To Fire or Not to Fire? How a Virtual Termination Oracle Can Help

Ever fired someone? It’s a hell of a lot harder than it seems. And oddly, with more experience leading people, making that decision becomes even more difficult. At least for me it has.  At this stage in my career I better understand the overall impact to all involved than the first time I let someone go.

It seems a little easier if the person has been a complete and total nuisance to you and the company, or is self-destructing, or committed an act that is an illegal and terminable offense as defined by company policy. But even then, there’s most likely something about the individual you like and appreciate that makes severing ties an uphill battle.

On the tough side of the equation, their personal situation may enter the decision-making process. You know their spouse, kids, or their financial health. Or maybe they’ve been dealing with an ill loved one.

And at the office the person is part of the “family.”

And of course, there are the business “reasons,” or rationalizations, for not making a move to sever:

  • It’s expensive to replace someone
  • You feel like you haven’t given the rep a fair shot by doing everything you can to help her/him
  • The rep hasn’t been put on a “plan”
  • The rep is profitable
  • You know they’re going to turn the corner
  • You believe you’ll lose the headcount
  • You don’t have time to bring a new rep up to speed
  • You cannot afford to lose the revenue you know this rep will produce
  • It’s time-consuming to find a new rep
  • You never know what you’re going to get
  • You don’t have territory coverage
  • Customers like the rep

If you’re currently faced with having to make this decision about someone on your team, the list above may have convinced you to forgo termination and find a way to make it work. And maybe you should.

But the legitimate reason to pause and regroup would be if the rep has not been warned – again, providing these are normal circumstances and the rep has not raided a cookie jar of some sort. 

You may be saying to yourself: “yeah, yeah, yeah – I know. It’s an emotional decision.” You’re right! But if you’ve not come to that conclusion on your own, let me just say: it’s an emotional decision.

So how do you make this difficult decision…? You develop a virtual termination oracle. A non-emoting guide that tells you “it’s time” to take action or forever be a dope. You still have to do the dirty deed, but reducing the decision to hard, solid facts will make it clear that you’re doing the right thing.


  1. Performance metrics
    1. Quota
    2. Calls made
    3. Customer contacts
    4. Number of verbal warnings
    5. Number of missed forecasts
  2. Actions taken
    1. Customer co-visits
    2. Verbal warning
    3. Performance Plan
  3. Assessment
    1. Behavioral Attributes
    2. Selling Judgment™ score
    3. Sales Skills

Numbers 1 and 2 are pretty obvious. But number three – Assessment – requires some exploration and explanation. Assessments have generally been used in pre-hire situations. That’s old-school thinking, folks. Sales assessments can provide a great deal of insight into whether the rep is a good fit, various skill gaps, and the likelihood they’ll make quota.

Sales Skills is the area that normally receives the most attention when a rep is on the hot seat. But in reality, Judgment and Behavioral are more critical as they’re harder to change.

A Few Thoughts on the importance of Selling Judgment™ scores and Sales Behaviors.

Behavioral Attributes. We assume reps can sell if they have the skills and spent some time at the sales helm. But what if they have a lower Work Ethic level? Or what if they’re lacking goal orientation, competitiveness, and assertiveness? Then you won’t get that rep to budge off of their low performing quota attainment unless you or someone else is doing the selling for them.

Likewise, what if they don’t apply good judgment in selling situations? Arguably, judgment, at least in part, is based on Sales Skills and experience. But the problem is: how do you know?

There are various sales enablement tools and services that measure and develop Sales Behavior and Selling Judgment™ scores so that people are measured on an ongoing basis. This eliminates surprises and gives you an opportunity to make decisions before they become a problem.

Please – share, ask, comment – based on your experience.