11 Proven Strategies to Coach Underperforming Sales Reps

How to coach underperforming sales reps

Training and coaching sales staff can be a major challenge, especially when it comes to those that are struggling to perform. I have been on both sides of the coin so this article is from the heart.

It’s important to recognize the unique challenges faced when coaching underperforming sales reps and to utilize effective strategies to ensure that the team is performing to the highest standard.

Whether you have any sales coaching tools at your disposal or not, how do you coach underperforming sales reps?

How to coach underperforming sales reps

Coaching underperforming sales reps involves providing guidance and support to help them improve their sales skills and achieve the goals set out for them.

Some key aspects of effective sales coaching include setting clear expectations and KPIs, providing constructive feedback, and offering training and development opportunities.

It’s also important to create a supportive and positive work environment, recognize and celebrate achievements, and focus on the individual needs and strengths of each sales rep.

For experienced sales reps, this can be a tough pill to swallow, for less experienced reps it can be easier but the same underlying coaching principles should apply, no matter how much sales experience they have.

The key parts of effective sales coaching are:

  • Set clear expectations and goals with reasonable timeframes
  • Provide constructive feedback with actionable improvement points
  • Offer training and development opportunities
  • Create a supportive and positive work environment
  • Recognize and celebrate achievements
  • Focus on the individual needs and strengths of each sales rep

Now we have covered the high-level points on how to coach sales reps, let’s dive into the 11 strategies you can deploy to get on top of any underperformance.

1. Understanding the Challenges

Coaching an underperforming sales rep is often more complex than working with well-performing members of the team. This is because there is often a mix of external environmental factors, internal team dynamics, and individual issues plaguing the sales rep, all of which must be addressed for successful coaching.

To start, it’s important to take a holistic approach and identify the root cause of the underperformance. This can involve speaking to the sales rep in question, their colleagues, and other members of the team, and analyzing internal records and data.

Once the factors causing poor sales performance have been identified, it will then be possible to start formulating an effective plan of action.

When creating a plan of action, it’s important to consider the individual needs of the sales rep. This could involve providing additional training, setting achievable goals, or offering support and guidance. It’s also important to ensure that the plan is realistic and achievable and that it’s tailored to the individual.

It’s essential to provide regular feedback and to monitor progress so that any issues can be addressed quickly and effectively.

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2. Identify Common Causes

Some of the most common causes of an underperforming sales rep include inadequate training or resources, lack of motivation, poor time management skills, inadequate leadership, and lack of knowledge about the company’s products, services, and often sales process.

It’s important to consider how each of these factors may contribute to the sales rep’s performance as well as the wider sales team as this will give you the basis to handle underperforming sales reps.

This may involve providing ongoing training and support, offering additional resources, developing better incentives or rewards systems, or providing clear guidance and direction.

It’s also important to ensure that the sales team has the necessary tools and resources to be successful.

This may include providing access to the latest technologies such as CRMs, Proposal Software, or Sales Intelligence systems as well as ensuring that they have the right sales materials and providing them with the necessary support and guidance from their sales managers.

Additionally, it’s important to ensure that sales staff have the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge and to be rewarded for their efforts. By taking these steps, companies can help to ensure that their sales staff are performing at their best and an underperforming rep can be brought up to the level required.

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3. Establish Clear Performance Goals

One of the most important steps when coaching underperforming sales reps is to set realistic and achievable goals.

This should involve both quantitative objectives, such as increasing sales figures within a designated time frame, or making sales forecasts more accurate, such as developing better customer relationships or becoming more efficient in closing deals.

Setting clear performance goals will give your team members something tangible to aspire to and provide accountability for their actions.

When setting performance goals, it’s important to ensure that they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. This will help to ensure that the goals are achievable and that progress can be tracked. It’s also important to ensure that the goals are realistic and that the team members have the necessary resources and support to achieve them.

In addition to setting performance goals, it’s important to provide regular feedback and support to the team members. This will help to ensure that they are on track to achieving their goals and that any issues or challenges can be addressed in a timely manner. Regular feedback and support will also help to build trust and foster a positive working environment.

4. Coaching Environment

In order for effective coaching to take place, it’s essential to create an open, welcoming, and supportive environment for your team members. This requires being receptive to feedback and criticism as well as actively encouraging conversations and engagement within the sales team.

