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Why Salespeople Don't Work Out

There are ten key reasons why most sales people don't work out.

The net effect of any of these reasons is poor results: MEDIOCRE PRODUCTION, SALES PERSON CHURN, and FRUSTRATION on the part of management, ownership, and shareholders.

1. The “Just take the ball and run with it” mistake
Business owners and managers who are either burned out from being the lone sales gun or are not interested in sales(maybe even hate sales!) think bringing a sales rep on cures ALL their problems and the manager can go on his own merry way.  You can’t turn the keys over to a new hire and expect them to run on “auto-pilot” – you have to manage their behavior…..or else…….

2. The “All I need is a rainmaker and my problems are solved” problem.

Much like a husband and wife must make preparations before their first child, business owners have to be aware of the changes that will occur in their company once a sales person is added – more sales activity (presentations, debrief sessions, brainstorming, target account development, etc.), increased emphasis on fulfillment (more delivery staff, order/manufacturing processes), and general sales “mayhem” follows when a company achieves new levels of sales. If you’re not prepared for this onslaught of activity, expect to lose your “rainmaker” to a company that has more on the ball.

3. What happens after sales turns it over to fulfillment?
If there is a handoff between the sales force and the production side of your house, does the finished product resemble what the sales person presented during the sales process? If not, therein lay a breakdown in communication between sales and fulfillment. End result? Unhappy customer, broken promises, and a short-term customer. Not long after these issues come to light is a salesperson that puts two and two together and realizes that a lost client means a lost commission. As your company’s sales leader, have you taken responsibility for owning the sales process from start to finish?

4. Not communicating expectations

You can’t have a high level of performance without accountability. You can’t have accountability without a system of measurement. That’s what quotas are for, and not just dollar quotas. # of first calls per day, # of closing calls per week, and # of referrals per month are all measurable activities, ones that ultimately lead to consistent, measurable, profitable business.

5. Wrong compensation

Good sales people snub their nose at security – they want the risk associated with sales because it offers a bigger upside. The compensation plan should mirror your sales model (do you want NEW accounts or do you want more business from EXISTING accounts?). Regardless of the sales model, match the incentive to the desired result. When introduced to new clients, we find that 75% of the compensation plans we see REPEL the best candidates when they should be ATTRACTING them.

6. Failing to pull the plug
Just do it – if you’re thinking about firing your unproductive sales people, you’ve thought about it too long! Do it – they’ve already cost you enough money. If you think their performance will improve, keep thinking that thought into the next mediocre quarter. Forgive the bluntness and the cold hard facts – as a recruiting firm specializing in the sales and sales management discipline, we’re intimately aware of the draining effects a less than adequate sales person has on a company’s financials as well as on it management’s minds. Abide by employment law when you terminate, but don’t let the process drag out any longer than their mediocre performance – their mediocrity and your unwillingness to expect more has already cost you WAY TOO MUCH!

7. The “I’ll know it when I see it” mistake.
Be clear of your expectations and hire against specific criteria as opposed to hiring on the fly.  What position other than sales offers a greater opportunity for gain and an as likely opportunity for loss? Treat it as such and take the time to draw up criteria to judge your candidates against. We never start a search without this step...ever. 

8. Letting the “BS effect” run your sales meetings.

In sales, you either have a YES, a NO, or a CLEAR FUTURE. If those 4 words tell the whole story, then why do sales people embellish their pipelines and why does management accept it? Get on the same page, and get on the same page now; otherwise, your sales pipeline is inaccurate at best, complete fiction at its worst. 

9. The “They don’t need business cards or brochures” mentality.

Sure, good sales people can sell without a brochure, but can a company go from OK to GREAT without a consistent brand image, a story to tell, or a vision? No. Don’t fault the sales person for asking about marketing support – people buy for many reasons - successful sales campaigns tap into the verbal, written, and the emotional mediums to make their case, not just the persistent sales rep that calls on their office every month. Cover all the bases, and your sales force will prosper. 

10. Neglecting to develop the salesperson's skills and knowledge.

80% of our clients have an external, on-going sales specific training program instituted for its new hires and existing sales force. Management is involved as well. When we work with a company, our client has already invested in the training that will ensure that our “trainable” and “high desire” candidates will flourish within the client’s sales model. Like we said earlier, no sales person is perfect. Take responsibility for providing them on-going, sales specific training to work on those weaknesses and to help them magnify their strengths.

Author: Bob Pudlock
About the Author:
Bob Pudlock is President of Adgrego, Ltd. (, an executive recruiting firm that helps companies of all sizes Identify, Assess, and Capture top sales & sales management talent. Contact him at 866.330.0036 or email

For more information about this author/company, click here.

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