iStock 000009603196SmallAnyone would agree that every sales team has a mix of stars, average performers and underperformers. Though it’s only mid-April, I’m sure that the star reps of every sales team have begun separating from the others on at least one, if not many, performance dimension. These top performers get ample attention from sales leaders—who provide them with the resources and support they need to maintain their productivity.

What about the underperformers?

Usually, this group receives attention only when underperformance, usually by way of poor achievement against a goal or poor sales overall, is undeniable. However, we would argue that identifying underperformance must happen sooner, so that sales leaders can coach against deficiencies or frontload transition planning.

I recently wrote an opinion piece for the Financial Times' Ignites blog (subscription required) that includes three early indicators to spot underperforming sales representatives. While the piece is specific to external wholesalers of mutual fund companies, the principles apply to many industries.

In my piece, I outlined three early indicators of underperformance that distribution executives can identify well in advance of the sales results at the end of a performance period:

1. Failure to establish and follow through on a contact plan

2. Inability to gain access to key customers (e.g., financial advisors)

3. Lack of placement in new product offerings (e.g., new funds)

In some examples, subpar capability is to blame for deficiencies in the above. However, the right coaching, monitoring and training can address any of the above and reverse the course. In other examples, the rep is quite capable but may suffer from overconfidence. For example, reps assume that only they can provide value to a customer on behalf of their company rather than calling upon support from HQ and peers.

These indicators may sound pretty basic. That’s because they are. But surprisingly, very few busy sales leaders have the time to look beyond the top line. Establishing a clear definition of “performance” and then spotting signs of underperformance earlier will help sales leaders take the necessary paths to improve sales.

To read more, feel free to visit my Financial Times’ Ignites blog.

Topics: sales, wholesalers, distribution, Peter Manoogian, sales performance