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My Medical Device Sales Career

On A Performance Improvement Plan? 2 NOW Survival Strategies

Have you been feeling the heat lately from your sales manager?  The weekly Friday call-ins are now EVERY Friday and the field visits from your manager have intensified over the past few months, the warm fuzzy feeling is gone between the two of you (or perhaps it never was?).  These are the early signs of being lined up for a PIP,  Performance Improvement Plan, and then BOOM...it is official; YOU ARE ON A PIP!  Didn't see the signs?  You should have.

The PIP is used in good companies ONLY as a last resort and often, if the company is an excellent company, never used or only sparingly.  Why?  Because excellent companies and managers have been trained on how to truly lead and coach with uplifting, supporting and VERY measurable and directive standard COACHING Trip Report Letters routinely issued at the end of each field visit.   You see, EVERYONE gets those Letters; the good, the bad and the ugly after each and every field sales visit or perhaps conference call if needed...yep, even when you are doing great and hitting the numbers. 

Funny, but in my experience, using that type of true COACHING management style often leads to just that, managing top performers.  In that form of leadership the non-performers rarely feel they were singled out, they were held to the same management style and paperwork (e-mail) flow as everyone else; they could see they were drowning in not accomplishing the sale goals and tasks at hand and often together the manager and the sales representative came to the conclusion; the rep. needs to look for a new job NOW!  Doesn't get ugly, everyone came to the same conclusion.

Unfortunately the last medical company I worked for just didn't get it; they managed by using a PIP, yep the hammer.  You pull it out when you need to start drumming a person out.  VERY FEW people make it when the PIP drum roll begins.  You must trust me on this, my last GIG pulled the PIP out most often with upper management saying, "This guy or gal must go, put them on a PIP".  On the rare occasion in that company, I would see someone resurrect themselves from the PIP ashes, but not often.  How I found myself in this type of company is yet another Blog!

So all that said, you have now been placed on a PIP.  Before I launch into what you now must do, perhaps it will make you feel better if I have you answer these questions ABOUT YOUR MANAGER, if you say NO to all of them, YOUR MANAGER should be put on a PIP! 

 

4 Questions To Test The Strength of Your Manager: Should He or She Be On A PIP?

  1. Has your Sales Manager Traveled with you CONSISTENTLY in the field a minimum of 2 days back to back every 4 to 8 weeks and routinely the past 6 months to a year?
  2. Has your Manager sat down with you after each of those sales visits and clearly spelled out verbally and in a timely fashion what you need to do in a written field visit report (measurable sales activities with time frames to hit the sales goals)?  Did you get that follow up email within 5 days of his sales visit? (one no, is all a no for this question).
  3. Has your Manager stayed true to his or her word by following up with you in-between each sales visit on your progress?  This includes your weekly call reports being reviewed with you.
  4. Was it a virtual shock or surprise to you when you were put on a PIP?  If you didn't see it coming, then your manager was not managing!

 

OK, so does that make you feel better?  A no to any or certainly ALL of these questions indicates you probably work for a POOR Sales Manager!  At this point, it may make you feel better, but none the less YOU NEED TO GET MOVING IN 2 Directions immediately.  It will be difficult because the 2 directions are in OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS!  Yes, doing activities that are in direct opposition to each other, but they must be done.  They do serve one common purpose; TO KEEP YOU EMPLOYED either with your current company or a new one as quickly as possible. You must get moving quickly and in overtime immediately!

 

PIP STRATEGY

  1. Do first what is needed to KEEP your current job.  It will take you less time to keep your job than to drop everything and JUST LOOK for a new job in this marketplace. You need to probably leave that job, but you must do what you need to do to prolong your employment. Pull that PIP apart and dissect it, define the steps, accomplishments and goals you must attain by the dates specified in the letter. Try to hit those markers and check your attitude, even if you have to fake it!  Yes, you tell your manager that you are re-energized and you are going to nail what has been put before you.  Guess what?  Few people do that, but those few are the ones that can MAYBE survive a PIP.  Remember, most managers have given up when they have put you on a PIP, they just want you GONE.  So figure out which type of manager you have.
  2. Do immediately begin conducting a Job Search.  I have written many articles on resume construction, job search techniques and how to use Job Boards, Social Networking, working with Recruiters and Linkedin to find them.  So start reading and most importantly, executing to get a new job!  Wow!  I have written that and more, including our other authors! See our Medical Sales Career Blogs by Topic!

 

So you may be reading this and saying to yourself, "How can I possibly do both?"  My answer is simple, if you don't do both you will find yourself unemployed.  You must do both!   Chances are you may have not been working too hard at your job anyway, so now it is time to get the extra hours in and try to accomplish the goals, EVEN if your manager failed our 4 question test above.  Your goal is to remain employed, even if it is to stall the firing so you can continue your job search to find the right next company!  It places you in control of the situation as much as possible.

As I look back at all the PIPs I have seen manager do over the years and the almost 100% failure for people to survive "reasonable PIPS" (they spent all their energy trying to find a new job vs. trying to conquer the PIP).  When there were plentiful jobs, that plan could work; in this economic environment with few jobs, it could be folly.  So if you are now on a PIP, you know what to do. 

If you have been let go already or after you find a new job, go ahead and copy this article and send it to your FORMER MANAGER and circle the 4 questions in red and let him or her know what their score was on their management ability.  Just remember, any idiot can prepare a PIP and use it as a hammer when it's intent is merely to fire someone. It is the leadership and guidance they gave you BEFORE you received the PIP that is the sign of your former manager's ability.  If you received the management support you needed BEFORE the PIP, then you got your "just reward" and it is time to take ownership of it so you can change it with the next employer.  Often those that deny ANY ownership of the PIP and blame their manager 100% repeat it with another company.  I know, I see hundreds of resumes a week; you repeat former mistakes in life if you don't own up to them and decide what you could have done differently, EVEN IF your manager scored a 100% on our test.  Remember, there are a lot of top sales performers working for lousy managers, but that is yet another article; How to transcend a lousy boss!   

 

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