Manager Tips to Conquer Reps' Mediocre Mentality

BY Kathy Crosett
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In a recent Fortune article, Gene Marks – experienced small business owner – offered his advice about how to handle mediocre salespeople, those who barely manage to make quota year after year. Every sales manager struggles with this issue. If you really want to make a difference when it comes to  your bottom line, read what Marks and other experts say about how to handle this situation.

Marks explains he’s tried it all – from coaching to incentives to browbeating — to get average sales performers to up their game. Before going through all that work, he cautions, managers should figure out whether they have a systemic problem. If all reps are barely making quota, it may be time to adjust the product features or pricing levels.

Once those issues are conquered, it’s time to address the average performer. In Marks’ experience and opinion, these folks will not be motivated by anything their managers try. His advice is to hire more resources if the company’s bottom line has any flexibility.

Marks’ advice is shaped by his belief that many SMBs are in the unenviable position of only being able to attract average sales reps. Sooner or later, he notes, top performers will always move on to companies where they can make more money.  He mentions that giving mediocre reps equity in the company might be one way to improve their desire to sell more.

Regardless of your company’s size, you can take a different approach — the one discussed by Max Altschuler for Saleshacker​.com. Try to keep these people out of your organization to begin with. If your goal really is to move the sales meter, you need to select stars during the interview process. Weed out mediocrity by having candidates take assessment tests to be sure they’ll fit into your organization. After they pass that test, ask specific questions designed to get candidates talking about what excites them. Then hire the candidates who show the most passion.

Not every hire will develop into a superstar, but taking a more deliberate approach in your interview process will help you improve your hit rate. If the superstar moves on after a year or two, hire another one. A great salesperson can do more for your organization in a year than the two folks you hired because you’re resigned to mediocrity.