Can This Sales Career Be Saved?

SCENARIO: You're managing a group of five sales reps. All are knowledgeable in your product category and all have been trained in your proven corporate-wide sales process. Even so, one of the reps is having consistent and pervasive problems developing accounts and closing business. You've spent six months coaching her on various aspects of the sales process, but there's been no measurable improvement. Here are your choices:
  • Continue to coach -- Some people take longer than others to learn important skills. Keep working with her and eventually your efforts will pay off!
  • Send her to school -- There hundreds of experts and gurus who specialize in turning sales coals into sales diamonds. Hire one and watch what happens!
  • Cut her loose -- Some people aren't meant for a sales job. After six months, it's clear that this woman won't make it. Do her a favor and let her go.
  • Wait patiently -- All things come to she who waits. If you let well enough alone, she'll eventually absorb skills and abilities from the rest of the team.

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This is a tough one, because it's fun to believe that people can be successful at anything if they try hard enough. Even so, the best answer is Cut Her Loose.

The sad truth is that over half the people in sales today would be doing themselves, and everyone else, a favor if they changed professions, according to Patrick Sweeney, executive vice president of the sales training firm Caliper and author of the book New York Times Best Seller Succeed on Your Own Terms.
He points out that the presence of such individuals in a sales team tends to create problems with customers and co-workers alike. Customers get annoyed because they're not being served well (as evidenced by their failure to buy). Co-workers get annoyed because they're forced to carry the load that the non-performer should be carrying.

You've tried your best to coach this person from a non-performer into a performer and, for whatever reason, it hasn't worked. The truth is she'd be better off working elsewhere and maybe not in sales.

READERS: I'm curious what you think, because I'm sure some of you have "carried" non-performers in your group.