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Performance Management: Executing a Crucial Conversation

15 Apr, 2005 By: Nick Warnock imageSource

Performance Management: Executing a Crucial Conversation

In previous articles I have addressed the topic of effective
performance management. This topic is something that I have been fascinated with
since beginning my career in one of the most dignified professions known to

Let’s face the facts—a master closer is held in high regard
no matter what you are selling. However, I cannot believe that I am about to
state this in writing, but here it goes, an effective manager is even more
important. Unlike the closer, a manager elevates the game of an entire team. We
can all attest that a great organization is, in essence, a great team made up of
many different parts operating as one. It isn’t the master closer that is held
responsible when a part of the team is not performing. The manager is tasked
with performance improvement and must execute immediately.

Managing poor performance can often times be a grueling
exercise in patience. More often than not, if your reps are picking up the phone
and seeing customers, their performances will improve. Like I have said before,
what we do is not brain surgery or rocket science, and if you have reps that are
motivated, they can be coached to success.

However, there are times when performance, even after
coaching and structure, still does not improve. You have implemented tracking,
talk track coaching and even accompanied reps throughout an entire day when they
are pounding the phones and conducting appointments.

But you have done everything possible, and there is still no
improvement! This is where things can get hairy and discomfort between you and
your unsuccessful reps sets in. It’s time to take the next steps. Perhaps these
reps are simply not cut out to be sales professionals and it is time to let them
go or give them the option of contributing to the organization in another way.
This process must be handled in a delicate fashion, and must be executed with
respect in order for these people to hang on to their self respect.

I have found the following process most effective:

1. A meeting should be scheduled with each individual rep. I am partial
to Friday afternoons so that they can think about what has happened over the

2. In the meeting, I would recommend having another manager there as well
to serve as a witness and observe the rep’s response.

3. In the meeting, a "letter of concern" should be issued along with
expectations of the rep’s budget requirements and prospecting activities that
must be met over the course of the next 30 days. This should be presented in
writing and signed by the rep and the managers upon exit.

4. Make sure the rep is aware of the consequences if they are not met,
including the possibility of termination.

5. The rep will probably have a lot to say, but being the seasoned sales
pro that you once were, you should have the answers to the objections that may
come up and handle them properly.

6. Though the meeting usually takes on a somber tone, make sure to
express your concern for the well being of the rep and keep encouraging him or
her to make the most out of the situation.

Based on my experience, two things are going to happen;
either they will step up to the challenge or just go through the motions and
wait to collect unemployment. Hopefully, they will not decide to do the latter.
If they do not accomplish the goals set forth by you in this meeting in the next
30 days, then it is time to let them go. Perhaps, though, you could give them
one more chance with a letter of probation. If only Trump would have done it
this way with me!

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