Do You Know the RIGHT TIME to FIRE A Sales Person?

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No sales manager enjoys firing sales people, but there is a time when it must be done. In this episode of the Sales Management Minute, learn the two types of sales performance issues and the test that tells you when the time has come to end the relationship.

Nick achieved 80% of his monthly goal. Not pleased with his performance, his manager calls him in for a chat. “Not only do you need to achieve 100% of your goal next month, but you need to make up for this shortfall.”

Another month goes by and Nick again achieves 80% of goal. His manager meets with him again and tells him he needs to get to 100% and also make up for the total shortfall.

A third month goes by with the same results. Like Groundhog Day, month after month goes by and results are the same. All the while, the superstar performers are watching the subpar results tolerated by the company and losing respect for their sales manager.

Saying “farewell” to a sales person is a part of the sales management job that no one enjoys. You start thinking about the sales person’s family and personal circumstances and dread that final conversation.

How do you know when it is time to end the relationship? A tried and true method is the “mirror test.” If you can look in the mirror and say that you have done everything to help this sales person succeed and it is still not happening, the time has come to make a change.

When sales people aren’t performing, it’s for one of two reasons: incompetence or insubordination.

Incompetence means that the sales person does not possess the skills to do what has been requested. He understands what you have asked of him, but just cannot do it. This could be the result of a poor hiring decision or an onboarding problem. In either case, this sales person is not going to succeed unless action is taken. Keeping your fingers crossed won’t change the results. The sales manager’s job is to determine the skill development needed and formulate a prescription for resolution.

Insubordination means that the sales person has the skills, but for whatever reason is not doing what has been asked of him. This could be a motivation or morale issue. It could also be a time management issue. Once again, the sales manager needs to go on a quest to get to the root of the issue so a resolution plan can be developed.

Whether the identified problem is incompetence or insubordination, sales managers need to put a timeline on the resolution plan to reduce the financial exposure to the business. Not every sales person is going to make it. Do what you can to position them for success, but don’t be afraid to end the relationship when the reflection in the mirror tells you the time has come.

As the old saying goes… “If you can’t change your people, change your people.”

See you next time on the Sales Management Minute.


Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including award-winning,  best-seller “Hire Right, Higher Profits.” He is a results-driven sales management consultant and a passionate, dynamic speaker . Lee can be reached at or 763.416.4321.