9 years ago
January 5, 2015

Our Top Sales Person is The Problem: What Now?

Even when your sales team is making its numbers, chances are that you will have sales people on the team who are having problems.

Rhys Metler

Even when your sales team is making its numbers, chances are that you will have sales people on the team who are having problems. There are many tried and true approaches to solving issues with underperforming or unsuitable sales people, but what happens when your top sales person is the issue? The following scenarios may help you arrive at a solution.

When Your Top Sales Person Is Having Conflicts with Peers

Interpersonal conflict is a reality in any team environment, and in most cases the individuals involved are able to solve conflicts professionally without impacting the business. However, when a top sales person is having conflicts with his or her peers the signs are hard to miss; the leading indicator of this type of problem shows up in the team’s sales numbers. Depending on the type of conflict, the best options are usually to:

  • Discuss the conflict with all individuals involved and help them arrive at methods to overcome the conflict
  • Do what you can to remove drivers of conflict between individuals who can not truly cooperate together, such as reassigning projects
  • In cases where the source of conflict may lead to legal issues, such as harassment, work with the HR manager and another sales manager to defuse the situation

When Your Top Sales Person Is Threatening to Leave – And Take Your Clients With Them

If your top sales person is considering leaving but does not have an offer in hand and has approached you about his or her intent ahead of time, it is likely that your top sales person is using the ability to leave as leverage. This could be for a better pay package, for a promotion, or for other reasons, and can create major problems with your sales team. Consider:

  • Even if confidentiality agreements are in place, your top sales person’s peers will likely find out about the increase in pay; if it is a promotion at stake, there is virtually no way to be discreet about the change
  • Hurt feelings over preferential treatment can erode sales team morale and sales, or encourage other top performers to use the same tactics
  • Your best sales person might not be the best candidate for a supervisory or management position, which could lead to disaster

Your best approach to this problem with your top sales person is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. If you do not already have non-compete agreements consider the option with your legal counsel and other executives. You should also think about how you can reinforce the company’s ‘ownership’ of clients through your company’s culture without alienating your sales force.

When Your Top Sales Person Isn’t Responding to Direction

Each sales person on a team should respond to direction provided by the sales manager. Unfortunately, sometimes your top sales person may get ahead of him or herself and stop responding as expected. One of the most common areas in which your top sales person may be disregarding direction that can have a serious negative impact on your business is overgenerous or consistent discounts. It is up to you to review the situation and determine whether your top sales person is abusing his or her ability to give discounts or other privileges in order to improve sales at the business’s expense. In these circumstances, your options include:

  • Restricting your top sales person’s discount budget or other privilege causing a problem
  • Re-training your top sales person in the areas where he or she is having difficulty
  • Providing an outline for disciplinary action, if necessary

When it comes to any source of conflict with the sales team, your top sales person must be expected to follow the same policies and procedures as everyone else. Inconsistently applying expectations can lead to calamity for your sales team, and even your top sales person can be replaced if it is best for your team and for your company.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 15+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day and tropical vacations.