June 29

Legacy Reps – Do You Love Them or Leave Them?


We’ve all had a good time complaining about the millennials. But perhaps it’s time we take a look at the baby boomers that make up a large part of many sales teams. Business owners and vice presidents of sales in various industries voice similar complaints and concerns about them.

  1. “They don’t, won’t or suck at prospecting.”   
  2. “The salesperson has a deep bench of expertise and it can take two years to ramp up a new hire. Do I start all over?” 
  3. “The legacy reps’ clients love him or her. She carries a big book of business and I’m concerned I will lose a lot of business if she leaves.”      

So what do you do with these legacy reps?

I could give you a textbook answer such as, “Reset expectations. Tell them they have to prospect for new business or they are going to lose their job.” But, I’d rather share with you what some of my successful clients are doing to deal with old sales dogs that don’t or won’t prospect for new business.  

You have three choices with unsatisfactory selling behaviors. You can accept, adapt or help the salesperson find a new home. 

#1: Accept. Yup, it’s time to stop barking up the prospecting tree. Apply the EQ skill of reality testing. This sales dog isn’t going to hunt. They’ve been there and done that. But let’s put a qualifier on this acceptance. You accept this reality only if this legacy salesperson:

  • Writes profitable business and consistently achieves his goal. 
  • Increases her existing book of business each year. Even if the percentage is small, everyone needs to grow in order to stay on the sales team. The cost of running a business goes up each year. 
  • Plays well in the business sandbox, i.e., they don’t terrorize other departments with their ineffectiveness or personality.
  • Has  clients that LOVE him, not just like him.  
  • Demonstrates selling skills don’t look or sound like those featured on a bad “Saturday Night Live” skit. 

If they don’t possess the above qualities, time to help this legacy salesperson find a new home. What are you really losing?

#2: Adapt. If your legacy salesperson is a keeper based on the above data, then adapt. Stop handing the legacy salesperson leads or asking them to prospect new accounts. Instead, invest more time with them in analyzing their book of business. A fresh set of eyes will help them find gold in them hills. 

If you are going to hand the legacy rep leads from your inside sales or marketing department, set clear expectations and then follow through. The lead must be contacted within X amount of time. If not, the lead is immediately assigned to a young gun that needs and wants the opportunity. If this lead doesn’t convert to a first appointment within X amount of time, it’s reassigned to another salesperson that has a better strategy or skill for opening up the sales conversation. (This gets rid of the “I contacted them once” excuse.)   

Don’t argue or cave the first time your legacy rep pushes back. You discussed and agreed to the new performance standards. It was his or her choice not to execute.

Some of my clients are pairing their legacy reps with a younger business development rep. This structure works well because the latter gets their 10,000 hours of prospecting in quickly. This structure builds a strong bench of talent that is ready to handle an account executive position within a year or two. It also provides an opportunity for the legacy rep to mentor the newbie on how to close business

#3: Time to find a new home. This strategy is for the legacy rep that comes in late, leaves early and isn’t hitting their sales goals. They are wearing invisible pajamas. This strategy is for the legacy rep that isn’t taking exceptional care of your valued clients. You know, they are operating on the do-as-little-as possible principle of selling.

And this strategy is for the legacy rep that is selling business, but it’s not profitable because of eroding margins and the amount of work created for the other departments once the sale is made. Inaccurate, missing or inadequate information often creates headaches and poor morale, none of which hits the P & L statement.   

It’s time for you to decide. Are you going to love them or leave them? Remember, making no decision IS a decision. 

Good Selling!


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