RIFYou just left a meeting with your sales leader.  He informs you a RIF is coming.  20% of your team has to go.  You have four weeks to decide what reps are leaving the organization.  A myriad of questions swirl in your head…


  • Bottom performers are an obvious choice.  But that only gets you half way there.  How do I decide who else goes?
  • What do I do with open territories?
  • How do I ensure adequate coverage?
  • How do I hit my number with less headcount?
  • How do I keep the rest of the team motivated throughout the process?
  • Is my head on the chopping block?


Let’s face it, RIFs are disruptive.  The best sales managers manage the disruption with a well thought-out plan and process for reducing headcount.


The first step in implementing a RIF is an objective assessment of your team.  The assessment should be both qualitative and quantitative.  It involves assessing the individual rep’s competencies and accountabilities.  Many sales managers focus on one or the other.  They look solely at KPIs or go with gut-feel about a rep’s skillsets.  Either approach is woefully incomplete and usually inaccurate.


Gain clarity on the composition of your team, download the Sales Team Assessment Guide HERE.


Best practice is to define the A-Player profile for the role (Ex: Hunter or Farmer).  What are the 12-15 skillsets required for success?  Typical competencies include…


  • Sales Approach
  • Active Listening
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Objection Handling
  • Closing Abilities
  • Territory Knowledge
  • Retaining Customers


A new set of skills have emerged as essential for the new A-Player.  These include competencies such as…


  • Social Prospecting – The ability to gather and act upon account and persona intelligence
  • Sales Process Execution – The ability to sell the way the buyer wants to buy
  • Insight Generation – The ability to create new demand by proactively bringing new insights to target accounts


SBI uses scenario-based questions to assess proficiency in individual competencies.  Get a sample here.  A reps response is rating on a scale of 1-6.  Six is a top A-player answer; One is a low C-player answer. Rep talent assessments can run upwards of two hours.  It’s thorough, complete and accurate.


In addition to the competencies, your assessment should include performance data.  This is the quantitative part of the process.  Numbers don’t lie.  What are the expected KPIs for the role and how did the individual rep perform.  These include things such…


  • Historical & YTD Quota attainment
  • Deal profitability or margin
  • Net new revenues
  • Cross/upsell revenue
  • Sales Pipeline Size
  • Win Rate
  • Sales Cycle Time


Combined, competencies and accountabilities provide a clear picture of your team’s composition.  You will know who are you A / B / C players and why. I call this a Talent Portfolio.


A few things to look for…


  1. B-Players that scored HIGH on accountabilities but LOW on competencies


    • Scenario #1 – Mediocre reps who are placed in great territories.  They have so much opportunity in their patch, they cannot but hit their number.
    • Scenario #2 – These are your over-achievers.  Despite limited skillsets, shear will-power and hustle gets them there.  With targeted coaching, they could become A-players.


  2. B-Players that scored LOW on accountabilities but HIGH on competencies


    • Scenario #1 – Great talent place din crappy territories.  There isn’t enough potential in their patch.  Not even superman could make the number.  Give these more opportunity and see what happens.
    • Scenario #2 – Talented, but lazy reps.  The classic under-achiever.  They have the skills but don’t put them to full use.  These reps need focused coaching.  Call them out.  Make it clear you expect more from them and that you’re willing to invest.  If they respond, you’ve got yourself an A-player.  If not, it’s time for them to go.


After completing the assessments, you are armed with deciding who should go with the RIF.  Taking the methodical and objective approach above ensures you let go of the right people.  Its objective, so you’ll also keep HR off your back.


Call to Action:  Facing a RIF?  Struggling to figure out who to cut?  Download the Sales Team Assessment Guide.  Best practice combines quantitative and qualitative factors when assessing your team:


  • Step 1 – define the A-player.
  • Step 2 – assess your team against the competencies.
  • Step 3 – Understand your Talent Portsales_team_assessment_guide_cta3folio.
  • Step 4 – Remove your C-players and any B-player who cannot/will not become an A-player inside 18 months.