Helping Sales Managers Identify Reasons Why Sales Reps Don't Perform

If you're like most sales managers, you spend a fair amount of time training your sales team, mentoring individual sales representatives through rough spots, and finding ways to help them increase their productivity. It can be surprisingly difficult sometimes to figure out why a certain sales representative (or an entire team) is not performing to potential. Sometimes it takes bringing in an outside expert to observe, analyze, and diagnose the reasons your team is not achieving the results you need. However, there are a number of things you can look into yourself before bringing outside help. 

Often sales managers assume that lack of sales skills or motivation should be the first thing to suspect. However, the root causes for lack of sales success can be much simpler and more fundamental. Next time you encounter a lack of performance in an individual sales representative or team, consider the following possible causes:

Not Working Enough Hours

For many sales representatives, one of the things they love about sales is that they don't have to go into an office every day. And depending on your industry, sometimes the hours worked can also be somewhat flexible. However, it can be tempting for some sales representatives to abuse the situation and work fewer than eight hours a day. No matter how good your sales representatives are, working less time will result in fewer sales. 

The fix: Regular sales meetings are an excellent way to make sure your sales representatives are getting out the door in a timely fashion. You can also have an evening wrap-up call. However, don't overdo the monitoring. Sales representatives who feel that you are watching their every move are less likely to take individual initiative, and may become resentful. Try to focus more on creating an environment in which it is easy and natural to work the allotted hours, rather than becoming Big Brother Boss to your employees.

Taking Too Many Breaks

An even subtler problem to identify is when your sales representatives do get out on time and think they are working the required number of hours, but take so many breaks during the day that they fit in enough work to be productive. This can happen without them even realizing they are doing it. However, the end result is fewer sales. 

The fix: Don't be accusatory. Instead, present this as something they are probably not even aware of. An exercise where they log everything they do for a day or a week can be a useful tool to help your sales team recognize the problem. All the coffee-breakfast-snack-lunch-errand breaks add up, and can become an excuse to not spend much time working. Making them aware of how much time during the work day they are spending on non-work-related activities can go along way toward helping them cut down on these sorts of breaks. 

Lack of Planning and Preparation

It is not an exaggeration to say that the few minutes that your sales representatives spend planning at the beginning of the day are the most important minutes of the day. Very few people can work effectively without a good plan. Monthly and weekly plans and goals are important, but unless they are supported by spending a little time each day to plan out the most effective activities to do that day, those goals are unlikely to be met. However, you would be surprised how many sales representatives feel that they don't have enough time to plan.

The fix: Let your sales representatives know that they don't have time NOT to plan. And don't assume that they already know how to plan an effective day. Show them by example that planning is important enough for you to spend time on it as well. Time spent during sales meetings walking them through how to plan their day is time well spent, and will have at least as big of an impact on their performance as time spent learning a new sales technique. 

Bad Time Management

At one time or another, most sales professionals are tempted to do what is easy rather than what is effective. Maybe it's visiting that one prospect who always has time to talk, but somehow never buys. Maybe it's driving all the way across town for an appointment without thinking about what other prospects they could drop in on nearby. Perhaps it's scheduling meetings haphazardly without considering the most effective use of time.

The fix: Teaching good time management is something that can go along with teaching planning. Don't assume that proper time management is obvious. When your sales representatives are planning their days, help them to understand the importance of mapping out a good route to make sure they aren't spending the entire day driving unnecessarily. Figure out which times of the day are most effective for appointments in your industry, and which times should be left for drop-in visits. 

Bad Territory Management

Territory management goes hand-in-hand with time management. Too many sales representatives work haphazardly through their territory as if it didn't belong to them. Your sales representatives need to become completely familiar with their territory and all the businesses in it. Leveraging current sales for referrals and name recognition is an important strategy, as is methodically cycling through the area more than once, to make sure to catch businesses at an appropriate stage in the sales cycle.

The fix: Proactively teach your sales representatives how to work a territory. Each sales representative should consider him/herself the CEO of his or her territory. Proper territory management is a complex process. If you need help teaching it to your sales representatives, Netpique sales outsourcing experts can develop a customized training program for your business.