What to do with your star sales performers?

Hey guys,

This is an article I wrote for a management and leadership magazine, discussing management dilemmas.

‘Mark is a great salesman. He’s increased business and customers love him – most of the time. But there have been some complaints, from clients and staff, about his overbearing, pushy and occasionally aggressive manner. How can you rein in his more extreme behaviour but not demotivate him, so that he continues to do a great job?’

This is perhaps one of the most common problems in a sales team and one that I have encountered in just about every successful sales team I have managed.

Get your own house in order
I think before answering the question of the sales person and how to manage them you have to first ask yourself what are the standards that you expect from your team. Get very clear and specific about this and it will go a long way to answering the dilemma.

Give them the Big Picture
Once you are clear on expectations, Sit down with the team and provide them the big picture of what you are trying to achieve. I find that if you get ‘buy in’ from the team at this level it gives you the ability to manage within this framework.

What motivates them
The next step is to understand what motivates them, in my current team I have two top performers, Mr White and Mr Black (not their real names) Mr White is all about the fast cars, nights out and allowing him special freedoms. Mr Black is all about feeling like he is contributing, being part of something. They are two different characters but both present the same challenges to me as a manager. Knowing what makes them tick allows me to use to successfully motivate them.

Create a vacuum around them
Despite all the management training saying support them, train them, discipline them, I still find that the best way to manage the overachievers is to build a vacuum bubble around them. Create a second set of standards that only apply to them. This works in two ways, it makes them feel special and allows them to perform “as they are”. The second benefit is that it shows the other team members that when they are overachievers they can expect to be given a different set of standards, so it’s a motivation to the other team members.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean I compromise on my minimum standard, this I simply won’t do but above the minimum standards I am happy to accommodate the overachiever.

Now this next point is absolutely essential if the second set of standards is going to work.

Build a system around them
I find that most overachievers aren’t that good with details. So if you are going to allow them to have a second set of standards then you must have a suitable system to ensure that the business doesn’t suffer because of it.

Talking in particular about their overbearing, pushy and aggressive behaviour the system may be as simple as the person that stands next to them tapping them on the shoulder and smiling if they are becoming overbearing or pushy.

Don’t tolerate aggression
I don’t believe that there is any place for aggression, this should be clearly stated as unacceptable right from the start and immediately stopped if it happens.

Finally the most important – Reward the behaviour you want
This doesn’t have to be cash bonuses or massive rewards, I have found the more irregular and unplanned it is, the more effective it is. Afterall we all love being told we are doing well, that we are special.

Live with passion,

Brett Alegre-Wood

About the Author