You're an Average Salesperson, But It's Not Your Fault | Business LockerRoom

You’re an Average Salesperson, But It’s Not Your Fault

By Kelly Riggs | Sales + Leadership

Oct 13

You’re an average salesperson. Sometimes, not even that good. And you think you’re safe.

Sadly, you probably are.

You’re one of many salespeople at your company and you’re sleepwalking through each month. You’re going through the motions, doing just enough to stay off the bottom rung of the ladder. Your sales performance is average, at best, but occasionally you get close enough to your revenue objective that your sales manager – who claims to be way too busy to replace you – gives you another 3-month pass.

What that means is that you continue to be mediocre, but it’s really not your fault. It’s your manager’s fault. Your manager should coach you UP or usher you OUT, but he has at least as many excuses as you do.

So, it’s not your fault that you continue to muddle along. Oh, there is no question that YOU should have the drive and discipline to be successful. YOU should be be striving for excellence, and, to be clear, only YOU are responsible for your performance.


“You are the way you are because that’s the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you would be in the process of changing right now.”

Fred Smith, CEO, Federal Express


But, ultimately, your manager is accountable for your performance, meaning the buck stops with him. His failure to act not only encourages your mediocrity, but compromises his leadership credibility and encourages others to mail in their performance each month. After all, what are the consequences?

So, you coast. And you make excuses.

And your manager let’s you get away with it.


“I Don’t Have Time”

Are you that manager? Do you allow poor performers to mail it in month after month without any real consequences? If you are, you’re not only hurting the company, you’re hurting yourself. The longer you accept mediocre performance, the more likely it is to infect your entire team.

Worse, your credibility as a leader is taking a serious hit.

It’s amazing how many companies have sales managers who have not been trained in performance management. As I mentioned in my recent post, “The Reluctant Leader,” bad management tends to perpetuate itself precisely because companies fail to train their leaders.

But, surprisingly, there is another consistent excuse why managers fail to address average (or below average) performers. It is because – they claim – they “don’t have time.” The reasoning goes like this: Yes, that salesperson is underperforming, but, if I let him/her go, I will have to spend an enormous amount of time in the hiring and training process, and that’s time that I simply can’t spare. So, yes, I trade away potential performance gains for time I can use to work with my other reps.

Explanation: too much hassle for too much future risk. That’s how the reasoning goes, but it’s so full of holes, it’s ridiculous.

Here is the mess you are creating:

1. Your team is losing revenue month after month with little prospect of change. Not only are your poor sales reps failing to capture revenue, they aren’t creating any new customers and chances are good that they are alienating current customers.

2. Your good salespeople are losing respect for you as a leader because you accept – and make excuses for – mediocrity. That doesn’t get a pass on sports teams, so why would it get a pass on your team?

3. Your sales culture is in decline. Your constant appeals to “step it up” or “give extra effort” now create resentment, and your ability to create top performance is all but impossible.

All of this because you, the sales leader, “don’t have time” to address mediocre performance.

So, the good news – if you’re an average salesperson – is that it’s not all your fault. But that should make you feel a lot worse, not better. Because you could change if you really wanted to, and an effective sales manager would ask you to make that change.

And, if you didn’t, they would make it for you.



About the Author

Kelly Riggs is a business performance coach and founder of the Business LockerRoom. A former national Salesperson of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Kelly is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning. He serves clients ranging from small, privately held companies to Fortune 500 firms. Kelly has written two books: “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”