Strategies: How long do you keep a new salesperson?

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: March 24, 2015

Colleen Stanley

It’s a "Groundhog Day" scenario in the life of a business owner or sales manager. The company is growing and it’s time to add a new salesperson to accelerate sales. You spend hours interviewing candidates and after six months find yourself asking the question: should I keep working with this new hire or let him go? Have I given this person enough time and tools to succeed? Is it me or the candidate?

Look no further for the answer than the hit song from Kenny Rogers, "The Gambler" — " You’ve got know when to hold ‘em. You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em.”

Here are a few tips for knowing when to hold and continue training and coaching or fold and admit you made a hiring mistake.

1. Track and measure sales activity. One thing that is great about the sales profession is that a salesperson is in control of his or her success. Successful salespeople recognize that they can always do the work, the sales activity. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House, what's happening with the economy or the competition.

Doing the work is within a salesperson’s control.

A successful colleague of mine in wealth management states, “You have to do your first year once.”

Translation: You may have to do more sales activity the first few years in an industry to build contacts, networks and business.

If your new salesperson isn’t doing the work, you probably hired someone that lacks a work ethic, drive or passion for your product or services. And it’s hard to teach someone work ethic or passion. Time to fold 'em.

2. Proactive or reactive. Business owners and sales managers often hang on too bad hires because they blame themselves for not giving the new salesperson enough training or tools. This might be true, but top sales performers always figure out a way to learn and get better.

Figure-it-out salespeople are often referred to as the "buggers" of the world. They don’t wait for others to come to them and make them good. They are proactive and tenacious in "bugging" other for training and coaching.

A young, successful salesperson, in a rapidly growing company, is a "bugger." He quickly learned that his boss was swamped during the day with many competing priorities. However, he also quickly learned that his boss arrived at the office early and stayed late. This determined salesperson adapted his schedule to meet that of his boss during the early and late hours. He "bugged" him for advice during hours when others weren’t competing for his time.

If you have sales veterans on your team, a sharp new hire quickly figures out who is hitting quota and making money.

Then, they “bug” the top sales producer, asking for input on how to handle specific selling situations. Like busy sales managers, they know top producers are busy. They also recognize that top producers have to eat so they offer to meet them for breakfast or buy lunch with the intention of picking their brain to decrease their ramp-up time. ‘Buggers’ proactively seek help instead of waiting for someone to make them good.

If your new hire isn’t a bugger, time to fold 'em.

3. Discipline and practice. The "buggers" of the world also demonstrate another important attribute. They apply the information learned from their boss or sales veterans. People often state that knowledge is power. Not true. Knowledge isn’t power until it’s applied and used.

Gaining and applying knowledge takes discipline, desire and practice. Here’s how it shows up in the sales training or sale management world. The instructor or manager teaches proven content that will improve acquisition and close rates to 20 salespeople. Ten salespeople apply the knowledge and 10 salespeople chooseto remain status quo. What’s the difference? The individual salesperson’s discipline, desire and willingness to practice and succeed.

It takes discipline to set aside time to review information and practice selling skills. It takes a burning desire to avoid settling for "good enough" and decide to become best in class. There is no shortcut to success. Study any person of excellence and you will find hours of practice and study behind that excellence.

Watch and listen to the habits of your new hire. Is she listening to sales, business or self-improvement audios in her car to and from work — when she would rather be listening to her favorite tunes or talk shows? Is he practicing the selling and influence skills needed to be a salesperson that consistently wins trust and business?

If not, time to fold 'em.

So how long do you hang on? Track and measure your new salesperson’s sales activity. Salespeople can always do the work. Determine if your new hire is a "bugger." Is he waiting for help or proactively seeking advice? Look and listen for signs that your new hire is applying knowledge and practicing new selling skills. You will soon have your answer on whether to hold ‘em or fold ‘em.

Click here to download article

Good Selling!

Colleen Stanley

Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, emotional intelligence and hiring/selection. She is the author of ‘Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success’ and ‘Growing Great Sales Teams.’  Reach Colleen at 303.708.1128 or visit is granted to reprint this article in print or electronically as long as the paragraph above is included and contact information is provided to Thank you.