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What to Do When Your Sales Team Keeps Missing Its Goals


Practically Speaking is a weekly column that addresses your most pressing business dilemmas. The advice is the opinion of long-time business owner Gene Marks. Send your questions to

A client called to say she was “very unhappy” with one of our service technicians. How do I handle this?

Very unhappy? Join the crowd. I get these calls once in awhile, too. It’s not surprising. My company has more than 600 active clients, which means more than 600 different people with 600 different personalities. So on any given day you’re never going to know what you’re going to get. Your techs are never going to please everyone. At some point, someone’s going to complain about something. And if the complaint is directed at your service person you’ll need to address the issue without emotion.

As for the client, let her vent. Understand why the issue occurred. Empathize. Apologize. If you can transfer her to a different service tech then of course that’s your best solution. If she has legitimate reason to be upset with your service, give her the money back. If she is being unreasonable, you can still refund her, but think twice about working with her again. In the end you want clients to know that you’re taking action and want them to be happy. That’s what we all want when we’re dissatisfied, right?

Regarding your service person, remember there are two sides to every story. So get that side of the story. Your tech is not going to be loved by everyone and sometimes there’s going to be a conflict with a client. At the very minimum, and regardless of the situation, he should be professional and behave with restraint. Assuming this is the case, make sure the tech knows the mistakes that were made so that he can learn from them. If this type of situation recurs then you’ll have cause to terminate him.

Good, skilled techs are hard to find. Your challenge is to match them with the right jobs and the right people. Stand behind them. Make them know you’ve got their back — to a point.

Related: What Business Owners Should Know About Nepotism, Smelly Employees

My salesperson is consistently not making quota. What should I do?

Most organizations set goals and quotas for their salespeople. When they’re not met, you first you have to ask yourself if the goals are too aggressive. If so, you’re setting your sales team up for failure. If they’re reasonable and based on historical data, you’ll have to focus on the individual salespeople that are underperforming. Sometimes people think that if they offer more commission they’ll get more sales. I don’t think money is the problem. Most of the time it’s data.

To have good data, you should have a good customer relationship management system (CRM) system. Have your sales people enter their activities (calls, appointments, notes) in the system and track all of their opportunities. This is not an unusual request – it’s what smart companies do in 2016. Now, zero in on the underperformers. Look at where they’re spending their time. Review their upcoming calendar and scheduled calls that are in the CRM system and help them prioritize – should that underperforming salesperson be visiting that prospect 50 miles away who may make a $5,000 order when he could be better off staying in the office and calling 10 other prospects that may be more valuable? Spend 60 to 90 days supervising your weakest links closely. Let them know they’re being watched and that if things don’t change you may soon be forced to make a change.