the old saying goes “if you do what you always did, you will get what you always got”.


  1. Assess the Sales Execution

As a business owner, you can take many approaches when assessing your sales strategy and results.  The approach below starts from sales execution and works its way up to the overarching strategy.

Here are the core questions you should ask related to sales execution…

  • How well do we conduct thorough, professional sales meetings with buyers?
  • How well do we currently navigate our buyers’ decision-making processes?
  • How well do we sell the value of our solutions versus their features?

If your answer to any of the questions above is “not very”, take steps to get your team the resources and education they need allow them to be successful in the sales arena. If your team lacks the skill or knowledgebase to execute, even the best strategy will never work.


  1. Evaluate the Supporting People and Systems

Once you’ve assessed the ability of your team to execute on the strategy then look inward to determine how well the organization has been doing in providing the team the necessary tools to facilitate their selling.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself (on a looking forward basis) about how the organization can support the ongoing sales effort…

  • What new or different marketing support will your sales team need to help them attract buyers that match your ICP (ideal customer profile) and execute on their daily sales activities?
  • What new or different after admin support will your sales team need to free them up to execute on more of their daily sales activities?
  • What new or different products/pricing [if any] will your sales team need to help them improve their results?
  • Will the CRM (customer relationship management software) configuration need to be adjusted to support the sales approach?
  • How will the weekly team and one-on-one sales coaching need to be structured to support sales success?
  • Is the staff compensation plan structured to incentivize the sales behaviours that will act in support of the strategy?
  1. Review the Sales Strategy

Strategy is a broad topic in business. So, to assess your sales strategy start by considering the following questions…


Are our Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas accurate?

It might be that the people the team used to sell to are now in fact the wrong people to sell to. Double check that your team are having conversations with the right buying influences.


Is the business we are winning the business that we want to win?

Sometimes the sales path of least resistance leads sales to say yes to opportunities that are in fact outside of the strategy. Has this been happening to you? Is your team in fact applying sales efforts to the wrong type of prospect client?


How is our profitability?

Sometimes we aim for business of the type we believe we would like, but over time determine that it is problematic business (unprofitable, unwieldy to service, difficult to retain etc).  Such a revelation may in fact take you back to the start of your strategy planning and result in significant course correction interventions. In my experience as a fractional VP sales I’ve seen that companies unwilling to “rip off the Band-Aid” and re-strategize suffer greater in the long run than they would have by addressing the situation in the short run.


Plan-Do-Assess & Course Correct-Repeat

I recommend to business-to-business sellers as well as business to consumer sellers the simple approach of Plan-Do-Assess & Course Correct-Repeat.  The Plan piece is blue sky time and fun. The Do part is exhilarating and rewarding. The Assess & Course Correct component however is the heavy lifting element. The team needs to pause the exhilarating Doing and be ready to face the reality that they may have been marching in the wrong direction or climbing the wrong hill.


  1. Hire a Fractional VP of Sales

As always, there is a great deal nuance in applying the principles I’ve outlined above. And it takes time which not every leader has in abundance. My role as a fractional VP of sales allows me to facilitate this process and much more. I’m happy to speak with you if you would like to learn more [email protected].


The Top 5 Traits of Successful Salespeople

Show me a salesperson who works 60-hour weeks and I’ll show you someone who is inefficient, ineffective, frustrated and likely to leave you sometime soon.  They appear committed and passionate, then they’ve quit and you have a hole to fill.

It’s been my experience that the best sellers don’t log a ton of overtime.  They may work late here and there (prepping for that big presentation) but otherwise they show up on time and leave on time. 

If the path to sales excellence isn’t paved with copious hours worked, then what’s the secret?

As with excellence in any endeavor, overachievement in sales is not due to any one trait, but several.

Here are the top 5 traits of successful salespeople.


The best sales representatives are organized.  Their calendars are full of meetings, often color coded by type.  Their Task list is ever present with only a few overdue items.  When there is a big presentation scheduled, there is corresponding prep time scheduled too.  When something is due from them, it’s on time.



A good salesperson will spot things that need (or will need) doing to move their deals forward and they do them.  They actively look for ways to wow buyers, and they make them happen.  They invite the right internal stakeholders to meetings, grabbing a piece of their calendar with ample notice.



Your best salespeople have a burning desire to bring people (aka. buyers) to their way of thinking.  They enjoy turning a No into a Yes if they believe doing so will help the customer.  They want to earn an above average income.  They are competitive in a positive way and aren’t shy about it.



A top seller will regularly read books and articles, attend workshops and seminars as well as other learning opportunities related to their craft.  If asked, at any given time they’ll have at least one business book on the go.  They’ll also read in other disciplines to inform their approach to their craft (yes, they view sales as a craft).



The best athletes on earth need a good coach to help them excel, as do your top sales reps. The cream of the crop will be salespeople that embody all of these traits while still being humble enough to receive feedback from their (fractional) VP of sales or sales manager.

In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, I’ve had the pleasure to work with many sellers.  Some great, many very good and a few that were miscast.  The myth that the Gift of the Gab = Great Salesperson is just that, a myth.  Meet with your best and my guess is they’ll display most of the foundational traits and characteristics listed above.  Encourage the rest of your team to follow suit and watch results improve. 

As always, there is lots of nuance to the application of the concepts I’ve noted.  I’m happy to chat further about them with you [email protected].