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by RON STURGEON, AutoSalvageConsultant.com

The first article in this series listed more than 25 tactics to increase your business success, all of them based on my experience.

Although distractions can affect anyone in a business – from owners to managers to the custodian – this article is primarily about salespeople. Have you ever had a salesperson who consistently delivers high numbers, a top performer, whose sales numbers suddenly plummet?

The cause of the drop can be a real mystery, especially when the person shows up every day, does what he or she has always done, and puts out the same number of quotes. As owners and managers, we usually measure the activity of a salesperson as a predictor of sales. For instance, a salesperson who does an above-average number of quotes is likely to get a strong flow of orders before long. With newly hired salespeople, we know that if they don’t quote enough business, they can’t make their numbers at the end of the month. Other metrics like calls in or out and average call length can also help you to find the cause of poor performance.

In my career, I have had super salespeople experience sudden drops. On consulting assignments, I have also helped diagnose issues on sales teams. In one of my businesses, I had a top performer’s sales drop 50 percent. When I spoke to him, he blamed it on the economy, on the weather, on price increases and anything else he could think of. He was angry and offended that I had confronted him about his falling numbers. I think he believed the excuses he was giving me.

After three months of dreadful sales, his peers found out he was getting a divorce. While his home life was imploding, he was showing up and working, making the calls and doing the quotes. He sounded like the same talented salesperson on the phone. I am sure that he thought he was not allowing his home life to affect his work. Nevertheless, it was. He was much less effective. Not surprisingly, his sales jumped back up when he found a new girlfriend.

In consulting assignments, I have seen similar distractions – ranging from the health of loved ones to the stress of building and financing a new home – affect the performance of strong members of a client’s team. In every case, the employees tried their best to “leave it at the door,” and did not see the way that the extra worry at home was affecting their performance at work.

What to do in these situations is not always easy to determine. You have to recognize the reality and determine whether the distraction will affect the employee’s performance temporarily or permanently. It is best if the employee can recognize the distraction and admit it is a root cause of poor performance. From there, you can work together to get back the focus on work.

One way to insulate your company from these issues is make sure that you are using pay-for-performance compensation for as many of your employees as possible. Your salespeople should be on straight commission. You should be paying your delivery drivers per stop, etc. Pay for performance is not the whole solution because an underperforming star will still affect your overall numbers. What such a system does is help alert the employee to the reality that their performance isn’t as good and that it is affecting the business. A paycheck that is half what it was is an effective wake up for many people. It can give both you and the employee an incentive to work together to return performance to prior levels.

Another lesson I learned is to always be hiring and interviewing prospective employees, especially salespeople. Waiting until you need another great salesperson to go look for one is a serious mistake. It diminishes your chances of hiring a truly great one. It cuts into your sales and your profits. Always be scouting talent and gathering resumes so that you can hire the people you need. It sounds cold, but you have a duty to your current employees to keep your company strong and profitable so that they will have opportunities. Your employees’ families also count on you to be a good leader and to make the hard decisions to keep your business healthy.

Published in the October 2017 Edition of American Recycler News