How to Fire an Employee Without Losing Customers

Firing an employee is never fun, but firing a salesperson or account manager can be even harder. There’s always a risk that you’ll lose prospects or customers. Here are 8 simple steps for how to fire an employee without losing key relationships.

Know when it’s time to let someone go.

One important thing to realize about firing employees is that often, it actually prevents you from losing key relationships. A toxic employee may be poisoning prospects and customers without your knowledge. And in those cases, the faster they are gone the better your chance to potentially fix the problem. How to fire an employee can be less important than understanding when to fire an employee.

Step in quickly to protect key relationships.

If you suspect that an employee may be harming relationships with prospects and customers, do your best to analyze the potential problem and begin to correct it even before the person leaves. As a manager, go on joint meetings with the problem salesperson or account manager. Look for specific areas of concern and work to avert them. For example, a salesperson who frustrates prospects by being light on technical information can be supported by a technical partner in the short term.

In more serious situations, when key prospects and customers are being turned off by an employee, it may be appropriate to fully transition those relationships to another team member. If you have a graduated discipline process for how to fire an employee, one policy might be that at a certain disciplinary level relationships are evaluated and those that are at risk are transitioned away.

Reassign relationships carefully.

Even if an employee’s relationship with a prospect or customer is currently causing problems, it’s likely that at some point the employee was adding value to the relationship.

Take the time to analyze prospects and customers to determine what they are looking for in relationships. When you are reassigning them to other team members, keep their preferences in mind.

Depending on the importance of the relationship, you may even consider having the prospect or customer meet with multiple team members and choose the one they’d prefer to work with moving forward.

Control prospect and customer information.

Have you ever let someone go and then realized you didn’t have contact information for all of their prospects or customers?

You don’t want to realize this once you’ve already let someone go. Instead, set policies for collecting contact information consistently. Review data collection policies regularly with your team and ensure they’re entering prospect data into your CRM system early.

Manage communication.

Effectively managing communication is one of the most important strategies for maintaining prospect and customer relationships when employees are fired. Ensure that you quickly communicate that the employee is no longer a member of your team and give customers a new point of contact so they aren’t left wondering who to contact.

For key prospects and customers, it may be helpful to call them directly. You don’t need to share details of what happened, just let them know there’s a new relationship manager and you’re available as a resource as well.

Proactively establish broad and deep relationships.

To avoid having to worry too much about losing key relationships, ensure you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. A top customer whose only point of contact is a single salesperson is a risk anytime, not just when the salesperson is leaving. Top accounts should have relationships with sales management, support, and operations at a minimum.

Some salespeople can be protective of their relationships, but it’s important to understand that establishing these deeper relationships is actually a benefit to them and their customers. Anytime they’re unavailable, their customers should be comfortable reaching out to someone else on the team. And every additional point of contact should add value to the customer, helping them discover the value your entire organization is providing, not just one person.

Maintain a checklist for how to fire an employee.

“Checklist” isn’t a very exciting word, but checklists are important.

In order to ensure you are consistent in your process, maintain an employee termination checklist.

Check with your legal team to ensure you know how to fire an employee without risking a lawsuit, and ask other teams like IT to contribute their necessary steps. This doesn’t need to be a complex document, just a simple list of steps to follow.

Don’t burn bridges.

After all these tips for how to fire an employee without losing customers, there’s one more relationship I’d encourage you to avoid losing – your former team member. Whatever the circumstances of your employee’s exit, work to avoid burning any bridges. You never know when they may be a potential resource for you in the future. And you don’t want disgruntled former employees poisoning your market with hurt feelings over how they were treated. Instead, fire employees respectfully using a consistent and transparent process.

I hope you found these 8 tips for how to fire an employee without losing prospects and customers helpful! I’d love to hear your feedback and experiences in the comments.

And if you’ve just fired a salesperson or account manager, you may be in the market to hire a new one. Check out our free resource on hiring!

free download: the CFS guide to hiring

By | 2016-11-08T09:46:40+00:00 November 8th, 2016|Sales Leaders|0 Comments

About the Author:

Elizabeth is CFS's Operations Officer and Senior Advisor and is the Product Manager for the Criteria for Success Sales PlayBook. She writes about sales leadership, management, teamwork, motivation, and process based on her work with CFS's clients.

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