You can manage an employee dismissal without trauma (for you or the salesperson).
But you need a proactive plan to keep the process clear, objective, and professional.
We want to explain how to develop a process to make it as painless as possible for yourself, the person who is being let go, and the rest of your sales team.
Here is a list of steps you need to take to make sure the firing leaves everyone involved with their dignity intact, the company safe from legal repercussions and you, as sales manager, with the respect of the rest of your team.
1. Preventing and Managing Terminations
Develop a transparent process that begins well before termination.
There is a temptation to use the sticking-plaster technique when firing someone. You probably just want to do it quickly and vigorously.
But when you reach the point where you have to fire someone - the individual involved should be very aware of what is about to happen. Here are the steps you need to take to give the salesperson every chance to rebound from underperformance:
- Mandate a series of meetings before you terminate a salesperson
- Develop action plans to attempt to overcome specific problems
- Document these attempts to help them manage and improve weaknesses
- Deliver written warnings with practical suggestions of activities that will drive improvement
- Make sure all of your team members receive regular performance reviews (not just those who are not performing well)
- Document the feedback you relay, the responses from your employee and the activities you set to drive improvement
- Check in on a monthly basis to document progress on the completion of these activities
- During the last warning - explicitly state that dismissal is the next step if no change occurs (you can even set a clear expectation of timing for this decision)
- If the employee does not make the agreed progress, you can use this clear and objective reporting to support your decision
If you’ve done all of this correctly and according to a clearly defined company structure and process – most employees will agree to leave by mutual consent rather forcing you to terminate.
Bonus Advice - Get Help From HR or Legal
Make sure the dismissal process for the salesperson is confirmed by a legal professional and clearly communicated to the person being fired. The departing employee should know exactly what is expected of them when handing over their responsibilities.
If your company has an HR manager or department, you need to involve them at every step of any termination process. Try to make sure a HR representative attends all meetings. They will guide you during the process of managing a person towards dismissal.
HR will generally understand the specifics of relevant labor laws and the paperwork needed to protect all parties involved. They can also serve as mediators during the entire process to make sure fairness prevails over any emotional reactions you might be driven towards.
5 Ways to Help a Salesperson Rebound Fast: This guide will show you how to plan for failure and help you to drive salespeople to improve after poor performance. Think of this as your practical handbook to help you avoid this termination conversation altogether.
2. Handle Administrative Issues Before the Termination Meeting
Anticipate and remove any areas of question, contention or controversy before you discuss the dismissal with your employee. You can minimize the chances of conflict with detailed preparation.
- If a written letter of dismissal is required - have it ready and signed
- If you need three written warnings before you can dismiss someone, make sure these are documented, filed, and accessible during the termination meeting
- Make sure you are aware of the required notice period involved
- Explain how and when they get paid any money owed
- Prepare responses to questions about what happens to their leave allowance, pension or other benefits?
- Consider if you are prepared for them to leave immediately if desired (and offer this as an option if it is you would prefer this course of action)
Bonus Advice - Double Check Your Legal Responsibilities
If you have a global team or work with salespeople who work remotely in international locations, make sure you follow the defined labor laws of the relevant country of the employee. You might want legal advice to make sure you’ve acted lawfully. If you have an internal legal resource. this step will be simple. If not, best to land on the safe side and contact a professional for advice.
The Proactive Plan You Need to Manage Staff Resignations: You need to prepare for the same administrative considerations in the event of an unexpected resignation. While you’re working on your process for handling dismissals, think about the process you need to respond to a staff member leaving. This guide explains the immediate administrative issues, as well as the best way to respond quickly and effectively.
