Blog Post

Apex HCM S3 Series: Five Top Tips for Managing Under-performing Sales Reps


Is every member of your payroll sales staff truly cut out for the job? Probably not, according to the National Association of Sales Professionals. Statistics show that more than half – 55 percent – of people employed as sales representatives are not well suited for this line of work. Further, some 20 to 25 percent of people who have great sales skills are not selling a product that allows them to use those skills. These stats confirm the long prevalent 80/20 rule – 20 percent of the top performing sales representatives do 80 percent of the work while the other 80 percent struggle to meet their quotas.

But before you start clearing house, there are multiple ways you and your sales management team can effectively manage underperforming sales staff. Apex HCM offers these five tips to help boost skill level and confidence in a struggling sales rep.

  1. Tap your top performers: Identify the top 20 percent of your sales staff and interview them, asking each to describe in detail the steps he or she took in the most recent successful sale. This is critical because while the sales process may come naturally to your top performers, it won’t for others. But steps for successfully closing sales can be taught. So, take the information you gleaned from your best staff and use it to create a step-by-step sales process that can be used to train underperforming and new sales professionals.
  2. Set goals and clarify expectations: Always make sure that your sales staff – rookie, veteran, top and struggling – have a clear understanding of what’s expected from them in terms of behaviors and results. Know that this can change with trends, technologies and other factors that affect client needs and expectations. Set challenging but achievable goals both for the collective sales team and for individual sales employees according to their current abilities.
  3. Provide Feedback: Consistent tracking and feedback on performance gains and gaps is key to continued development of struggling sales reps. This is particularly important for the Millennial generation, which today comprises 46 percent of the US workforce and will grow to 75 percent over the next decade. Research shows that this group thrives on constructive professional feedback with 42 percent expecting feedback from managers every week – over twice the percentage of every other generation currently in the workforce. While such intense follow up may seem time-consuming, keep in mind that your payroll firm’s revenue potential remains static or even drops as long as your staff isn’t achieving at their own potential.
  4. Celebrate performance gains: Whether weekly, monthly or quarterly, make sure to keep your staff informed of any performance gains, both as a department and individually. Recognize those struggling employees who make significant improvements and set new collective and individual goals to keep the full team motivated.
  5. Address performance gaps quickly: When performance drops, take a quick and proactive approach to identifying and addressing the underlying issue. First, confirm whether the issue is isolated to an individual sales rep or prevalent across the full team. If the latter, take an honest look at the possibility that the problem is an internal one – perhaps unclear expectations or outdated goals – and correct accordingly. If the performance gap rests with a single underperforming salesperson, have him or her talk you through their process, from identifying prospective clients to sales pitches to failed closings. A frank and honest discussion should yield clues as to where the employee is faltering and how he or she can make necessary changes.


Above all, make sure that your payroll service bureau and its sales staff offer the most competitive products and sought-after solutions available. Call 866-248-9865 to speak with an Apex HCM representative today or request a demo online.