As a sales representative for over three decades, I have dedicated my career to ongoing learning and the practice of the sales profession. Recently I noted a posting in the Cable Assembly group in LinkedIn called Sales In/Efficiency. This posting refers to a recent blog posting on huntbigsales.com called: “For CEO’s Only: Not Making the Sales Cut” by Tom Searcy (click to review article). This article states roughly one third of your under performing sales team need to be eliminated and outlines the fears (resistance) to get rid of them and what should be done on the front end in the hiring process.
I do agree with the premise of documented expectations in the hiring process and eliminating those who over time demonstrate a lack of performance in growing sales in their designated territory. The wrong person can affect sales growth.
However I do believe there is more to it than just hiring expectations and firing practices. The reality is sales is not a one person activity, especially in key accounts. Relationships with a customer should not be limited to the customer facing person, customer relationships need to comprised of multiple touch points/people so you reduce the dependence on one single relationship being the sole customer contact.
Usually the bottom third performers are a mix of people who were once in the top third and those who are moving up to the next or top third. The responsible leader will review and determine why they are where they are and if they require additional training (or re-training). I agree business is not a social experiment and sometimes leaders have to act to reduce loses from under-performing sales people. The same thing can be said for other job positions in the organization outside of sales.
It is the CEO who sets the tone, and (at a macro level) ensures resources are in place for top performance, hiring the right people and communicating expectations. And to ensure that sales leadership is in place to motivate the sales team, evaluate performance and ensure training resources are deployed (at a micro level). Here is a great article on sales training from Inc: 5 tips for training new salespeople.