When Enough Isn’t Enough

One client finally heeded some advice they hadn’t responded to for several years. They finally decided to replace 90% of their underperforming independent reps with direct salespeople. They certainly thought it through for a long enough time, considering the implications to the remaining reps, salespeople, customers and employees; programs, applications, legacy knowledge and costs. So on some magical day this year a transition will take place and the company will usher in the new era of performance and accountability. Or so it seems.

The strategy is really quite good, one that many more companies should embrace. However, the strategy is not complete. Missing are two components which, if not included, will cause the strategy to fail. It’s one thing to develop a recently hired new salesperson. It’s quite another to start a new sales force from scratch and the lack of a development plan spelled potential doom. The second problem is that among the holdover direct salespeople, none of them can serve as role models because none exhibit the combination of behaviors, skills, attitudes and commitment to consistently execute for success.

In a scenario like this, the development plan must be intense, comprehensive, front-loaded, and include a tremendous amount of training, both product and selling skills. This is where the sales pre-employment assessment must be upgraded to a full evaluation and the new salesperson must work to overcome the weaknesses identified. More direction, support, coaching and motivation than normal must be available during this period with time set aside for practice.

A more difficult challenge is the lack of a role model. When you have existing salespeople and can’t point to a single one that a new salesperson can emulate, it’s more difficult for a new salesperson to understand how to execute and meet expectations. One mistake is for a sales manager to say, ‘just emulate me.’ Unless the sales manager is maintaining a complete sales itinerary and has given up sales management, there won’t be anything positive to emulate and this is the time when sales managers must be doing just that. Managing, not making sales. A better option is to identify a salesperson in the industry that consistently executes and achieves the results you want. An attempt can be made to hire that person in advance of the recruiting initiative, hoping that he can be the role model when the new people come on board.