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When Making Cuts In Your Business, Don’t Cut Your Sales Force

Business headlines in the Wall Street Journal, on cable networks such as CNBC and Fox Business or online at Marketwatch, for example, often announce layoffs at major corporations or even well-funded startups. On the same page could also be a story about another company filing for bankruptcy or liquidating its brick-and-mortar locations. These events are commonplace in today’s business marketplace. Often the first place employee cuts are made is with sales force related positions.

When companies start to cut employees to reduce the workforce, the first place often cut is in the sales and marketing related departments. As time goes on, these same companies look at their bottom line and wonder how so much in lost earnings could have happened.

The business journal articles sometimes mention a company’s plan to eliminate unproductive sales people. But what percentage of the sales force does each company consider to be unproductive? I am certainly in favor of eliminating anyone in a business who is unproductive, not just sales people. If as a CEO, president or business owner, you keep unproductive employees you risk the well-being of the productive people as well as the entire company’s well-being.

At the same time, cutting the sales force is a sure fire method to creating future disaster in your company.  Every business should be eliminating sales people who consistently are not meeting sales goals. But before you start letting sales people go, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I have a very detailed, defined job description for every position in the sales department?
  • Do I have a well thought out, up-to-date sales plan?
  • Have the sales people, at all levels of sales experience, been properly trained from the time of coming on board with the company to within recent months?
  • Does my sales force understand what is expected of them?
  • Does my sales force have realistic, attainable goals both for prospecting and actual sales plus, if appropriate, repeat sales through account maintenance?
  • Is each member of the sales team reviewed on a regular basis?
  • Does the company hold regularly scheduled sales meetings? Training meetings?  
  • What is generally discussed at each sales meeting? 
  • What are the subjects discussed at training meetings? 
  • Are the meetings interactive? 
  • Is there follow up after the meetings to fully integrate what was discussed?
  • Do I have a feedback system in place for effective communication with the sales force?
  • What has changed in the past few months within your company, with the sales force, our customers, the economy or industry that can have an impact on how the sales team performs, overall and individually?
  • Is it easy to reference daily sales activity?
  • Do the company compensation plan competitive? 
  • Do I consistently motivate the sales force? 
  • What incentives are given to meet sales goals?
  • Do I provide sales people with an outline of what is needed to do in order to meet the company’s sales criteria and goals?  Do I give sales people a specific time period?  Do I provide support to help improve their productivity?
  • Is it a positive or a negative experience for a sales person who may be in jeopardy of losing their job?


These are just a few questions to consider.  There are more questions to consider about your sales team and sales, in general, based on your company’s situation and sales volume.

Once you’ve formulated answers to the above questions and if you have sales people that are not performing up to the standards set by your company, then and only then should someone be terminated.

After your company terminates the least performing sales people, those positions should be replaced by more competent, professional sales people.

Sales are everything.  Nothing happens till something is sold.

  • If you want to stay in business you must sell your product or service on a consistent basis.
  • Never stop looking for sales no matter how good business may be.
  • Don’t give up when sales are bad.
  • Improve your sales force and marketing.
  • Don’t just downsize sales and marketing.


You, the CEO, president or business owner, need to take responsibility for sales results.  You need to make the decision of who you’ll continue to employ and who will be given an opportunity to find employment at another company.


Don’t just cut people to cut people.  Indeed, tough decisions.  Think through the unintended consequences of your business decisions.  Make your sales force stronger so your company will survive, succeed and prosper.


To your success!



Business expert and strategist, Howard Lewinter, guides – focuses – advises CEOs, presidents and business owners throughout the United States across a wide range of industries, to MORE success – MORE profit – less stress. Business people trust Howard’s vast business knowledge, practical advice, intuitive insight and objective perspective to solve business problems and issues. Get MORE from your business! Talk business with Howard: 888-738-1855.



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