When a Salesperson is Failing – The Entrepreneurial Sales Manager’s Job

When a salesperson is failing – the entrepreneurial sales manager’s job    


There are 4 phases to sales management evolution:


  • Chaos – no management


  • Primitive management – some reporting, some standards, often optional. There is Gallup poll management, every salesperson is unique, cater to the salesperson; no one is fired. Take all orders, even (and sometimes especially) the unprofitable ones.


  • Strong management – consistent, fair, appropriate standards are established and required. Toxic salespeople are fired. Opportunity is managed for profitability.


Experience shows it isn’t easy to find a Phase 3 sales manager – in effect, someone who acts like a business person, part CFO, part owner. When business owners find a Phase 3 sales manager, they are so relieved, they often truncate the search for improvement. And never reach Phase 4.


In Phase 4, sales management is capable of effecting change. Whereas the Phase 3 sales manager can tell the salesperson he/she isn’t performing and make the firing decision after a reasonable time, the Phase 4 sales manager can help save the non-performing salesperson.

What can the Phase 4 sales manager do to help the failing salesperson?


  1. Sales Culture


There is a prevailing stigma attached to selling, it’s slimy: like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. Salespeople who are fed contempt by prospect and customers, and who have internalized self-contempt, are doomed to burn out.


It’s sales management’s role to establish a nurturing sales culture, for example: the salesperson as hero, for both customers and the company. The entrepreneurial sales manager can do this. When a salesperson is fed respect by customers and internalizes self-respect, they are armed for a lifetime of positive selling. For more, please click on this link.


  1. Selling tools, sales process

It isn’t reasonable for a salesperson to develop a sales process, selling tools, sales planning methods. The entrepreneurial sales manager will design or oversee the design of:


  • The Proving Kit (to deal with risk aversion), please click here.


  • The Book of Selling Knowledge, please click here.   



(Note: the links above connect to 1-minute videos on the subjects.)


Assume your entrepreneurial sales manager has the right ethos and structure in place. We still must work with salespeople who may need to develop. This is especially so for young salespeople, who often come into the workplace:


  • To their credit, without “bad selling habits”, but


  • Not yet having the right work ethic and/or view of business selling (vs. social selling), please click here.


3. A change program


We need to work closely with these salespeople to help them develop. We need to coach them along the change curve.

A change program with a 70%+ success rate includes all salespeople and alternates seminars with one to one coaching – with a strong focus on mindset coachingd. By including all salespeople in a group, the non-performing salesperson isn’t singled out – but held to the same standards as his/her peers.

The structure of the program:


Week 1 – 90-minute seminar with homework

Week 2 – one to one coaching, with homework

Week 3 – 90-minute seminar with homework

Week 4 – one to one coaching, with homework



Amazing changes can be accomplished in as little as 8 weeks. This works with remote teams, as well as local teams.




  1. Seminars


The purposes for the seminars are: instruction, team building, peer pressure, mindset coaching.


  1. One to one coaching


The purpose for the one to one coaching is: to tailor the program, as much as possible, to each participant’s needs, meet them where they are. Do more intensive role plays, mindset coaching.


In the early stages of the program, the non-conforming sales people will realize they aren’t performing and see good performance modeled by the team. After one month, if they still aren’t performing, the following can catalyze strong behavioral change:

  • Discussing why they aren’t doing the program in one to ones
  • Calling on their better self; pointing out “I don’t think this is your best work” can catalyze strong positive changes in a failing salesperson

If the hiring process was strong – including diagnostic testing – and the salesperson isn’t succeeding, it’s entrepreneurial sales management’s responsibility to coach the salesperson to the right path and success.