The Power of Releasing

We salespeople and sales leaders are not exactly sane. We’re sometimes not very logical people. We have a lot of emotional problems. LOL! With this in mind, I carefully listened to the sales leader (client) I was coaching as he launched on me—rapid fire, not stopping to take a breath. He was really lost on a particular topic. He was going off: 

‘I’m so frustrated with some of the people on my team. They just don’t want to go to work! How do I motivate them?”

“There are so many negative comments floating around the office and they’re hurting some of the new people I just recruited. How do I stop that from happening?”

“How many chances should I give a salesperson before I give up on them? I don’t want to just give up on them.” 

This guy I was coaching had a lot of problems, albeit, not uncommon ones. It was my job to get him to think and act differently. As a coach I usually use questions to accomplish this. I am a big believer in the concept of  crafting great questions.

The quality of your life (and your business) will be equal to the quality of the questions you ask

So I began to ask good questions. I first asked him how he believed motivation works? After some back and forth—and some careful follow up questions—he agreed that we CAN’T actually motivate anyone. Motivation comes from within. He agreed that we can and should create an inspirational environment, but that a salesperson ultimately needs to find and supply his or her own motivation.

I then asked him a little about the “negative comments” that were “floating around” his office. I asked him to tell me about the salespeople that were making them—profile them for me. He told me that the people making the comments were not having success. He told me that they were not doing what he asked them to do and they were disconnected from the system. I asked him to tell me about their calendars—their activity levels. I was already certain what the answer might be, but he confirmed my beliefs when he told me that their activity levels had dropped off to nearly ZERO.

I then focused in on one of his other questions/comments: “How many chances should I give a salesperson before I give up on them? I don’t want to just give up on them.” I simply asked, “Is this person you are referring to actually going to work on a regular basis?” You should have seen the clarity wash over his face. He became quiet, thoughtful. Then he simply said—with an embarrassed smile—“No…they aren’t going to work each day.” It was what he said next that told me that he was asking himself the right questions, and more importantly, being truthful with respect to the answers. He commented, “I guess it’s not a question of ME giving up on them. If they aren’t showing up and going to work…if they’re just popping into the office for our Monday morning meeting, making some negative comments that infect newer, more positive associates, then taking off to do, God knows what…It’s THEM giving up on themselves.”

Releasing A Fish

The rest of the coaching session was easy. My coaching client identified himself as someone that was afraid to RELEASE people. I told him that I had met other collectors of people. “Collectors of people” is the moniker I give sales leaders that are intent on keeping as many people in their system, on their team, as possible, regardless of the cost of doing that.

There are a few reasons/motivations/beliefs sales managers have for engaging in this somewhat dubious practice:

  • They desperately want to see EVERYONE “make it”—and they actually believe this is possible (these leaders also still believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and all politicians).
  • Often, they believe that by simply KEEPING someone in their system long enough, something will change…something will eventually “click” for them.
  • Some leaders are LAZY. Rather than ask tough questions and identify the root causes of low activity and low production, it’s easier for them to just let salespeople quit on their own.
  • At times EGO can be the challenge. The leader feels like they have a better business if MORE salespeople are showing up to their organizational meetings .

There are probably a few other reasons, motivations and beliefs that cause this practice, but let’s now focus on what you should BELIEVE and what you should be DOING. Let me expose what my philosophies are on this subject and give you some thoughts to contemplate. (I will also assure you that virtually ALL recognized sales leadership experts share these viewpoints.)

EVERYONE Can’t and Won’t make it

It would be nice if every person we hired made it, but that isn’t the case and never will be. And…most importantly, it’s not our job to ensure that. It’s our job to recognize who is doing the work, who’s not, and then respond accordingly.

Coach or Conduct Conversations APPROPRIATELY

Simply KEEPING someone in our system won’t mystically change a thing. It’s our job to SEGMENT our team, then determine the level of commitment to learning and activity of each pool of salespeople. (There are definite differences in the levels of commitment if you’re looking.) Once we have ‘boxed’ people accurately, we can coach or have the specific conversations that are appropriate to the individual situation.

Don’t be LAZY

It is our job to be a master of the obvious. If a salesperson isn’t doing the work, we need to throw on the brakes, set a meeting with them and find out why. Simply ignoring the cold hard fact that their activity level has dropped, or ceased to exist, doesn’t accomplish anything except produce a frustrated and/or negative salesperson. Once they turn negative, you rarely get them back and then they may become a ‘cancer’ in your meetings. Without you realizing it they can adversely influence that brand new—pristine—salesperson you just hired. They don’t mean to undermine you, they’re just unenthusiastic and it’s your fault.

Put Your EGO in Your Pocket

It’s not about how many salespeople you can collect; it’s about output, production and identity. If you have a BIG group showing up to your meetings it may make you feel good—give you a false sense of security, but if the majority of them are not growing professionally, what do you really have? It’s just a matter of time before the bad attitudes and habits of the non-workers infect the others. I would rather have two committed hard working salespeople that are willing to run hard alongside of me than have a mixed bag of a dozen nuts—have a bigger group that has no real identity or commitment.

You can quickly build around a small, but committed nucleus,

but it’s extremely difficult to build or sustain a team that lacks identity


We used to say, “Fail Failures Fast,” but that sounds negative, and is no longer politically correct. Instead, I will advise you to FILTER-FILTER-FILTER. Rather than becoming a collector of people, why don’t you practice the following? (These are the thoughts and steps I have always taken with people that have stopped working or producing.)

  • Know their ACTUAL activity levels (Don’t guess)
  • Care enough to invest the time to meet with them personally (Non-primetime)
  • Plan to ask them DIRECT questions
    • What’s going on in your life that’s keeping you from going to work?
    • Are you willing to RE-COMMIT to the program?
  • Offer to RE-START them or…
  • Offer an EXIT interview

Your job is to determine what is causing the lack of activity/commitment and fix it or offer them the opportunity to leave the organization with grace. It is really that simple. What you will find is that this practice—these philosophies I’m advocating—create great long-term benefits to your organization. It is really a win/win/win scenario for your team.

Think about it…

  • If you release someone that is NOT willing to show up or do the work it benefits that very person because they get to go choose a new career that may be better suited for them.
  • If you release a person that may have become negative or inactive it benefits your team because there is one less bad example or negative vibe hanging around stinking up the office environment.
  • If you are willing to release a salesperson that isn’t committed it is a benefit to you because it frees up your time to go find a winner or invest more time in the people that are worthy causes.

There is great POWER in RELEASING someone that is not willing to do the work, is not committed or has become negative. To tell a sales leader to look for opportunities to filter and then conduct exit interviews may seem counter intuitive, but it’s not as long as we have a strong on-boarding program and a strong commitment to offering our salespeople every opportunity to succeed.

If you or a sales leader you coach is struggling with some of these concepts, please feel free to SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH THEM.

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to read my book, The CAP Equation, A Foolproof Formula for Unlimited Success in Sales, please click on the link below. It’s now available on Amazon:

The CAP Equation© website offers free resources for commission salespeople and sales leaders. Please click on the link below for free instant access:


Joe Buzzello is a nationally recognized expert on direct selling and sales leadership. He has built legacy sales teams and experienced unprecedented success in individual and business-to-business markets as well as the network marketing industry. Joe has held executive level positions for Fortune 500 companies, but he has never strayed far from the art and science of selling, which he loves. In early 2014, Joe began writing, speaking, and coaching through his proprietary platform, The CAP Equation©. Please visit Joe at:

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