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I’ve never met a sales manager who, upon releasing a team member, said, “I only wish I kept them onboard for another quarter.”

tough_decision_rsz375_optWhat I usually hear is, “I wish I had done this sooner.” After being in a dilemma for several months over whether to keep a team member or release him, one sales manager told me, “Brian, when I finally made the decision to let Joe go, it was like a big dark cloud was lifted off the office. Everyone’s mood changed and it just felt better. I wasn’t the only one wondering why I didn’t make the tough decision sooner.”

Releasing people from your sales team is challenging. No one likes to tell someone they are out of a job. So it’s not uncommon for sales managers to give people “just a little more time” to turnaround their underperformance.

As a sales manager, you need to make informed, decisive, and tough decisions regarding when to fire someone.

Informed decisions

Informed means you established measurable objectives with your team member. It was agreed the objectives were realistic. You also agreed upon a timeframe for achieving those objectives. It was agreed the timeframe was realistic. Because you both agreed on the metrics, you can make informed decisions regarding a salesperson’s performance, and their ability to stay on your team.

Decisive decisions

sales_mgmt_rsz375_optDecisive means putting an end to controversy and displaying little or no hesitation. It means being resolute and determined. It’s not easy to be decisive when you aren’t certain. You can’t always be 100% sure, but if you feel “reasonably certain,” don’t delay; make the tough decision. When you are decisive, you maintain a momentum in business. When you are inconclusive, business comes to a standstill.

So often sales managers are on the fence; should I let them go or should I give them more time? Here’s a formula for getting off the fence. If you have had three management meetings where the topic of “releasing Joe” has come up, let him go. Or, if after three months Joe is still not exhibiting the behavior required for success, let him go. This is based on years of experience as a sales manager and as a VP of Sales. Joe is not going to change; it’s time to move on.

Tough decisions

A tough decision is difficult to perform. You have to be resolute, regardless of the difficulty. The decision may seem tough because you’re concerned about how the person will get by or a potential negative impact on their family. Change your perspective. Recognize that just about everyone has a story that says, “Boy, when I lost that job I thought it was the end of the world. Now, looking back, I realize it was the best thing that could have happened to me.” Over time, your displaced team member will land in a place better suited to their skills, talents, and temperament.

Another reason to make the tough decision – remember the sales manager who said, “It was like a big dark cloud was lifted off the office.” When that dark cloud is gone, the morale and the performance of the rest of your team improves. Underperformers can cause the rest of your team to underperform. Sometimes no one is aware until the negative factor is gone.

Executive Summary

Be informed, be decisive, and make tough firing decisions. It’s better for your team, your organization, and your career.

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