How to Spot the Ineffective Salespeople in Your Team (And What to Do Once You Have)

Could there be some members of your sales team who are simply “Miming in the Choir”?

Underperforming SalespeopleI know it sounds like an odd question – but the phrase “miming in the choir” sums up much of the “active inactivity” that I’ve witnessed in countless sales teams – together with the negative effect it has had on the far too many sales managers who just couldn’t see it – and didn’t deserve to fail.

Have you ever managed a group of salespeople – who all looked and sounded as if they were working at full pelt – but for some reason continuously missed their targets?

If you have, then I can almost guarantee that a small number of your team were being genuinely effective, while the rest were just copying the busy actions – miming in the choir – without ever standing a chance of achieving the corresponding results.

Because we all know that moving your mouth into the right shapes isn’t singing and being busy with prospects isn’t necessarily selling.

They might not even realise they’re being ineffective themselves – in fact they might be exhausted with all their busy-ness – so there might be still time to get one or two back on track.

Either way – here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for, so that you can work out which ones are simply going through the motions trying to fool everyone and which ones genuinely need your help.

Oh – and remember – with regards to sales management, it’s never just one thing. If the standards you set allow for one part of the job to get done ineffectively, then there are probably five more being swept under the carpet that you don’t even know about by certain members of the team who think they’re being clever.

You Give Them Goals – They Give You Excuses

When you move from sales into sales management your job description changes from hitting sales targets – to – making sure sales targets get hit.

If you’re not having the sales target chat on a weekly basis with every member of your team then I recommend you read the article How to Coach Your Sales Team to Success to get a few ideas about how to structure the conversation and make it useful for both parties.

If your problem is simply salespeople not hitting targets, then you may find another article I wrote recently entitled What To Do When Members of Your Sales Team Fall Behind useful too.

The Quality of Work Sent to You / Head Office is Below Par

When this starts happening on a regular basis you should be hearing fog horns hooting and alarm bells ringing.

If a member of your team can’t be arsed to make a piece of work look respectable for a member of the management team or their colleagues – then what do you think their prospects are ending up with?

There’s another point to this too – every letter, phone call, email and PowerPoint presentation that your prospects or customers see is an indication of how YOU run your ship – as far as the outside world is concerned, everything passed across your desk first before it got to them.

Any of their shoddiness that the outside world sees is your shoddiness – and the perception they create becomes the internal and external perception of you and your entire team.

Watch out for people who consistently miss deadlines too.

Their Absenteeism Record is “Unusual”

Of course some emergency situations are inevitable, but if you’re looking at someone who has more “sick” days off than the rest of the team put together – albeit spread out so it isn’t obvious – then you’ve probably got a problem.

Keep an eye on this – support people who genuinely need your support – but look out for repeated Monday-itis or Sales Meeting Sickness and act accordingly.

They Think the Company Values are Amusing

There are some companies who add sections to their performance reviews and appraisals these days that refer to how employees live up to and represent the company’s culture, values and mission statement.

It might just seem like banter or workplace humour – but whenever anyone starts chipping away at a belief system – then the people around them will invariably stop believing.

The trouble with people who openly mock what a company stands for – or the values of any smaller groups or teams within an organisation – is that if they perform well and are popular with others, it’s very easy just to let it go.

But these are the Lobster People – and if you let them, they will pull every member of your team right down to the bottom of the tank with them.

Trust me, if these popular, successful and vocal individuals don’t embrace your vision for the future, then this problem will creep up on you so subtly that you won’t even know it’s happening.

They will cast a spell across your team that will spread like a virus and infect all around them while scattering the values that you thought were the foundation stones of your business like pebbles.

But what these Lobsters didn’t realise, is that the company culture and business values that got you to where you are – was exactly what your current customer base were buying into – it wasn’t the product or service – other suppliers could do that.

Sales always drop away when a successful culture begins to fade.


Interested in finding out more?


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Our Sales Management Open Workshops show you how to piece together the four main elements of successfully managing a team – Focus; Accountability; Motivation; Education – and show you how to get the best out of everyone involved.

At the end of this workshop delegates will be able to:

  • Work out how to focus on the real tasks that need to be achieved – and find a way to ensure every member of their team is doing that too.
  • Create a culture where every member of the team understands that they are accountable and responsible for their own success – and recognise exactly what that makes them accountable for.
  • Genuinely motivate people to over deliver -and even more importantly – learn how to make sure you don’t demotivate them.
  • Coach the entire team to greater things – learn how to give them a net of their own rather than continuously feeding them individual fish.
  • Feel competent and confident enough to conduct staff discipline in a professional (and legal) manner.


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