Performance Planning 2.0: 4 Steps to Turn Around Under-Performers

B2B Demand Generation | How to Turn Around Under-Performers

Did you know that the content from this blog and Find New Customers is taught at two of the top business schools – Stanford and the University of Notre Dame? That demonstrates our superb knowledge of B2B lead generation.

This post was written by Find New Customers for the now-defunct sales blog, the B2B Sales Lounge. Since it’s a great article with valuable information, I want to re-share it here at Fearless Competitor. We thank Anneke Seley and Brent Holloway for this great guest post. Contact info follows the post:

According to CSO Insights data, few reps are achieving quota (2010: just 6 out of 10 made quota), yet quotas, on average, are going up at nearly all companies (95% of companies plan to raise quotas in 2011!). Can you really grow sales by fiat?

(IMHO, Marketing is the key to growing sales, particularly via B2B Lead Generation.


At we enter the last quarter of 2011, many of you may be looking at your headcount and evaluating which members of your existing sales team should be counseled to find a new job.

With so many reps falling short, what should we sales managers do with reps who are not cutting it? This is, of course, a subjective question, and the right answer depends on many factors, but I feel it’s fair to suggest we should all have a methodology and process to follow — not just for a termination process, but also for the time leading up to a possible termination.

Performance improvement plans, or PIPs, are often given to sales reps who are performing below expectations. By integrating Sales 2.0 principles into your PIPs, you can optimize the opportunity to turn around and improve the performance of a rep who may be struggling. Here are four suggested steps for PIPs:

  1. Have a process.
    After X quarters in a row (X will depend on your company), present your PIP. Be clear about how long the rep has to turn around his or her performance. Set a clear expectation about the time-frame.
  2. Know your team’s best practices, and share them early and often.
    Give under-performing reps every chance of success by giving them specific ideas for how to improve.
  3. Include measurable objectives.
    Your PIP should give reps specific and attainable metrics you have identified as necessary for achievement. This could include number of weekly calls and number of demonstrations, as well as goals related to adding new pipeline and booked orders.
  4. Get feedback from your reps.
    You can increase their buy-in if they are included in setting the goals.

Based on feedback from some of my peers across a wide range of companies, general consensus seems to be that, while PIPs are positioned as tools to help an employee succeed, they are often viewed — and used — as tools to justify termination and prevent lawsuits. I believe PIPs can serve both objectives, with an emphasis on giving the employee every reasonable opportunity to succeed — if they are written fairly and presented well.

Presumably your sales reps know what is expected of them based on their compensation plan; the objectives in a PIP, when necessary, are often more tactical. A PIP can also be used as a commitment test, giving a rep a chance to “self-select” and resign before getting fired if he or she is not committed to improving.

I have experienced giving a few PIPs, and one recent one resulted in a successful turnaround. This may not be the norm, but I feel it’s worth celebrating and sharing. After two years of consistently missing his quarterly goals (sometimes by a little and sometimes by more than 50%) and being at the bottom of his peer group, an employee was given a formal PIP at the start of Q4 of last year. The plan had clear pipeline-building and revenue objectives, and the rep is now thriving with three straight quarters of excellent results. I can’t give all the turnaround credit to the performance improvement plan, but from eight missed quarters to three good ones in a row, plus good progress so far this quarter, the plan clearly had a role. I think it forced him to focus more, and it was clear that he became more proactive and creative in his selling.

How are other people using PIPs? How do you determine the appropriate time to present one?

Contact info:

Anneke Seley

(415) 986-6300

Brent Holloway

Read my blog on Kindle

Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the ways they attract and earn the trust of prospective customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at

Find New Customers helps companies (with between 150 and 5,000 employees who sell complex products to businesses) to implement world-class lead generation programs. As companies struggle to create quality sales opportunities, they turn to lead generation companies like Find New Customers.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

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