Here’s the thing.
While we agree that salespeople bring in the bulk of revenue, they are not untouchable or immune to criticism. Managing salespeople can sometimes be daunting or overwhelming, especially when dealing with a high-roller over their heads. Despite their success, they must abide by company policies and align with the organization’s goals.
Leading a sales team with difficult salespeople among the ranks is difficult. It’s always important to pair killer salespeople skills with good traits and positive characteristics. Otherwise, the sales department will eventually pay the price when only some are on the same page.
Too often, we observe sales managers maintain unruly salespeople because they’re revenue-generating. The Sales Manager is responsible for ensuring everyone is on the right track. But this leadership style has its pitfalls. Non-team players are catastrophic— killing the team from the inside by creating division and destroying morale.
The question is, how should you deal with difficult salespeople?
Simple. With dignity and respect. They may be unruly, but they are human, so we deal with them like any other human being.
This article will explore the common types of difficult salespeople and how Sales Managers could deal with them.
Treating Your Salespeople with Dignity and Respect
Some salespeople can be the saving grace of companies. They can pull off challenging sales and secure wins that would’ve been otherwise challenging for regular salespeople. However, these should not give a salesperson the hall pass to break the rules and be outright tricky.
Just because a sales rep consistently closes deals doesn’t mean they are untouchable. A good employee bearing good traits, a positive attitude and undying loyalty to the company is also important.
Sadly, many managers would look away from the bad behavior simply because they’re bringing in cash. They may perform well now, but their poor demeanor will bite them right back, disrupting the entire organization.
We understand how challenging it can be.
In managing salespeople, you need to look at each person individually and how they fit perfectly into the team’s puzzle. Evaluating how their presence impacts the company as a whole is also another crucial aspect to consider.
Your salespeople should be treated with dignity and respect. Despite their shortcomings, it’s not the end of the world. You can steer difficult salespeople in the right direction with the right approach. The secret to managing salespeople is always to do it from a place of empathy.
If you’re looking for a business consultant to help you re-align your sales team to the company’s vision, we can help. Book a free call to learn how Wizard of Sales® can develop a positive culture that favors your salespeople.
Common Types of Difficult Salespeople and How to Handle them with Dignity and Respect
Before we dig deeper into the various classes of difficult salespeople, we must first learn this sales management principle.
How do you measure the value of a salesperson?
Jim Keenan uses two metrics:
Plot both of these in an X-and-Y plane, and you create what I call “the four zones of sales:”
1. Dead zone
The dead zone is the place where nothing thrives. Employees who are poor performers with bad attitudes fall into this category. The best action is to get rid of them as they’re only dead weight — costing you money, energy, and time.
2. Opportunity zone
This zone houses people with positive attitudes committed to the culture and vision but who need to perform better. It’s your duty as a sales manager to provide them with all the help and resources to improve their performance. An undying commitment to your company is invaluable, but they should bring in money too.
3. Love Zone
The love zone is the place where salespeople have desirable attitudes and are also performing well. Your goal is to bring everyone in your sales team to this classification. Getting your team to this point means you did a splendid job as a leader in managing your salespeople.
4. Danger Zone
Believe it or not, this place is worse than the dead zone. The danger zone means that you’re maintaining good performers in your team despite their poor attitudes and hostile demeanor. In other words, you put a blind eye because they bring consistent and reliable revenue into the company.
If you can’t bring them to the love zone, you must eliminate salespeople in the danger zone. Otherwise, they’ll poison your team from the inside and corrupt the strong culture within your company.
The danger zone is dire; in it, you will encounter various difficult salespeople, which we will outline below. Despite their negative reputation, dealing with them with dignity and respect is always important.
Who knows? They may only be misguided, and a gentle push is all it takes to bring them up the love zone. With that in mind, here are the five common types of difficult salespeople:
It’s one thing for salespeople to be confident; it’s another thing entirely to be self-centered. Confidence is a quality that all salespeople must possess, but narcissists are on the end of the confidence spectrum.
