How To Manage Difficult Sales People
Here's the deal. Just because your top sales representative is killing it and bringing in bank she isn't untouchable. She has to be a good employee, with a great attitude and be aligned with the organization. There is a cost if she isn't on the same page as everyone else and are a pain in the butt. If your top sales person is a lone wolf, a lone soldier who does things on their own time, their way with little regard for you and your sales organization, kick them to the curb. Keeping sales people who crush their number but dump all over the organization aren't worth the hassle, I promise.
Too often we keep the pain in the butt sales person because they are performing. But this leadership style is being penny wise and pound foolish. It's not the way to build a world-class sales organization. The cost of having a non-team player can be catastrophic. They can poison the team, undermine morale, create division, and in the end they almost always cost you money.
Here's another way to look at it.
There are only two elements to measure when evaluating the value of a salesperson, or any employee. You measure their behavior and their results and they both matter.
All your sales people need to be delivering results and demonstrating the right behaviors. The goal is to have them doing both equally well.
This one is easy. If they are in the dead zone, get em out as fast as possible. Don't waste two seconds with anyone in the dead zone. You don't have time. You can't be distracted by people who are a drain on the numbers and the team. The dead zone is non-negotiable. If you have anyone in the dead zone for more than 60 days, you're not doing your job as a leader.
The opportunity zone is where you have the most upside to making a difference. The people here are good employees. They are doing the right things. They are committed to the culture. They are on the same page with you and the company. They are loyal stewards of your vision, goals, and objectives. The problem with the opportunity zone is that the people in this zone aren't delivering. They aren't meeting the goals. The aren't delivering on what needs to be done and in spite of how much you like them and how hard they are trying, they aren't getting it done. Your objective with those in the opportunity zone is to get them performing, invest in these people. Look for everything you can do to support them and help them to be successful. Getting the people in the opportunity zone to the love zone has huge upside. However, like the dead zone, they can't be in the opportunity zone forever. If someone is in the opportunity zone for more than 90-180 days, you're not doing your job. However, those in the opportunity zone deserve more time than those in the dead zone.
The people in the love zone are the engine of your company. They are why you will make your number, and that's why it's called the love zone. You have to love them. The love zone people should never be taken for granted. You need to make them feel special, reward them and let them know they are in the love zone. Love zone people aren't high-maintenance. They are loyal to the company. They understand what it takes to be successful and are truly committed to the "cause." Love zone people stay longer than the others and look to add value that extends beyond their core job. Love, love, love the love zone people. If anyone falls out of the love zone, you're not doing your job. When people get into the love zone, it's your job to keep them there. If they fall out, then you've got to get them back in the love zone as soon as possible. Something's happened, you've got to figure it out and fix it, or you're not doing your job.
The danger zone is scary and the most dangerous, thus the moniker "danger." When people are in the danger zone, we are lulled into acceptance of their bad behaviors by the benefits of their output and we allow them to linger. We justify all their crappy behavior in the euphoria of consistent and reliable revenue. We become reliant on those in the danger zone, asking how in the world will we replace their productivity. We create a sense of desperation and scarcity when it comes to the folks in the danger zone. We know they aren't aligned with us, we know they are a pain to manage, we know they are a negative influence on the team, but man are they producing, so we keep them. But, keeping them is a mistake!
Making things worse, upper management makes it more difficult as they won't support the removal of people in the danger zone. They act like cowards, afraid to cut out the cancer because they are making their number. This is terrible leadership. I've always felt bad for those managers/directors/Vice Presidents who want to let go of that productive employee who isn't demonstrating the right behaviors, who isn't aligned with the organization and management won't let them. It's a tough position to be in. True leaders don't do this.
Managing people is critical. Getting the right people on the bus is the key to success. So is getting the wrong people off the bus. Place your team into the four buckets. Get rid of those in the dead zone ASAP. Shower those in the love zone with crazy praise and do everything you can do to keep them. Support and engage those in the opportunity zone and do everything you can to get them over to the love zone. Don't be harsh, give them some time. They are bringing value. Those in the danger zone, get them up into the love zone as soon as possible. Unlike those in the opportunity zone, those in the danger zone are making a choice not to participate. They are choosing to go against the grain. They are choosing not to be a part of the team. Their attitude, commitment, and approach are by choice, and for this reason it's pretty simple. They can choose to change immediately or -- hit the bricks.
There is no excuse to keep salespeople in the danger zone. It's just bad leadership.
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