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Weeding your sales department garden

Many of our client companies tell us they are making a few, careful staff cuts—particularly involving un-productive staff members. They want to get rid of their marginal performers and fill those spots with fresh sales talent. And I say they are right on target.

I call this “weeding your sales garden.” If your sales force were a garden, what would it look like right now? Certainly this weeding process can apply to all the departments in your company. I’ve just chosen sales because my company, Kemper Associates, has extra heavy search activity in it right now. To find out how to put your master gardening skills into play on your sales force, read on.

With our economic slowdown, we have no room in our companies for sub-standard, non-performers. No doubt you have already been terminating these employees. By getting rid of non-performers, you make room for new performers. It’s like your garden. If you don’t pull out those weeds, the healthy plants won’t have room to grow. If you think you may need some weeding, here are some suggestions to help you in your process.

First, do a thorough analysis
Be honest with yourself. Who is not performing and who should you “pull?” Usually the formula is something like this: If you have a sales team of five people, you’ll have one who’s a superstar, three who are hitting (maybe just barely) their numbers, and one who is not hitting the numbers. That one may be the weed. Some questions to help you define that include: How long has he missed on the numbers? Are there any extenuating circumstances? What’s his attitude like? If there’s a question, give it a little longer. Sometimes, it’s easy to mistake a flower for a weed. Give your salesperson some extra coaching (fertilizing), along with special encouragement and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised. But if not, make that tough decision. Make the change.

Make the decision
Make a plan today to replace that weed with a potential high-blooming flower. Have a time frame to hire a replacement. Have a date in mind when you would like that new person to start. Then look for a replacement. Alert your search firm to the problem. (Hiring in this market should take you anywhere from 4-6 weeks.) You may be surprised to know that most salespeople who are not performing know it, and sometimes they are almost grateful when you let them go. Remember, what may have been a weed in your garden, may bloom beautifully for someone else.

If you find yourself hesitating, remember this “golden rule:” Good salespeople want to be around good salespeople.

This is the most important reason to weed your sales garden. If you don’t weed out your non-performers, you stand a great chance of losing your superstars. Yes, good salespeople want to be around other good salespeople. And when they are in a company where bad sales performance is tolerated, they don’t like it. It brings them down. In the end, if the situation remains unchanged, they leave. Just like the garden. If you don’t pull those weeds, you’re going to lose your superstar flowers.

Carpe Diem!
This is the season. The market is good for replanting your garden. There’s a healthy supply of good salespeople out there who are looking for their next opportunity. And there are great salespeople who are stuck in companies that are under-performing for a number of reasons. Seize this opportunity to capitalize on that market and start your search today.

See you here next month for our article: “Using contract specialists is easy and profitable.”

Philip Kemper is Founder/President of Kemper Associates, a 35 year old Chicago-based national executive search firm, specializing in Permanent and Contract staffing for Trade Shows and Exhibits, Staging and Equipment Rental, Business Meetings and Events Production, Video, Training and Incentives and more .His more complete bio is on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/philip-kemper/2/795/308/ . You may view Kemper Associates’ web site at: www.Kemperassociates.net , and contact Phil with questions or comments, and employment needs at: Kemperassoc@hotmail.com, or his private phone line: (312) 944-6551.

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