Narcissists are egotistical salespeople who believe they are superior to others and focus primarily on their personal success. A telltale sign in identifying narcissists is that they speak louder than everybody else. They have an insatiable desire to be heard, which may cause them to undermine others.
To effectively deal with a narcissistic salesperson, you should set clear expectations and boundaries for them. Communicate these things effectively and tell them how others may perceive their behavior as unfavorable. Answer this question: what are they doing that disrupts your team’s circle of life?
You can help narcissists become more self-aware with the proper guidance and support. Providing regular feedback on their performance and behavior is also helpful. Additionally, mentorship from a manager or senior salesperson is an excellent way to manage narcissists effectively.
Insecurity is one of the main characteristics that may drive salespeople to act inappropriately or disruptively. Due to personal insecurities, low self-esteem, or lack of confidence, insecure salespeople can be challenging.
One sign that someone is insecure is when they can’t stand on their own two feet. They need teammates’ help closing deals (even though they can do it independently). Another is the unexplainable fear that they’ll mess up, so they seek their manager’s support during sales calls or pitches.
While they may mean well, the lack of confidence hurts the team, especially when meeting critical numbers and quotas.
In managing these salespeople effectively, it is crucial to provide nurturing and supportive feedback on their performance and behavior. Make an effort to build strong relationships with them and offer mentorship whenever possible.
You may coach them on independence as there will be moments when no one will be there to support them. Finally, a pep talk about boosting their confidence can go a long way.
Have you met people who feel like the world is against them? Those people may have the victim syndrome and are examples of difficult salespeople. They elaborate on how everyone is about to rob them of success.
Victims are unable to take ownership and accept responsibility for their actions. They fixate on external factors, such as wrong sales numbers or challenging market conditions, for their failures. Their whole spiel is taking the blame away from themselves and pinning it on someone or something else.
The best approach to dealing with victims is to counteract their negativity. Steer negative conversations to more positive ends by asking them to name things going well for them.
When unfortunate things happen, and they start blaming others for their failure, block and control the narrative. You may ask them what they could have done differently to correct the situation. Your goal is to make them realize they have the power to change things in their favor.
Sometimes, victims feel undervalued and underappreciated. Letting them know their contributions matter could develop the confidence and resilience needed for success.
Nobody likes negativity, but some people are inherent progenitors of negative talk and toxic mindsets. If one of your salespeople constantly brings down the mood, you need to sit them down and have a talk.
Despite their sales prowess, negative people habitually talk down on subordinates. Instead of encouraging struggling coworkers, they break their spirits and morale. Moreover, they have a knack for bad-mouthing upper management and the company as a whole.
In other words, they are toxic to the organization.
The best way to deal with negative people is through a head-on approach. Sit down with them and discuss how their attitude is becoming an problem in the company culture. It is also helpful to know the reasoning behind their behavior. This may provide solutions to problems.
If they can’t change, letting them go may be the best action to serve your company’s best interests.
Everyone looks after their comfort and enjoyment. But there’s a problem when a person does it at the company’s expense. Happy-go-lucky salespeople do precisely this and influence others in the team to follow suit.
Here are some signs to know happy-go-lucky people:
- Constantly prioritizing personal comfort over the needs of the company
- Influence other teammates to commit the same toxic practice, diminishing team productivity
- They can be disruptive and aggressive when called out or challenged in any way
Before meeting with a happy-go-lucky salesperson, having the documents in your favor is essential. Prepare documentations or conduct problems and discuss them with the person in question. This will help credence to your claims and observations, strengthening your position. In extreme cases, you may have them attend short-term counseling to correct the behavior.
Salespeople are valuable people on your company’s chessboard. Ensuring everyone aligns with the company’s goals and vision is important.
All sales organization is bound to encounter a few people in the danger zone, but it’s not the end of the world. You can still steer them down the right path with an approach bearing dignity and respect.