Managing Underperformance in Sales Workplace

At some point of time in our lives, we all have underperformed. Not everyone is a born salesman. Some became the greatest only after a fair degree of falls. Similarly, if you manage a sales team, the numbers could be dwindling for a variety of reasons, including industry changes, competitors, problem processes, etc.

But it is hard to blame industry issues, though, if you have a team that is meeting their goals while one individual falls short. However, just because one member of the team has problems, doesn't necessarily mean they are a problem. While it could seem like a natural and perhaps an easy choice to terminate the contract of underperforming employees, a good sales manager ensures that he or she finds solutions to problems behind the lags rather than getting rid of them. In this article, we’ll analyse the pain points from a Sales Manager’s perspective and discuss a few solutions that you could implement to your system to uplift the slackers in the team. 

5 Signs every manager needs to know about underperforming employees

The first step in managing underperformance is to know the signs of underperforming employees. Here are the top 5 signs:

  • Lack of Enthusiasm and motivation - Sales is an exciting job, at least for those who know all the tricks of the trade. However, the employees who underperform either don’t have the passion for the job or lack motivation. If numbers don’t excite them, and motivation doesn't seem to work either, you know you have a slacker in your team. 
  • Increased Absenteeism and Decreased Satisfaction Levels - Spotted an employee with more than 4 or 5 leaves a month? Way too many sick days? Coming late, leaving early? It’s a Red Alert. 
  • Does not Meet the Expectations - An unmotivated employee will naturally won’t be able to meet the targets. Despite communicating clear goals and providing all the resources necessary for the job to be done, if you still find an employee who doesn't get any revenue on the table, or fails to meet even 50% of the targets, you know you’ve got to straighten some things out. 
  • Productivity Drop and Low Engagement Levels - Companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable. An underperforming employee would not be engaged enough to contribute to the growth of the organization. Their priorities may not even be aligned with that of the organization which can severely impact the bottom line. 

Reasons and Dealing with Underperforming Employees

Now that you know the signs of underperforming employees, a leader needs to find reasons why the employees are underperforming and do something about it.

Below are the top 4 reasons for underperformance in the workplace and how to help an underperformer:

No Goal Setting- If the employee does not know what exactly he or she needs to do or if you have set unrealistic goals for them, it would be difficult for them to perform. All sales employees need to have clear instructions about their roles and responsibilities. When they have no clue of their role in the organization, no matter how skilled or talented they are, they will underperform in the organization.

The Solution - To overcome the above problem, a manager needs to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound) goals for them. You also need to make them understand their role in the team and mentor them on the right path.

Lack of Recognition - Employees cannot continue to perform outstandingly unless they are not recognized for their efforts and rewarded in some way. If the management is not rewarding the best-performing employees, they will eventually lose interest in performing well, and they may end up being average or below-average performers. It will impact the overall productivity of the company.

The Solution - The solution for this is quite simple and straightforward. As a leader, you need to ensure there is a system in place that recognizes the best-performing employee regularly and timely. Giving them rewards and appreciating them is a great way to recognize and appreciate the performance of the employee. 63% of employees who are recognized are very unlikely to look for a new job, while 40% of employed Americans would put energy into their work if they were recognized more often.

No Room for improvement and Growth - No one likes to have a flat curve when it comes to career and professional growth. Employees want to learn new skills and improve themselves so they can stay updated with current trends and shifts in the market. If staying in one organization for long costs them opportunities to grow further in their field, they may not be motivated to perform for the organization, leading to low performance.

The Solution - To ensure such a scenario does not happen in your team, you must schedule training and development programs for employees from time to time. Learning a new skill will not only keep them motivated but also encourage them to perform well.

Workplace Stress and Burnout - A stressed employee with no work-life balance may not be able to perform well. Too much work or too little time to meet deadlines chronically can play havoc on their mental and physical health. Obviously, an unhealthy employee will never deliver healthy numbers.

The Solution –Managers should know what tasks have been given to the employee and what their load level is. If a particular employee is overloaded with work, the manager should make arrangements to delegate some of his tasks to those with better capacity. Speak to HR and organize stress-busting activities to break the monotony.

Closing Remark

As a manager/leader, you need to have a proper plan to deal with underperforming employees. In order for the organization to grow, you must continuously monitor employee performance and take actions to improve it. The most important thing to remember when adopting these steps is that you are actually supporting the sales rep's development by proactively addressing performance gains and gaps, which in turn will help the organization.

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