Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Q&A Week 24 - December 8, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.


Q: It has become crystal clear that I need to terminate a sales person before the end of the month. The mandate to terminate has come from my vp of sales and our vp of human resources. Christmas is only a few short weeks away, and while I am in full agreement that she must be let go, I feel terrible about the timing. She’s not a bad person, just not a good sales rep. She has been on two separate performance improvement plans this year with little-to-no progress made. My company does not want her to be on the sales team at the start of the new year. How would you handle this situation?


A: This is a tough one from a personal standpoint and very straight forward from the business side. Unfortunately, the business is the most important side to take with this person. While I am sympathetic to the timing, with Christmas in a couple of weeks, your sales rep has been clearly underperforming for way too long. I’m sure there are reasons she was not terminated sooner, which can be debated at another time, but nonetheless you are now faced with the termination conversation.


I would treat the conversation as if it were any other time of the year and try to ignore the fact that Christmas is days away. Facts are facts and the sales rep must go. HR should be involved in the conversation, making sure that any termination information is properly relayed, and the conversation should be handled no differently than if it were in September. She must be informed that her poor sales performance has resulted in her termination effective immediately (or whatever date HR has set). Explain the multiple second chances that were given but results were not achieved. End it there…period.


It would be my hope that she will accept her termination given the multiple warnings and second chances. But, remember that we never know what someone else is going through in their lives, especially during the holidays which can be more emotional for some. If emotion does creep into the conversation or if she brings up Christmas, New Year’s, or the holiday season in general, be careful not to be baited into showing sympathy which can result in other termination related issues. Simply remind her that regardless of the calendar, her performance (or lack of) is the issue and nothing else. Her position has ended and the calendar has nothing to do with it. Do not discuss the holidays or any other personal matter she may throw into the mix.


I do feel for your situation and I understand that my advice lacks all emotion. It must lack emotion from you, the sales manager, because this is a business issue and not personal. One final piece of advice from my own HR consultant. Under no circumstances do you contact this sales rep after the termination. Again, the holidays tend to be an emotional time for many, even for you firing someone right before Christmas. You must remain stoic and not emotional. The now former sales rep needs to grasp the concept that sales is based on performance and not emotion. 

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