Limit Your Pink Slips. Always Recruit.
Let me start by saying there is no doubt that a sales team needs to be fired up versus being fired. If firing someone is the best answer, then something was missed in the recruiting process. Many of the mistakes made in hiring a sales force start with a desperation move. The problem begins because a bench of potential “1st round draft picks” is not available. A sales manager must take the time to continuously look for superior talent. That means a sales manager must recruit every week.
A sales manager should invest 10% of his/her time each week recruiting, which is about 4 hours per week. Talk to the potential hires. Check on them. Know where they are. I know of a cluster that has not dismissed anyone in over four years. How can that be? It's because these broadcasters typically take 18 months to 2 years to locate top sales talent. Hiring and recruiting is an on-going process.
Tips for Recruiting
1) Use a farm system. Recruit from another department within the company as a farm system to outside sales. Think about the promotions department or a sales assistant?
2) Hiring Assessments. Conduct hiring assessments as part of the hiring process. Make them 20% of the hiring process, and they do count.
3) Check references not on the resume. Take the time to call people who might know the potential recruit. When was the last time you checked a reference referred by the candidate that was not positive?
4) Involve your top reps. These reps know a good rep from a bad one. They will also be more responsible in helping them succeed in the sales bullpen if you have a team oriented culture. Have potential reps shadow the top performers in the field for a full day.
Recruiting is a key component, but there are still times when we need to dismiss an employee. As a manager, it's the most difficult thing you'll ever do. I do not know of any managers that like to dismiss an employee. I am reminded of an event that occurred recently. One morning, a rep found an article on the printer from Business Week titled: “Three Types of People to Fire Immediately. Want a more innovative company? Get rid of these folks. Today.” The sales rep brought me a piece of the article and asked, “Was this left intentionally on the printer?” I said, “Not that I know of.” We did not have anyone at that property on the “firing line”. Some managers will actually send a signal or motivate by fear. In my experience, I feel these types of exploits have the opposite effect. We never did determine who left the article on the printer.
If someone needs to be fired, they should not be blindsided. All sales departments should have standards for performance. Sales Managers should make sure those standards are being met. Do we give our managers lessons on how to terminate an employee? In most cases, we do not. Upon receiving my promotion to local sales manager, my first order was to fire a sales rep that I had spent time with him in the same bullpen. I was unprepared. I spent two hours walking him around the block, and he finally asked me, “Are you going to fire me?” I was able fire him, but it took two hours in the hot San Antonio sun. I wanted to fire myself for not knowing how to fire an employee.
We hire good people. Unfortunately, we tend to put them in the wrong jobs. Sales is a skillset. Once we know a rep is not cut out for the job, we add to the suffering by allowing them to continue in that job. When was the last time you wanted someone back that you fired? In most cases, a manager knows after 30 days if the new hire is the right fit. Be honest, you do know!
The key to longevity in a sales staff is in the hiring. The process will take more time to implement correctly, but the time will be well spent. If it becomes necessary to fire a rep, do it immediately. Attrition to a sales staff kills the bottom line. Hire slow and fire fast.
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.