Underperforming talent – Do they stay or go

Underperforming  talent – do they stay or go?


With a double tonne at the Boxing Day test Australian cricketer David Warner ended a form slump.

Most elite athletes contend with a slump during their careers.

Even the great Michael Jordan had one, but think of any sport and any sports team and chances are they have been in a slump.


Having been in sales for over 40 years I too have been through my share of slumps.

Sales slumps, where you just cannot seem to sell your way out of a paper bag.


Chances are your business has been impacted by sales slumps.

But how do you manage your team when they are going through one?


I have been performance managing and coaching sales talent for forty years and this is a question faced by sales directors and CEOs on a regular basis. Do I sack the underperforming sales talent or do they stay?

Now remember this article is about “Underperforming” sales talent. There will be a myriad of reasons why you should immediately deselect sales talent. High on the list would be bad culture fit, dishonesty, theft, or representing the business in a bad light. We are discussing here a member of your team who you think is a good culture fit, knows your product or service, is punctual and tries their best. But when KPIs are reviewed each month, is constantly underperforming.

You as a senior manager you are faced with a decision, underperforming talent – do they stay or go ?



So, you have made the decision to let them go.

In the pro column

You have shown the rest of the team that poor performers are cut – no hesitation. The high performers in your team will be happy, those in the lower echelon will start feeling nervous, not a bad thing. Complacency is a sales killer. You can now onboard a new high performing talent member with a fresh and vibrant energy. If you select well from an aligned industry, may be able to bring some business with them or some insights as to how a competitor operates. Winning.

And now the Cons?

You contact HR who tell you they will get right onto it, the search fee for that position will be between $20 and $25K, You will have interviews set up within 3-4 weeks. On average new talent has to give at least 14 days’ notice. You should have someone through the interview process and onboarded best case 8 weeks, 12 at the outside. 2-3 months without a salesperson in a key role, not ideal.

Once onboarded their initial 30-day training commences taking you and your team away from front line activities. Everyone is under the pump, but the lost time is calculated by HR at around $10K. Now the new talent hits the road and on average, new sales talent does not start performing and hitting key KPIs for 6-9 months. HR has calculated on an incremental scale this gradual upskilling to be around $30K. Total investment so far, 60 to 65K. HR comes to you in 90 days, probation period is up, does the new talent stay or go? Have they done enough?

The future though is uncertain with any new sales talent.



So, you have made the decision to let the underperforming talent stay.

You bring them into your office for a performance review, tell them that they need to start hitting their KPIs, offer extra training, whatever they need, you want them to succeed. You give them a written notice that will be on file with HR. Their daily and weekly activities go up, sales rise but only marginally, the pressure intensifies.

Over the next 90 days their performance has improved, but it is still not where it needs to be, you are frustrated. Do they stay or do they go? You make the decision to terminate their employment, kicking yourself you did not act earlier, now the employment process starts, add to the start-up of 60-65K three months of lost revenue and margin. This type of scenario I have seen play out countless times over forty years, yes, even in my own organisation.

  • What if there was a better option?
  • What if in 90 days you could turn that underperforming salesperson around?
  • What if they were on an upward trajectory.


If you have been in sales long enough you would have been through some slumps, cricketers have them, footy players have them, salespeople have them.

Or maybe you have a skilled sales team, and one talent member needs to hone their skills. What is it the sporting profession does that for the most part we in business do not? Call in a specialist coach to work one on one with the underperforming talent. The big investment has already been made to get them to the pitch, on the field, or in your business. You have invested heavily, they have the talent, past performances tell us this. How to unleash the potential or identify the roadblock. You have done all you can.



There are now specialist sales coaches who work directly with a company’s sales talent to upskill with new ideas and disciplines. Just like in a sporting team, the weakest link is individually performance coached and mentored, the objective is simple, to identify, work on and solve the biggest sales challenges faced. To increase customer engagement and conversion rates. To empower the individual to exceed monthly KPIs and quotas. For a fraction of the investment or inconvenience it would take to replace them.

Your team notices that when the going gets tough, you care for your team. Instead of discarding them, to give them every opportunity to succeed. To reach their potential. Sales improve but so does moral. All within 90 days, about the time it will take to onboard new talent.

The next time you are faced with a difficult choice: Do we let them go or do we let them stay. Consider another option – Do we let them succeed?


If you have underperforming sales talent and are unsure as to your next move,

Book a strategy call with Martin

Or read more about selecting and onboarding new sales talent