Who Sets the (Low) Bar in Your Sales Department?

In sales, we often talk about setting the bar high. But there’s another bar for sales managers to consider.

It’s not the high bar that sets the desired standard, it’s the LOW bar that can be a job killer.

The "low bar" is the lowest level of performance acceptable to keep their job. And you set it by what you allow your salespeople to get away with. You may not see the negative impact immediately, but it’s a morale killer to the other higher performers on the staff.

Here are seven examples of how the “low bar” gets set on your sales team…

If you allow… The “low bar” you’re setting is.. How to fix it…
1. Salespeople to routinely miss goal If you miss you’re sales goal, there’ll be no consequences. So don’t worry about it. Adopt a three strikes and you’re out policy.
2. Salespeople to be rewarded for reaching only 80% of goal 80% is really good enough. 100% becomes the REAL stretch goal. Stop all incentives for anything less than 100% of goal. Be more realistic about the goals you’re setting.
3. Salespeople to routinely show up late for meetings It’s okay to be 5–15 minutes late. Hope your advertisers feel the same way! Start meetings no more than two minutes late. Reserve the front row of chairs or those closest to you for late arrivers so they just can’t sneak in undetected.
4. Salespeople to not enter everything into your company CRM The CRM isn’t all that important to you. The problem is “garbage in, garbage out” or “lack of information in, means lack of information out." You’ve greatly reduced the effectiveness of CRM. If it’s not in the CRM, it didn’t happen. No ifs, ands, or buts.
5. Salespeople to go long stretches without engaging in a two-way conversation with their accounts It’s ok to take long time accounts for granted and put them on auto-pilot. There are no consequences for not doing your job. If a rep goes more than X weeks/months without a telephone or in-person conversation with an account, they lose it — and the commissions that go along with it.
6. Salespeople to not use the valuable tools and research you’ve provided them Anytime we bring in a tool for you to use, you can just ignore it, then we’ll make it go away if enough of you don’t use it. Using these sales tools regularly is part of their job. Make it an item on their performance evaluation.
7. Salespeople to text, check email or otherwise fiddle with their mobile phones during your sales meetings. The content of the sales meeting isn’t important enough for your full attention. Heck, YOU aren’t important enough for their full attention. Movie theater rules apply. No texting, message checking or anything else during meetings. Allow for checking of content or for Googling that directly relates to the topic of the meeting. If they have to take a call, make them leave the room.
7+1. Salespeople to blame the customer, the competition or other people in your company for their lack of success You don’t have to be personally responsible for anything. It’s okay as long as you tried. Problem is, you now have a culture of finger pointing and backbiting instead of positivity and teamwork. Always bring the conversation back around to what could YOU have done better? Did you provide value to the customer before trying to make a sale? Did you make a recommendation that makes sense (or did you just take their order)? Did you reduce their risk? Were you proactive? Were you persistent? Were you resilient?

You might think the worst person at returning calls sets the low bar for the rest of the staff. Or that the worst performer in terms of revenue, closing rates, proposals, account satisfaction, professionalism, etc. sets the low bar for the rest of the staff. And you’d be 100% wrong.

The fact is YOU set the low bar for the minimum level of performance needed to keep their jobs.

You’re not a passenger, you’re the driver of the sales team. So no whining about “I just can’t get the salespeople to use it/show up on time/stop doing what they shouldn’t be doing/start doing what they should be doing.” When you do that, you’re just admitting to the world that you suck as their manager.

There’s nothing wrong with being demanding or having high standards, so long as those demands are realistic — and you’re ready, willing and able to help them meet those standards whenever they need it. You also need to be ready to “walk the talk” and do what you’re asking them to do.

Setting the “low bar" bar high enough for success also means having uncomfortable and blunt conversations from time to time. Here’s a hint: those conversations need to be a lot more uncomfortable for them than they are for you.

Not everything is in your control, but are you willing to control the things that are?

C. Lee Smith

C. Lee Smith

CEO and Founder at SalesFuel
C. Lee Smith is the President/CEO of SalesFuel - a firm he founded in 1989. He was named one of the 14 Leading Sales Consultants by Selling Power magazine. Lee is the creator of the AdMall® and SalesFuel COACH™ SaaS platforms. He is also a Gitomer Certified Advisor, expert on the Sales Experts Channel and a C‑Suite Network Advisor.
C. Lee Smith


CEO of @SalesFuel | Bestselling Author of "SalesCred" and "Hire Smarter, Sell More!" | Keynote Speaker | Certified Behavioral Analyst | Sales Credibility Expert
I was so taken aback by touting 1 star quality that I totally missed that. Good eye Beth! https://t.co/v5fMpUAvf7 — 3 hours ago
C. Lee Smith