Do you need to fire a sales representative? Should you slaughter a “sacred cow”?

Reading time: 3 – 5 minutes

If you are in charge of sales at a small to medium sized medical device company, have you taken a hard look at your sales team and how they are performing?  It’s August.  You have four more months left in the year.  Is this team going to get you successfully through the trade show season and to the end of the year?  Will they effectively follow up on all the leads you take?  Is one person dragging the performance of the sales team down?

The thought of firing or terminating someone is not a popular subject.  However, it is a fact of business life.   This blog post started with a call from a past client.  They are a small medical device company with a high tech software oriented product and one salesperson.  A non-sales executive manages this salesperson.  When I say “non-sales” executive, I mean an executive that does not have professional sales management training and experience.  This is a very common situation in small companies.  They hire an experienced salesperson, give them a decent compensation package and assume the person will be somewhat self-managing.  Then they rarely circle back to try to evaluate and coach this person.  Expectations are not clear.  Sales performance may not be optimal. This can go on for years.

After about an hour of conversation…mostly me asking a lot of questions…I made the recommendation that they terminate the salesperson.  This person had become a “sacred cow”.  And, I felt that many underlying traits and characteristics of this salesperson made the situation untenable. 

It is not unusual that small to medium sized companies have a very familial culture.  Employees know each other well.  In this kind of environment, it is easy for employees to become “sacred cows”.  When a “sacred cow” is an underperforming warehouse employee it doesn’t harm the company too much.  However, when the “sacred cow” is an underperforming salesperson it hurts the entire company a lot by reducing revenues and profits.  One salesperson in a four-person team is essentially responsible for 25% of the company’s profits! 

  • Everyone knows this particular salesperson isn’t effective.
  • You might not realize it, but the other employee’s probably talk about it.
  • The other hard working salespeople resent the underperforming rep.
  • All this is bad for morale.
  • And, if YOU don’t do something about it, the other employees respect you less.
  • Correcting this situation will actually create a feeling of positive change and renewal at your company as you finish the year.

OK, right now you are thinking  “This is very extreme. You haven’t even talked about giving the person a warning or putting them on probation.”  You are correct.  All employees should be treated with dignity.  And, you should carefully follow proper human resources protocol.  Most small companies can’t afford to have a trained HR person on staff.  If this is your situation then talk to your lawyer or an HR consultant.  If you use a payroll company, they may offer HR advice as part of their contract with you.  At one time, I used such a payroll company and their HR support was excellent.  A really good and detailed description of “how to fire” someone can be found at WikiHow

Remember, it is August.  The end of the year is looming.  Will your company meet its objectives?  If necessary, do something about it.  

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *