Advice: "I got my son a sales job at my company, but he's being lazy and missing quota. What should I do?"

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Dear Quota Team,

I run a sales team at a fairly large regional company. We have a few different sales orgs that sell different products and have completely separate org and comp structures. My twenty-two-year-old son just graduated college with a business administration degree. He’s always been a really smart kid and didn't have to study very hard to get good grades. 

After he graduated, I helped him get an entry-level sales job at my company (in a different sales org so that we aren’t working together). I thought sales would be a good way to instill some work ethic into him and to show him how great of a career path it could be. It's helped me provide a great life for my family (including paying for his college).

He had a good first few months on the job and was super energized, but in the last few months he's been underperforming and missing his quota. This would be totally fine, my son doesn’t need to work in sales, it’s not for everyone. But my problem is that he doesn’t seem to be putting in any effort anymore and doesn’t seem to care that he’s missing quota. He clocks out every day right at 5PM and plays video games until late at night. 

I've tried to bring it up to him, but he keeps mentioning that the economy is bad and it's hard for him to close deals. This is true, but it seems to me like he's just not even putting the work in to overcome the adversity that pretty much everyone in sales is facing right now. How can I get him re-energized about sales or at least get him to improve his work ethic?

Frustrated in New England 


Dear Frustrated,

Did your son go into sales because he wanted to, or because it was the easiest job for him to get? You said it yourself: he doesn’t need to work in sales. And as of right now, it doesn’t sound like he has any passion for it whatsoever.

But – and perhaps this is exactly what you’re thinking – how you do one thing is usually how you do everything. If he barely puts in any effort now, or even quits, then that sets up a bad precedent for the future. Of course, he’s still young, and lots of people take a while to figure out their path, but the sooner one can learn mastery over themselves, the better their chances of success. 

Our advice is this: sit down with him and have an honest conversation. Ask if he really wants to do this, and tell him he doesn’t have to give you an answer that makes you happy – he can tell you the truth. Once the pressure is off, you might get some insight into how he really feels and what’s holding him back. 

Few people can perform their best when they’re doing something they don’t want to do. And one of the best ways to motivate yourself in sales is to understand that it can give you all the things you ever wanted, if you’re just willing to work hard enough. You understand this, but your son does not (not yet anyway). Try to explain this in a non-confrontational way, then let him decide what he wants to do. You never know, he might just surprise you. 

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