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Stop Wasting Your Time On A Non-Performer

To paraphrase Ben Affleck in the movie Boiler Room:

“A sale is made on every call. Either you sell the person on why they should, or the person sells you on why they can’t!”

Same principle applies to coaching non-performers.

Here is the scenario: You have the tough one-on-one meeting, whereby you point out to the non-performer that you honestly believe you are more invested in them being successful than they are. They look completely caught off guard by your remark. Then, their eyes well up with tears and they give you every reason why they’re giving this job their all. And so, you acquiesce on pulling the trigger to putting them on a performance to improve plan (“PIP”). In the end, they sold you!

Do you know why non-performers don’t produce at the level of performers?

It is really quite simple.


Conflict is the root cause for the vast majority of non-performers you have ever managed or worked with.

You see, the non-performer says they want to be successful and hit their revenue quota but, unfortunately, their actions and activities say otherwise. It is real simple:

Here is a newsflash: most non-performers are not in sales (or recruiting) to focus all their efforts and attention on honing their craft and making their numbers. If that were the case, guess what they would be?

That’s right, they would be performers.

Even if they say they are focused on making their numbers, they are not. Most likely, they took this job for other reasons: they needed a job, they needed the money, they wanted to be trained, it’s a stepping stone, etc. Here is an undeniable fact: there is so much mediocrity in the sales profession, if someone truly puts forth the effort through skill development and activity, they can be successful.

So, how do you motivate the non-performer? The short answer is, you can’t. Motivation comes from within. Here are two great examples:

Every minute you spend with a non-performer is a minute you cannot spend with a performer.

Non-performers will always try to sell you on what they have done and all the actions they have taken to make their number. Unfortunately, the one thing they don’t want to take responsibility for is actually making their number. They want to focus on the “try.”

The best sales leaders understand, Performance is the yardstick of measurement. They focus on the outcomes and the results. They know that if you focus, develop your skills and execute upon the activities, the non-performer will eventually become a performer.

What about slow starters? How can we tell the difference between a slow-starter and a perpetual non-performer? It is easier than you think. Slow starters figure it out. You can tell by the adjustments they make. Sales is a collection of trial and error. The non-performer will give you every reason why something did not work rather than “beneficial failures,” where they learn from their mistakes.

Here are four keys to managing non-performers:

  1. Have a weekly one-on-one. “Game Films” are critical to consistently putting responsibility and accountability on outcomes/results. If you continue to hear excuses rather than adjustments, put them on a Performance to Improve Plan sooner rather than later.

  2. Don’t get sucked into the “try.” Essentially in life, there are two actions: performance or excuse. As a leader you must decide what you will accept from yourself and your salespeople. Yoda (Star Wars) said it best, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.

  3. Stay focused on managing agreements. Activities, actions, skills, adjustments and results. Type “sales effectiveness” in Google and you will get 28,500,000 results in .51 seconds. Anyone can be successful in sales if they make being successful a top priority. Stop trying to manage drama, motivation and effort.

  4. Coach, coach, change. Actions speak louder than words. Exit the non-performers who are in “conflict” and hire motivated people with the desire to be successful. Understanding a candidate’s desire and motivation need to be a key part of your interview process.

At Butler Street, our sales leadership training helps our clients build a system of reinforcing activities to dramatically improve sales performance. Fact: the companies we work with grow 4X their respective markets. Contact us to discuss how we can be of help to your organization.

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