Five Steps For Turning Round an Underperforming Salesperson.

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They cost the company huge amounts of money. Lost opportunities, poor team morale, and misspent time and resources drain profitability. As a sales manager, underperformers often lead to much anxiety as you wonder what it is you can do to get them on track. How do you motivate them to be more successful? How much time and money should you spend? Do you even believe they can make it? This article explores this difficult situation and gives you 5 steps to help you turn your salesperson around.

Strengthen their strengths

Although it can be tempting to go straight to the problem, start with their strengths. Hold an initial meeting with them and talk to them about their strengths and successes so far.


Ask them about their successes. How did they do it? What can they do going forwards to emulate that success?


Get them to write down at least 5 activities they know that gets them results, and schedule it in their diary. Not only does this build rapport and motivation, this will encourage instant wins over the next week.

Include them

Although you will have clear ideas of where you want them to be in 6 months’ time, people are more likely to strive towards a goal if they have set it themselves.


Ask them where they want to be in 6 months’ time. Why? Get to the bottom of their drivers. What will it mean for them/ their family / personal life/ the team? Open up areas outside of job role and KPIs.


Get them to write out their goal (and what it would mean to them to achieve it) and give you a copy. Every time you have a 1-1 this goal should be out on the table for recap and discussion.

Isolate the problem(s)

The call records say your team member is only hitting half their call activity KPIs, so you may assume they need to get on the phones more or they need to manage their time better. But the frustrating thing is that they know what they must do. You have been over it time and time again with them, and they are still not doing it. There is often a ‘problem behind the problem’ and some thoughtful questioning is required to get to the bottom of it.

First, analyse relevant ratios and KPI data and have an open and honest conversation about their performance.


Then ask them to talk about their performance. Why are some KPIs lower than others? What challenges are they facing? What are the reasons behind it? What’s the impact? How are they feeling? Delve into it in detail.

As you did before, open other areas. What challenges are they facing with the team? The company, the culture, at home? Keep asking until you feel you have it all out on the table.


If there is a lot of blame, listen to their responses and put them into two categories:

“Things I can change”

“Things others can change”

Keep asking them how they can take control and change things themselves.

Gain commitment for change

Once you have isolated the problem(s) you can now help them create a long-term development plan to help them get back on track.


What can you do to overcome this problem?  What options do you have? What one thing will have the greatest impact on your results?


Get them to write their own development plan. This will give them ownership and make them more likely to stick to it. Break it into weekly goals and actions that you can review with them during your coaching sessions.

Coach for success

One big mistake many managers make is to set a development plan, file it in a dark cupboard and dust it off once a year at the performance review. The development plan should be a living, breathing document and should be used and celebrated in every coaching session. These regular coaching and shadowing sessions (weekly) are your chance to shine as a manager. This is where the real change happens.


During every coaching session ask, where are you in relation to your goal? What has been working? (do more) what hasn’t been working? (coach to improve) what are your goals for next week? How are you going to ensure you succeed?


Keep a record of all commitments made every week (you can ask them to email them to you, or update a SharePoint file). Review every week and you will quickly see what actions are working and which need more support or training.

In summary, having an underperforming team member costs time, money and stress. However, through analysis of the situation, inclusive goal setting, an updated development plan and consistent coaching, you can work with your team member to turn them around and grow a thriving, profitable sales team.

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