Modern Selling: Four Steps to Turning Around Poor Sales Performers

Nov. 11, 2022
Just saying “you really need to pick it up” never works

This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

Turning around struggling salespeople is one of the most unsuccessful ventures in business. After facing this scenario dozens of times in my consulting work with clients, we have developed four critical steps as a process for sales leaders to turn around poor performing salespeople:

1. Catch it before it’s too late.

A key to most challenges in life is catching it early. Most sales leaders know that they should track Key Performance Indicators (KPI), but many track the wrong ones. Here are the two types of activity all sales leaders should track:

  • Short-Term Quote Activity: Don’t simply track outstanding quotes that are on the street, but also track week-to-week quoting activity.
  • Early-Stage Activity: Although calculating quotes is important, tracking the activity that leads to quotes can be an eye-opener. I am not suggesting that you create a cold call report, but your salespeople should have a targeted list of new prospects that you can review with them during your one-to-one meetings. You will learn quickly whether they’re working or not.

2. Work on opportunities together.

Stating “you really need to pick it up” never works. The good ones know they need to pick it up and are looking for help. When you realize that one of your salespeople is performing poorly, use the greatest four words a sales leader can say: “Let’s figure it out.” These are magical words to the good ones and may inspire the bad ones.

3. Develop short-term, realistic goals.

One of the biggest time-wasters that I see is the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). It usually looks like this: The sales leader says, “You’re at 30% of your quota, and we’re halfway through the year. I need you to catch up by the end of the third quarter, or we will have to make some hard decisions around here.” (Translation: Brush up your resume and go find a job while we pay you for the next few months).

Instead, enact the two steps above and then establish short-term and realistic goals, for example: Schedule appointments with three of your top 50 prospects in the next week; generate 110% of your quoting goal in the next two months; or, schedule and execute successful vision meetings with your two Tier 1 clients in the next quarter.

Focus on activity that matters and set mini-short-term goals aligned with this activity.

4. Continue to coach.

Have you seen The Biggest Loser – the reality television show that brought obese people together in a competition of losing weight? Some of the transformations were so drastic that it seemed unhealthy. After a few years of The Biggest Loser, multiple stories arose about contestants gaining back much of the weight they lost (to be fair, there are some long-term success stories, too).

For months, these contestants are surrounded by coaches, nutritionists, and supporting peers. Even though the show does a great job of providing support structure for them after the season, it pales in comparison to the support they receive while filming the show.

Of course, some of them are going to slip back into their old habits, and it is the same with your salespeople. You cannot be as active with them as you were during your short-term goal stage, but you must continue coaching them. Ride in the field with them, hold them accountable to their activity, and keep an extra eye in their direction – at least for the six months following your short-term goal work.

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. Use "Security Business" as a coupon code to receive a 10% lifetime discount at To request more info about the company, visit