Universally, time is the most precious resource among sales leaders. We often find ourselves spending more time chasing administrative and compliance issues versus coaching and managing members of the sales team. Since our time with the team is precious, it behooves us to identify potential “black holes” – individual team members who suck up the lion’s share of our time and energy, thereby undermining our effectiveness. It may not be who you think.
As a longtime proponent and provider of talent assessment and performance predictor tools, I feel compelled to make a disclaimer that leveraging talent management tools to make smart hires is always the preferred course of action. In reality, though, few of us hired every individual on our team. And regardless of how our team was assembled, we must be able to recognize and eliminate “black holes” when they occur.
In the simplest of terms, we tend to assess employees according to their ability and effort. Naturally, sales professionals who are strong on both axes are the keepers. Also clear cut is the decision on those with both low ability and low effort – let them go. High ability and low effort? These folks have potential, if properly motivated. If effort is too low, they become more of a liability than an asset, and must be cut from the team.
The biggest liability on your sales team is the low ability, high effort sales professional. These are earnest, hardworking folks. They are compliant with your directives; conscientious, administratively sound. They don’t challenge your authority or try to bend the rules. They are respectful; team players. They do and say all of the right things. And for all these reasons, you genuinely like these individuals. You want them to succeed. You will give them more time and more chances than you should, including moving sales, reducing goals and taking on the role of being their personal CSO. But they just can’t sell. And they are sucking the life out of you and your team. Keeping these folks on your team is like keeping a cute puppy with rabies. It cannot possibly end well.
When we find ourselves tempted to start handing out “participation” awards for those who “try really hard,” we need to stop. As leaders who strive to cultivate excellence on our teams, we need to move way past participation in our expectations and make real assessments of each sales team member’s ability, effort and contribution.
This zero tolerance for black holes on our sales team assumes, of course, that proper training and coaching have taken place. For the sake of our own survival, we must be able to recognize the difference between not knowing what to do (a lack of knowledge or sales process that can be remedied by training) and simply not being able to do it. More than 80% of the metrics for which we are held accountable are not directly within our control. Cutting weak links from the sales team is one element we can and must control. As sales leaders, we owe it to ourselves, our employer and the rest of our sales team not to waste time and resources on well-intentioned but incompetent sales professionals.