Five questions for judging worker's keepability

score Question: What should I do about a sales employee who has the potenial but isn't performing?

Answer: If a salesperson doesn't work out, it's ususally because of a bad hire or poor training.

Either way, it's your fault.

Once you take ownership of a salesperson's success, your batting average starts to go up. If if doesn't - healthy growth will be difficult.

Use the following tips to assess an employee's staying power:

  • Ask questions.
    Evaluate salespeople the same way you would a potential hire. Do they have the product knowledge or have you given them the knowledge they need to be effective, to be winners. Do they have the sales experience [or are they trainable] to do the job?

    Do they have the right attitude, hopefully positive? You don't need people who are never satisfied; they can never generate enough sales to offset the pain they cause you and the rest of the employees.

    Do they like people? How do they fit into the sales teams' culture? Do they thrive on seeing the team win or only on achieving individual statistics? Do they display a strong work ethic? If not, they'll probably stay a potential.

    Don't put up with lackluster performance, hoping they'll improve. Cut them when they no longer show improvement. It's best for both parties. Focus on any weaknesses and monitor improvement.

  • Set realistic expectations
    Base projections on an individual's desire and track record, not on your own sales performance. Most owners can sell twice as much as an employee.

    This doesn't mean you should put a brick on his/her head. Improper expectations can lead to a lot of disappointments.

  • Know the numbers
    Review and discuss sales vs. projections, gross profits vs. projections and percentage of completed sales vs. projected sales every week with the salesperson.

    Review methods for improving if sales are low and provide congratulations and support if sales are above goal.

    The salesperson needs to know and understand the implications of his or her numbers on their income and on company goals.

  • Provide guidance
    Everyone needs a coach or mentor. Who is the salesperson's?

    If you don't know or they don't have one, it's up to you to step up to the plate and make sure they do - either yourself or someone you're confident could do a good mentoriing job. Even the best salespeople need a mentor.

  • Look for improvement
    The salesperson should get better. The learning curve varies from person to person, but it should always go up. If you find it dipping, get to the root of the problem.

    Revisit your evaluation list of questions, watch out for excuses and at quickly to reverse the downturn.

Professionals come to work every day prepared to work hard to deliver their best performance but don't blow things out of proportion. After all it's their job. Pros want to perform well and take priide in the company. They probably won't go out of their way to turn leads into the office or look for additional work. That job belongs another employee.

Professionals are essential to a company's success. Obviously these folks are keepers.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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