19 September 2023 |

Hire Or Fire?

By Alex Alleyne

All great sales leaders do three things very well. They bring out the best in their teams, act decisively, and paint a precise picture of success. 

Why are these actions necessary? During one of my recent leadership roles, I knew we were in trouble almost immediately. A good portion, maybe even half, of the team wasn’t cutting it and would have to go. I knew it. I felt it immediately. But how would I demonstrate this to the organization and show the people who would remain (and showed potential) that I wasn’t simply a tyrannical leader out for change? 

This is Performance Management, and doing it right will change you as a sales leader. 

My Three keys to better Performance Management.

Start With A Baseline

Sales targets are the ultimate measure of success in any organization. But they’re not enough. Every sales team member needs to understand what success looks like under your leadership. That means clarity around what is expected in performance, behaviour, and numbers. Drawing this line in the sand will give you the insight into who you can trust to do the job and the data to support making the changes for those who don’t, can’t, or won’t. 

Highlight: Too many leaders take too long to decide whether to change mid-level or underperforming sales teams. These delays cost an organisation dearly, sometimes in sales, sometimes in opportunity. Don’t be fearful of moving fast. It will be better for you (and your team) in the long run. 

Leverage Your Tools

You do not need to reinvent the wheel when dealing with underperforming sales teams. I’m a fan of and have extensively used PIPs or Performance Improvement Plans. A PIP is my way of documenting exactly how and what you expect from your underperforming seller. Created hand-in-hand with your HR team, a PIP gives us clear criteria that have to be met and a clear picture of when things aren’t working out (and it’s time to move someone out of the business). 

Highlight: Every PIP needs to be fair and balanced. The goal shouldn’t be to make the PIP impossible to achieve. If you’re that convinced someone needs to go, remove them immediately. A PIP shows your team that you’re committed to giving them a chance if they’re willing to do the work. 

Review, Review, Review 

Finally, great leaders stay involved and up-to-date. You’ve got to measure, review, and address performance weekly (if not daily). Managing a sales team isn’t set it and forget it. You’ve got to get in there and assess performance, strive for marginal gains, and avoid things slipping through the cracks. Focus on the data, don’t get emotionally attached, but don’t lose the empathy employed by all great leaders. 

Highlight: Tough decisions are made easier when you know, down to the smallest detail, what is going on inside your sales team. Underpin your decisions with data, be willing to make tough decisions, but always lead from a place of care. 

Until next week, my fellow sales leaders.