You should also be mindful of your tone and body language and use positive reinforcement whenever possible. Explaining expectations clearly, praising successes, and being patient are all key ingredients to creating a successful coaching environment.

It’s also important to create an environment of trust and respect. This means being open to different ideas and perspectives and creating an atmosphere where team members feel comfortable expressing their opinions.

Additionally, try to provide clear and consistent feedback to team members, so they know what is expected of them and how they can improve.

Finally, create an environment of accountability, where team members are held responsible for their actions and results.

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5. Motivational Tactics

By providing ample rewards and incentives, you can help to create a more motivating atmosphere for your team and keep them engaged with their sales objectives.

For instance, setting up a progress-based reward system where individual members receive recognition or additional bonuses when they meet (or exceed) their goals can be a great way to boost morale.

It can also be helpful to track individual performance and compile rankings so that each team member can easily compare themselves to their peers in an effort to become more competitive.

6. Expectations and Deadlines

Having high expectations for your team’s performance is important but it’s equally important not to set standards that are impossible for them to meet.

Managing underperforming sales reps is often difficult for sales managers as they often have targets to hit and can feel stressed by the underperformance as well.

However, clearly defining expectations, adhering to deadlines, and providing a reasonable amount of time, should allow them adequate space to complete tasks or projects effectively.

Keep in mind that meeting goals can be difficult for underperforming sales reps who may require additional support and guidance in order to succeed.

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7. Constructive Feedback

Another key component of successful coaching is providing direct yet constructive feedback.

Critique needs to be balanced so that staff members are given the necessary direction they require while also feeling supported in their efforts.

Encouraging questions and acknowledging mistakes can also be beneficial in creating an open atmosphere that encourages learning and progress.

8. Celebrate

Even when progress is slow, it’s important to recognize your team members’ efforts and celebrate their successes every step of the way.

Celebrate small victories and recognize any improvements being made no matter how small they may seem.

This will help your team stay motivated and will give your underperforming sales reps a sense of achievement and recognition which will in turn help spur them into continuing their efforts.

Image of man being thrown in air during celebrations

9. Coaching Schedule

Scheduling regular meetings with your team members is another important aspect of successful coaching.

A regular review schedule allows you to analyze performance at specific intervals, make mid-course corrections where necessary, identify potential areas for improvement, and keep morale high.

You can also use these meetings as an opportunity to discuss any challenges or concerns facing your team.

10. Mentoring

It can be helpful to assign an experienced mentor to support your underperforming sales reps on an ongoing basis.

Having an experienced guide who can provide personal advice and guidance can be especially beneficial in aiding struggling members of the team through difficult times.

By helping them develop their skills and work through any issues they may face, you can ensure that they remain motivated while they work towards reaching their performance objectives.

11. Adjusting as Needed

Finally, it’s essential to continually evaluate your strategies and make necessary adjustments as needed. This may be needed with the underperforming reps as well as all the sales teams and of course, may influence how you onboard new sales reps.

Monitor performance regularly and analyze the results for any patterns or trends in order to help inform your approach moving forward.

With regular feedback from both the sales staff and management, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to strategies used for coaching underperforming sales reps.

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How do I identify underperforming sales reps?

Look for trends in their sales data, observe their behavior during sales calls, and ask for feedback from their customers.

How do I approach underperforming sales reps about their performance?

Use specific examples to illustrate their performance issues, discuss the impact of their underperformance on the team and the organization, and offer support to help them improve.

What are some effective coaching techniques for underperforming sales reps?

Set clear goals and expectations, provide constructive feedback, offer training and development opportunities, and use role-playing exercises to practice sales skills.

How can I motivate underperforming sales reps to improve?

Recognize their achievements, provide positive feedback, offer incentives for meeting sales goals, and create a supportive and positive work environment.

Final Thoughts

By utilizing these proven strategies for coaching underperforming sales reps, you can ensure that they reach their highest potential while helping your business reach its goals.

Taking a detailed yet personalized approach to coaching each individual member of your team, you can build a productive sales force with an eye on success.

The use of Artificial Intelligence is now becoming widespread. If you feel your reps could use a little helping hand then take a look at how ChatGPT can be used for sales. If you aren’t already assessing this then you will want to take a look otherwise you might get left behind!

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