The Three Causes of Failure

When a salesperson (or anybody for that matter), isn’t performing it’s useful to think about causes not symptoms. There are three root causes as to why somebody isn’t performing:

Category 1 – Knowledge Skills Deficit
The person isn’t effective because they don’t have the skills or knowledge perform to the required level. The most common solution is some kind of training intervention.

Category 2 – Wrong Mind-Set
The person may have the skills, but they don’t demonstrate the right behaviours. Behaviour is under their control; wrong behaviours eg being ‘permanently negative’ is something that they can choose to change. The normal intervention sequence here is coaching, counselling, disciplining, dismissal. Hopefully sorted out in the first coaching/counselling phase! If you’re wondering where attitude comes in, we believe managers should focus on changing behaviours not attitudes which can only be changed by the individual, and even then sometimes with great difficulty.


Category 3 – Capability
The raw ability to perform the role. No amount of training or coaching support is going to help somebody be successful if they don’t have the basics to begin with. These people need to be given a different role that they can excel in or exited from the sales organisation.

A category mistake occurs when Category 3’s are ‘sent’ (always a clue) on a training course with the phrase, ‘this is your last chance’ ringing in their ears.

An interesting type are 2’s that become 3’s over time. Their mind-set becomes so fixed they become incapable of fulfilling the role. These people are often made allowances for far longer than they should be.