How to Handle a Sales Rep Downsizing

Downsizing has got to be one of the toughest challenges for any sales manager to face. No matter what the reason – sales are down, business needs are shifting – when company leadership says you have to cut employees from your team, your heart drops. It might be upsetting, but downsizing is something you have to handle strategically and professionally as a manager.

So how do you correctly evaluate the performance of your sales reps and choose the right people to let go?

Use Data to Measure Performance

First, honestly and objectively assess your sales team’s performance over the past year, or past few years. Delve into your sales data and discover who your worst-performing reps are overall. This means not just looking at who has the lowest sales numbers – you need to look at detailed KPIs for each of your reps, including:

  • Win/Loss Rates
  • Length of Sales Cycle
  • Historical Revenues
  • Activity Efficiency
  • Pipeline Contributions
  • Revenue per Dial
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This data can help you look objectively at performance, and also dig deeper into the efficiency and effectiveness of your reps. One rep may have high sales numbers, but based on the data you may find out that it’s only because of one large, fluke deal, instead of a consistent body of work. You can look at more detailed sales performance metrics to show you who has potential to improve in the future, and who doesn’t.

Identify Strengths

In addition to the performance analysis, make a list of key skills that your strongest reps have, and create an ideal profile to compare your team against. For example, great reps not only have a good sales approach, they are also able to:

  • Actively Listen
  • Prospect Intelligently
  • Negotiate Effectively
  • Handle Objections
  • Close Deals
  • Retain Customers
  • Offer Insight into Problems
  • Tailor Sales Pitches to Customers

Go through each of your reps and rate their competency in each of these areas, 1 to 5. Add up the scores, and you’ll discover which of your reps have the highest overall sales abilities. By combining this data with the performance data you’ve gathered, you should be able to easily sort your reps into top, middle and bottom performers.

Sort for Potential

It’s easy to decide to cut the bottom few reps that aren’t performing as you’d like, but once you get to the middle of the pack, things become far more difficult. By carefully analyzing both the performance data and the skills competencies, you can begin to see which reps have potential to become great, and which do not.

If reps have good performance and low competencies:
Option 1: Unskilled reps who have been fed great leads and gotten lucky
Option 2: Hard workers who achieve great results despite weak sales skills

If reps have great skills, but low performance:
Option 1: A talented rep who has been unlucky in their leads
Option 2: A lazy rep who isn’t performing up to their potential

In these cases, you need to use your own knowledge of the individual reps to decide whether the rep has potential to improve or not. Hopefully, you feel confident by this point that you’ve analyzed the data thoroughly, and can make a fair, unbiased decision about who to let go.


No one wants to downsize, but it is a reality that you may have to face as a manager. By using a combination of data and your personal experience with and knowledge of your team, you will be able to clearly identify who you can’t do without, and who on your team is, unfortunately, expendable.


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