Football season is here again and with it comes the inevitable placement of some coaches on the proverbial hot seat. Expectations are high for certain colleges, as usual, and a couple of those schools’ seasons have not started well. But just how much time should these teams’ coaches be given to turn a program around?

I heard a sports talk show debating this topic the other day and it got me thinking about the same situation in sales. How long should a seller be given to hit their goals? How long should a manager be given to turn their team around? The true answer is “it depends.” Let’s look at the factors that impact the amount of time you should give someone to perform.

Have Realistic Expectations Been Set?

In the case of a manager, have team revenue generation goals been set and communicated and do they know what you want their role to be? In other words, do you expect them to sell to make a number because making it is more important in the short run than developing the team for the long run? Or are you willing to allow them time to coach their people to perform at greater levels to build a stronger more sustainable sales effort long-term?

And are expectations realistic? Perhaps you hired a manager wanting them to fix everything in short order because sales have been languishing, or some big customers left. Have they really had enough time to succeed? It is not possible to turn everything around in a month.

In the case of salespeople, you must give them time to fill the pipeline. If you have a six-month sales cycle and you hire a seller and expect them to close business in three months, you are being unrealistic. Not only do you have to consider the typical sales cycle, but you also must add on ramp-up time. Realistically, how long does it take someone new to your company to be independently proficient at conducting quality sales conversations? Whatever that time period is, that must be added on to the typical sales cycle to determine how long it will take to start to close business.

Do They Know?

This question takes many forms. In the case of a manager, do they know how to be a manager.  Too often wonderful sellers get promoted to manager and don’t know what the difference is. It’s like an elite college program hiring a running backs coach (who has never been a coordinator or head coach) to run their program. It can be done, but the skill set required for each job is different. It’s the same with selling. There aren’t that many traits that are common between a great sales manager and a great seller.

And, do they know they are on the hot seat? If not, they may believe all is well. We perform deep analysis of sales teams to identify what specifically will help them perform at their highest level and it never fails that management thinks some individuals aren’t performing, but those individuals think they are.

In college football it is easy to know if you are on the hot seat. You hear it from the press and the fans. But in sales there’s no social media or talk shows complaining about the effectiveness of a seller or manager. It is the job of their leader to let them know when they are on the hot seat.

And, once they know they’re on the hot seat, do they know how to get off it? Be clear. Perhaps it’s an amount of closed business, a set number of new proposals, or even activity that will lead to opportunities. Next provide guidance on how to get off the hot seat and discuss milestones to get there. It’s what the most effective leaders do.

Like a coach having a rough start, it might be appropriate to set baby steps. “Beat these three rivals and you get another year.” For managers: What percentage of their team needs to be at or above goal? What level of coaching and joint calling (for coaching purposes) do you expect? What does the health of the pipeline need to be? And for sales: It could be increasing the number of qualified proposals in three months. But whatever the goal, it’s best if it is specific and measurable.

Be Sensible

Of course, you could be angry and disappointed in a manager that didn’t hold his or her team accountable to behaviors that may have prevented the current situation, and this may well be a fire-able offense. The same goes for sellers that didn’t do everything in their power to blow the doors off from a sales perspective, but you must weigh your options. Would the ROI be better to hold someone accountable to improved execution now, or would it be better to replace them?

When to Turn the Heat to Burn

Too often leaders and managers let problems fester and don’t address them. Or in the case of a leader who is distracted, feel guilty that they haven’t provided appropriate guidance, so they take the blame for underperformance and let it linger. We see it all the time and a company’s growth suffers.

Sometimes it is hard to determine whether someone just needs more time or whether they will ever succeed. An easy fix is to analyze your team using data and science, so you know with precision what your organization’s situation is. If you want to get a taste of how your team compares to peers, take it for a free test drive here.

Then, as long as you have provided clear and reasonable expectations, been completely upfront and honest about where things stand and what needs to happen, provided coaching as necessary, analyzed the upside potential of your options, you can rest easy that the individual is responsible for things not working out, set the hot seat to burn and send them on their way to the next opportunity.