The harsh reality of being in a management role is that you’re going to have to make tough decisions about who to keep on your staff and who to let go. In the world of sales, high turnover is more commonplace, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
However, if you’ve identified an underperforming rep that needs to go, then you should have a process in place before you fire them. There are four crucial steps you need to take before firing a sales rep to ensure a smooth transition and minimize the impact on your financial results.
One of the first things you should do before firing a sales rep is to figure out how to cover their accounts once they’ve been terminated. Keep in mind, it may take a few weeks, or even a few months until you find and hire a top sales rep to replace them. However, if you take the time to create a solid plan beforehand, then you will have a more seamless transition.
The first thing you need to do is review the rep’s current account coverage and whether or not there are clients issues to address. Since you’re firing the sales rep for poor performance, there are likely going to be some difficulties that arise and some unhappy clients. Think through how to deal with potential problems that may come up and how you can earn back the trust of the client. You don’t want to be caught off-guard about an ongoing problem when reaching out to clients and not have a solution already worked out.
Next, you need to assign someone to call the terminated rep’s clients and prospects. This person can be the business owner, sales leader, or even another sales rep assigned to cover the account during the transition. Ideally, this person should be a manager and they should be expected to handle the accounts until a new rep is hired.
Finally, you need to figure out what this person is going to say to the clients and prospects. The best way to address the firing is to keep it simple and give clients the least amount of detail as possible. For example, ‘[Sales Rep’s Name] is no longer with our company, but I want to tell you about who will be handling your account and how we’re going to move forward.’
If you don’t have solid account coverage during the transition and work to repair any damaged client relationships, it can look unprofessional and you risk losing a lot of business.
HONE YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION
Many sales rep hires fail because of a lack of clear focus on the part of management. Leaders are unclear about what they expect from their sales reps and this is apparent in the job description and interview process. Candidates are left with many questions and tend to substitute their own set of expectations and develop their own assumptions. Unfortunately, this lack of communication leads to poor hiring decisions, and eventually, to terminating the sales rep.
Instead, you should think twice before you post the same old job description you’ve been using to hire sales reps. Think of using your experience with the poor performer as a chance to learn what went wrong and where you can improve. What requirements can you tweak or background information can you change?
If you know what kind of background and experience your current star sales reps have, then make sure to include that in the job description. If you’re more specific upfront about the type of candidate you want, then you will be able to attract and interview more qualified candidates.
REFINE YOUR SELECTION PROCESS
In addition to reworking your job description, you might also need to rework your selection process. If you’re not able to distinguish a top performer from an under performer from a resume or during a single interview, then you need to try a different approach.
One way to gauge the potential of a sales candidate and whether they will be successful in your position is to incorporate assessments into your process. Once they’ve taken the test, make sure to match the results to a specific behavioral profile. The behavioral profile should consist of the characteristics and qualities you deem necessary to be successful in your company and in the position.
Another way to have more success during the selection process is to add multiple interviewers. Many salespeople are skilled at selling both their product and themselves, which can make it difficult to determine their competency during the interview process. Instead of having just one person interview the sales candidates, consider who else should be involved in the selection process to help make a better decision.
Keep in mind, the people on your team should have discretion if you’re trying to get a new person in place before terminating the low performer. Depending on the role, the size of your company, and people involved in the selection process, this may be difficult to do.
CONSIDER HIRING A SPECIALIST
Finally, before you cut the low performer, you should consider calling in outside reinforcements for help. Using a recruiting partner that specializes in sales recruitment can handle the search discreetly without having to involve multiple members of your team.
Also, a sales recruiting firm has access to a specialized talent pool and resources that many companies don’t. And finally, a recruitment firm can craft an appealing job description and use a proven selection process to hire star sales talent.
Before you fire a low performing sales rep, it’s important to have a plan and process in place for the transition period between the firing and hiring of a new sales rep. If you’re prepared ahead of time, then you can spend more time on hiring a star sales rep who is capable of closing massive amounts of business.
Do you have any suggestions for how to successfully fire sales reps? We’d love to hear from you.