How to Remove Your Dead Weight and Raise the Bar

By C. Lee Smith, CEO and Founder, SalesFuel

In sales, we often talk about setting the bar high. But there’s another bar for sales managers to consider.

It’s not the high bar that sets the desired standard; it’s the LOW bar that can be a job killer.

The “low bar” is the lowest level of performance acceptable for salespeople to keep their job. And you set it by what you allow them to get away with. You may not see the negative impact immediately, but it’s a morale killer to the other higher performers on the staff.

Here are eight examples of how you set the “low bar” for your sales team…

  1. If you allow: salespeople to routinely miss their goal.
    The “low bar” you’re setting: If you miss your sales goal, there’ll be no consequences. So don’t worry about it.
    How to fix it: Adopt a “three strikes and you’re out” policy. 
  2. If you allow: salespeople to be rewarded for reaching only 80 percent of goal.
    The “low bar” you’re setting: 100 percent becomes the REAL stretch goal, because 80 percent seems good enough.
    How to fix it: Stop all incentives for anything less than 100 percent of goal. Be more realistic about the goals you’re setting. 
  3. If you allow: salespeople to routinely show up late for meetings.
    The “low bar” you’re setting: It becomes OK to be 5-15 minutes late. Hope your advertisers feel the same way!
    How to fix it: Start meetings no more than two minutes late. Reserve the front row of chairs or those closest to you for late arrivers so they can’t just sneak in undetected. 
  4. If you allow: salespeople to not enter everything into your company CRM.
    The “low bar” you’re setting: The CRM doesn’t look all that important to you. The problem is “garbage in, garbage out” or “lack of information in means lack of information out.” You’ve greatly reduced the effectiveness of CRM.
    How to fix it: If it’s not in the CRM, it didn’t happen. No ifs, ands, or buts. 
  5. If you allow: salespeople to go long stretches without engaging in a two-way conversation with their accounts.
    The “low bar” you’re setting: Salespeople think it’s OK to take long-time accounts for granted and put them on auto-pilot. There are no consequences for not doing your job.
    How to fix it: Set a policy where, if a rep goes more than X weeks/months without a telephone or in-person conversation with an account, they lose it – and the commissions that go along with it. 
  6. If you allow: salespeople to disregard the valuable tools and research you’ve provided them.
    The “low bar” you’re setting: They will feel free to just ignore any new tools, because you’ll just make those tools go away if enough salespeople don’t use it.
    How to fix it: Make using the tools regularly an item on their performance evaluation – it’s part of their job, after all. 
  7. If you allow: salespeople to text, check email, or otherwise fiddle with their mobile phones during your sales meetings.
    The “low bar” you’re setting: You imply the content of the sales meeting isn’t important enough for full attention. Heck, YOU aren’t important enough for their full attention.
    How to fix it: Apply movie theater rules: no texting, message checking, or anything else during meetings. Allow for checking of content or for Googling that directly relates to the topic of the meeting. If they have to take a call, make them leave the room. 
  8. If you allow: salespeople to blame the customer, the competition, or other people in your company for their lack of success.
    The “low bar” you’re setting: Salespeople don’t feel personally responsible for anything – it’s OK as long as you tried. Problem is, you now have a culture of finger-pointing and backbiting instead of positivity and teamwork.
    How to fix it: Always bring the conversation back around to what YOU could have done better. Did you provide value to the customer before trying to make a sale? Did you make a recommendation that makes sense (or did you just take their order)? Did you reduce their risk? Were you proactive? Were you persistent? Were you resilient?

You might think the worst person at returning calls sets the low bar for the rest of the staff. Or that the worst performer in terms of revenue, closing rates, proposals, account satisfaction, professionalism, etc., sets the low bar for the rest of the staff. And you’d be 100 percent wrong.

The fact is YOU set the low bar for the minimum level of performance needed to keep their jobs.

You’re not a passenger; you’re the driver of the sales team. So no whining about “I just can’t get the salespeople to use it/show up on time/stop doing what they shouldn’t be doing/start doing what they should be doing.” When you do that, you’re just admitting to the world that you suck as their manager.

There’s nothing wrong with being demanding or having high standards, so long as those demands are realistic – and you’re ready, willing, and able to help them meet those standards whenever they need it. You also need to be ready to “walk the talk” and do what you’re asking them to do.

One solution? Start adaptive sales coaching immediately – not only for you but your entire team. The Harvard Business Review has determined that top-quality coaching will improve the results of the middle 60 percent of a workforce by up to 19 percent. And, even with less-than-optimal coaching, the results can be as much as a 6-8 percent increase per sales professional.

Not everything is in your control, but coaching is – if you are willing to step up and change your approach.

C. Lee Smith is CEO and founder of SalesFuel. Connect with him @cleesmith on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.