3. Keep the Meeting Clear, Direct, and Empathetic
Dismissing someone will be an emotionally wrenching experience for both parties - try to keep your dismissal statement short and to the point
- Don’t apologize - the termination is not personal, you’ve given this person every possible opportunity to turn their situation around and things have still not worked out
- Do be compassionate - this person may not be right for the job, but you need to remind yourself of how painful this experience can be
- Time your termination meeting at the very end of the day so the salesperson can leave immediately rather than having to deal with a whole day’s work (and their colleagues’ questions)
- Even in cases where this person has really ticked you off and made your life hell over a long period of time, you need to be the bigger person at this point in time - the way you handle their dismissal will be noted by the rest of your team
- Do not go over every little failure and disappointment involved
- Do not start tossing around accusations and blame
- Don’t be vague - your language and message need to be totally clear
- Make it clear you are not there to be drawn into a discussion
- Even though you may be entirely empathetic to their circumstances, avoid negotiations or arguments
(If things have simply not worked out due to a team culture or skills issue, you may actually want to help them land on their feet. Look at what they did do well and offer to write a reference or recommend them for another role)
Bonus Advice - Prepare an Exit Interview Template
If you have a Human Resources team and the situation allows, formulate a template for an exit interview. The departing staff member may have some good insights into why they failed and this is information that may prove very valuable in the future.
Smashing Stress to Achieve Sales Goals: Stress and pressure is real. You can’t pretend this is not a factor. Address these emotional challenges head-on. This article will help you detect the triggers of stress and give you some tactics to manage your emotions during such a difficult experience.
4. Talk To the Rest of Your Team
Dismissals have an impact beyond just the person who is fired. They may be a very popular person amongst their colleagues and well liked in the office despite their poor performance. While it is highly unlikely, their colleagues may also not have been aware that there were any issues.
Don’t blindside your team.
An unexpected and abrupt announcement that a team member is leaving may be easy on the person doing the firing, it will be an absolute morale killer for the rest of your team.
- Be fully prepared to handle the questions and concerns of your entire team after terminating a salesperson.
- Be honest and straightforward to nip any potential gossip or rumors in the bud
- Bear in mind that you also owe the person who has been fired any confidentiality that they are entitled to
- Don’t throw around blame or criticize the person involved in front of the rest of your team
- Create the opportunity for any team member to have one-on-one discussions with you if desired (some people are often reluctant to voice their fears or concerns in front of colleagues)
- Don’t sugar coat, but try to be positive - every single employee will be imagining themselves on the other side of the conversation and the way you handle this will impact the morale of your team
Bonus Advice - Setup a Clear and Structured Handover Plan
Prepare a practical handover plan to answer who takes over the departing member’s clients and prospects, who needs to let the clients know and what message needs to be delivered. Assure the involved team members that they will have extra time to complete these activities and their quotas will be updated to reflect these added tasks.
9 Morale Boosters to Pull Your Sales Team Out of a Slump: Your team will be affected by the termination of a team member. Unfortunately, sales will not wait. You need to be proactive and help your team recover quickly to keep hitting targets.
5. Filling the Vacant Role
- Take the Time to Reflect and Learn Before Rehiring
- Go over what went wrong with the previous incumbent
- Safeguard against repeating the same mistakes
- Make sure you know how to spot the qualities you want in your next salesperson (and the qualities you’ve learned to avoid)
- Use this as a positive opportunity to improve the overall balance of your sales team by hiring to fill skills gaps
- This is also a great time to revisit and improve your onboarding and training process
Bonus Advice - Reconsider your sales process
Did your sales process contribute to the problems which led to the dismissal? Can you make an internal change now to give a new starter the best possible chance to succeed? Make sure you are using an activity-based-selling approach so your salespeople can focus on the tasks they need to achieve rather than stressing about the results they need to meet. When your sales reps know exactly what activities they need to complete in order to maximize their performance, you can scale your team so much more effectively.
8 Steps to Finding the Perfect Salesperson for Your Team: Try to learn from your experience and develop a structured recruitment process you can replicate each time you hire to avoid the same situation in the future. This article shows you the practical steps you can use to get the best possible cultural and commercial fit for the business.
One Last Critical Piece of Advice for Managing Dismissals
Just do the job.
You cannot afford to stall or delay, as hard as this task may be.
Get in there and get the job done.
Firing people is unlikely to be enjoyable.
But if you manage this process correctly, you’ll generate respect and acceptance from all stakeholders involved so you can move on quickly and continue growing your business.