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How Long Do You Keep a New Sales Rep Who is Struggling?

I get asked this question all the time: How long do you keep a new sales rep who is struggling? I don’t believe that there is an epidemic of bad sales reps in this country, but I do believe there will always be people at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to sales. Sales in any industry at all levels is hard work-- really hard work. No amount of luck will make for a successful sales rep. Every top sales rep knows how to hustle and work their tail off. So when that’s not happening, when a newbie sales rep isn’t meeting sales goals and isn’t pulling their weight, you’re only cheating the rest of your sales team by keeping them on too long.

Keep reading to learn the answer to the question: How long do you keep a new sales rep who is struggling?

What’s the answer?

The answer is: not long. General wisdom and experience tells us that one year is the maximum amount of time that you should keep a struggling sales rep on the team. But now there’s actually data to back up why that’s important. The Harvard Business Reviewconducted a study and found that the highest performing sales organizations fired underperforming sales reps sooner rather than later. In fact, 18% of the highest performing sales organizations fire unsuccessful hires after the first quarter. Average and low-performing sales organizations tend to wait it out much longer. So the moral of the story is, a bad apple ruins the whole bunch. Keeping underperforming sales reps around drags the whole company down.

How do I know when to let go?

You won’t “know when you know.” So it’s important to have a plan for new sales reps that helps you to monitor their progress during their initiation to the company. Part of that plan should include proper onboarding and training, mentoring, and benchmarks and goals that are measurable and data driven. With a concrete plan in place it will become glaringly apparent when it’s time for someone to go, because the data will show you that this person is starting to drag everyone else down with them.

How do I fire a sales rep that isn’t performing?

If you have a proper plan in place to orient new sales reps, when it’s time to fire them it should be abundantly clear to the employee why they’re getting the boot, and there shouldn’t be any surprises. Assuming that, when you make the move to fire a struggling sales rep, do an exit interview. Tell why you’re firing them and give them feedback and actionable advice that they can take with them in their next job. Don’t blurt out any “don’t let the door hit ya” one-liners. Be kind and respectful and most of all, be truthful. No matter how disappointed your struggling sales rep is, they will appreciate your candor.


Nation's Executive Search Group is sought out by leaders in Enterprise Risk Management, Marketing Services and Decision Analytics for mission critical sales and marketing leadership talent. For more information, email or call Rob at (410) 827-0180,

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