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How to Deal with Underperformance In Your Sales Team

by Tim Hughes | @Timothy_Hughes

It’s a common term, well here in the UK it is. “A Monkey” is often referred to as a problem.

As Business Leaders it is common that your employees and direct reports try and move problems from them to you.

For example, when I was giving out the targets for the year to an Italian Salesman that worked for me. The target was for $2.5 Million, something that with the right work ethic, direct sales execution ability and partner model was a stretch but achievable.

He turned to me and said “This target is great, but the way I see it working is that I will achieve $1.5 Million and you and the rest of the management team will be responsible for the other $1 Million.”.

Classic passing of “the monkey” from him to me.

I’m actually sure, his previous managers agreed with him on this, or just dismissed it. Either way, if I had walked away from that meeting, without doing something about that performance gap, there was a “mutual contract” being formed that in his mind he would only need to achieve $1.5 Million.

Another classic I came across many times was where an account was assume “dormant” and another salesperson, through a referral got a meeting in there only to discover some business.  Much to the annoyance of the salesperson whose account it was. I as the sales leader was supposed to sort this.

My view was that there was “wrongs” on both sides, but as any delegated sales force, that is where levels of authority are delegated down to sales person level, they should and need to sort this themselves.

Agreeing The Performance Gap – Reality 

Whenever you are in a “monkey” situation?

  1. Make clear the performance gap
  2. Tell them why it’s important to them
  3. Agree and ask them to take responsibility – (Always ask “Do you understand?”)
  4. Pause – Use silence
  5. Pass the Monkey (Employee accepts responsibility for problem resolution)
  6. Review Agreed Action Plan
  7. Ask Them How They Intend to take responsibility for each action
  8. Pause – Silence again adds emphasis
  9. Pass the monkey (Employee takes responsibility for action plan elements)

It’s critical at this point that the employee summarises back to you the action plan and how they can achieve it.  It is common place that employees “hear” something different to what you are saying.

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