How do you coach an underperforming sales rep?

June 1, 2024

Coaching sales reps is a critical activity that sales managers must commit to, even if it’s daunting. By guiding your sales reps, you can help them achieve their goals and reach their full potential. The trouble comes when sales managers are tasked with the uphill task of coaching underperforming sales reps.

So how can you coach an underperforming sales rep? 

An underperforming sales rep needs targeted coaching to identify the cause of their poor performance and develop the skills to improve. It starts with analyzing performance data to identify patterns and gaps, setting clear expectations for improvement, and identifying specific training needs.

Coaching and feedback are essential to track progress and hold them accountable for goals.

With the right plan, sales managers can help underperforming sales reps perform better. It’s also essential that the sales manager give the sales reps enough time to prove their mettle; a study revealed that 42.5% of new sales reps need at least 10 months to be fully productive.

Resolving the underperformance problem

As a sales manager, it is important to have the sales performance reports for at least the last two quarters to comprehend why the sales reps have been performing poorly. 

An underperformer has consistently failed to achieve even 70% of their targets. A qualitative analysis of the rep’s skills and a regular quantitative analysis of their performance helps sales managers understand the scenario better.

Identifying the problem is vital to understanding the underperformer’s shortcomings

Review the sales representative's performance data from the last two quarters to determine where the gaps are in comparison to over-achiever i.e. sales folks making 110% or more of their targets month-on-month. Does the sales representative have difficulty generating leads, closing deals, or following up on leads? Sit down with the sales rep and understand their point of view on why they are failing. After identifying the issue, you can build a targeted coaching plan.

Setting clear, measurable objectives is an essential aspect of coaching:

Work with the sales representative to establish measurable goals, such as increasing the number of leads or closing more deals. These objectives should be measurable and aligned with the sales team's and organization's overall objectives.

Building an action plan:

The action plan should detail the specific steps the sales representative must take to reach their objectives. It should also include the necessary resources and support, such as training and coaching sessions. Sales managers should make it a point to shadow the reps’ during their sales calls to get a first-hand impression of why they cannot hit the targets.

Offer constant feedback:

It is essential to provide ongoing feedback to ensure that the sales representative stays on track. Regular one-on-one meetings with the sales representative allow you to monitor their progress, identify obstacles, and provide performance feedback. Use these meetings to address any concerns and provide the representative with constructive feedback to help him or her improve.

Focus on Strengths:

While addressing areas of weakness is essential, focusing on the sales representative's strengths can also be beneficial. By pointing out the salesperson's strengths, you can boost their confidence and encourage them to improve in other ways.

Offer additional training and coaching sessions:

This may include sales training, product knowledge training, or customer data and analytics access. These resources can help the sales representative improve their performance and reach their objectives.

Hold the sales representative accountable:

It is essential to hold them accountable for their performance to ensure they remain on track. This can be accomplished by establishing clear performance expectations and regularly reviewing progress. When sales representatives meet or exceed their quota, they must acknowledge their accomplishments and celebrate their success.

Encourage open communication channels:

Effective coaching requires an open communication channel. Implement an "open door" policy at your workplace. Encourage the sales representatives to discuss their performance and how it can be enhanced. Listen to their concerns and provide direction and assistance to assist them in overcoming any obstacles.

Lead by example:

As a sales manager or coach, it is crucial to lead by example. Set a high-performance standard and demonstrate your sales team's desired behaviors and attitudes. This can include proactive lead generation, lead follow-up, and deal closing. When your sales representatives observe you exhibiting these behaviors, they are more likely to adopt them themselves.

Peer learning:

Encourage underperformers interested in turning things around to learn from their better-performing colleagues. Analyze what the top performers are doing differently than everyone else and share those secrets with the underperformers. Ask them to shadow and learn from the top performers. Of course, the top performers must be informed of the exercise, so they are not disrupted from their working strategy.

Wrapping it up…

In conclusion, coaching an underperforming sales representative requires a targeted approach and a commitment to continuous feedback and support. 

By identifying the issue, establishing clear objectives, and developing an action plan, you can assist your sales representatives in improving their performance and achieving their objectives. 

In addition to providing ongoing feedback, focusing on strengths, and providing training and resources, other effective strategies include: Success requires holding the sales representative accountable, encouraging an open dialogue, and leading by example. By adhering to these ten tips, you can coach underperforming sales representatives to success and assist your team in achieving its objectives.

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