Of course, the primary “make or break” for new (or veteran) sales reps is whether or not they hit their number. A new rep who can’t quite figure out your industry, sales process or customer buying cycle to generate and convert on a pipeline in a reasonable amount of time clearly isn’t going to be around long.

There are other signs, not directly related to pipelines and quotas, that can help you identify a rep who isn’t going to make it. Leave some of these reps in the game too long and they’re poison and kill morale among the reps you want to keep as well.

So, here are a few things you’ll want to keep watch for.

1. Makes derogatory comments about customers or prospects
We all have crazy customer stories, and examples of prospects who didn’t exactly think straight or buy into your argument. But making derogatory comments about them out loud, in front of everyone else, is just plain disrespectful. And it’s only a matter of time before that’s going to spill over into a live customer or prospect conversation and cause you even more trouble.

2. Constantly talks about how great it was at his last job
If it was so great there, why did they leave? Or get kicked out? Regardless, they’re not there anymore. Constructive comments or suggestions based on best practices elsewhere is one thing. That should be encouraged. But claiming the grass was greener where you just came from isn’t going to help anybody.

3. Talks more about their “process” vs. following your plan
Every organization will have a different way of doing business, and managing the sales process. And most good reps take that process and make subtle customizations to align with their own strengths and ideas. But there’s a big difference between this and blatantly disregarding or ignoring the way you’ve asked them to prospect, manage their pipelines or work with prospects and customers. Learn from their ideas and past processes, sure, but letting them follow their own path is a quick way to ensure the rest of your sales organization feels free to ignore your processes as well.

4. Constant excuses for why things don’t work (with no examples or results)
Everyone has a bad day, week or month. But if it’s never their fault, something is wrong. If they’re always blaming the prospect, or the market, or your system, then something’s wrong. If they complain without recommending alternatives or solutions, then it’s not going well and not likely to get better.

5. Belittling to younger or less experienced reps
There’s no excuse for this, and you should have zero tolerance for it on your sales floor. Period.

6. Not using the CRM
Sure, this is a common complaint and pressure point for many reps. But we’ve all worked with reps who flat refuse to use the system entirely. They have their own process, they say. You have to trust them, they say. As an organization and sales manager, you need to make sure your CRM processes aren’t overbearing or too focused on minutia. But good CRM best practices combine management visibility with rep productivity. If you’re adequately striking that balance, reps either use the CRM or they’re out.

7. They’re working banker’s hours
Hit your number, consistently, and if you can do that in eight hours a day (or even less), more power to you. In fact, come teach the rest of us what you’re doing to get there. But if you’re not hitting your number and not putting in the time necessary to catch up, it’s a clear sign that you don’t care. And few reps who choose this path are going to improve once you have “the conversation.”

8. Doesn’t ask questions about your industry or customer
Ideally, your new hire training immerses sales reps in the world of your customer – their industry, their needs, their pain points, their objectives. All of this builds their expertise, their needs-based consultative selling skills, and their ability to quickly build rapport with prospects. But if your new sales reps aren’t asking questions about your industry and customer, and instead focusing on their personal sales process that “works no matter who the customer is”, you have a problem.

9. Spends more time sucking up to management than listening to their managers and peers

You’ve seen these reps. Hanging out in the doorjam of the CEO. Copying the c-suite on emails with their “great” ideas. A clear sign that they don’t understand or don’t respect who they need to impress first and foremost. Either way, it’s probably not the first time they’re leap-frogged their immediate manager in a failed attempt to accelerate their progress. Hit your number, dude, and you’ll impress a lot more people faster.

As usual, not an exhaustive list. Would love to hear more “warning signs” you’ve seen or experienced too.

Hungry for more sales management best practices? Check out our inside sales management best practice guide, a free download here.

  • http://www.vongehrconsulting.com/ Erroin Martin

    Excellent article and great points!

  • KRCinTN

    This article was a waste of time. If you’re managing sales reps and don’t already have this much basic business sense you shouldn’t be in management anyway.