Guest post by Jackie Edwards
Every sales organization is bound to have a few team members that can only be described as difficult. While everyone on the team may have his or her own unique personality and attitude, it may take a lot of adjustment and patience to deal with certain people on any given day.
As a sales manager, it’s important to know that just because one of your top sales representatives is consistently closing business doesn’t mean that they are untouchable. This person has to be a good employee, with a great attitude and loyalty to the organization.
Some managers would rather turn a blind eye to a salesperson’s bad behavior because they are doing well, but in the end, ignoring unseemly behavior may not only cost your team but even the entire organization.
How to Manage Difficult Personalities
While you don’t have to kick out a salesperson right away for their actions, there are things that you can do to manage a difficult employee that will benefit that person and your whole team.
To get started, you’ll have to identify what type of employee you’re dealing with. By pinpointing the negative behavior, you can find solutions on how to deal with it and act accordingly.
Five Types of Difficult Salespeople and Tips on How to Manage Them
1. The Negative
The Negative person may always be closing, but she also has a habit of bad-mouthing higher-ups, the company and her team mates.
She also tends to predict various “doomsday” scenarios regarding the organization and will take it upon herself to tell everyone that the business has hit a dead end.
Instead of encouraging a struggling teammate, she’ll tell that person that their efforts are for nothing and that it may be better for them to move on.
Being around a negative person can be toxic for the whole organization.
To manage this type of salesperson, have a one-on-one with her and point out specific moments when her attitude or statements have become a cause for concern.
Ask her why she feels this way toward the company. You can also ask her to provide constructive solutions to every negative thing that she brings up.
Also, you may want to check if this person is saying bad things about the company because she’s keen to move on to another organization. If this is the case, it may be in the company’s best interest to let her go.
As a sales manager, it’s only natural to be concerned about your team’s performance after she’s gone. But keep in mind that according to a Harvard Business School research, rooting out a toxic employee delivers twice the value to a company than hiring a superstar performer does.
2. The Bad Influence
This person is also known for being the most happy-go-lucky member of your team.
He’s the one who takes long lunches and is always inviting his teammates for a night out on the town. He is often late to client and office meetings, yet he somehow manages to get away with it. He makes references to drug use or alcohol abuse and people may have noticed that he may or may not be sober on certain days of the week.
The problem with being a bad influence is that this behavior can rub off on other members of the team.
Moreover, the actions of this person can negatively impact your sales team’s performance.
In a survey done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 40% of employees report at least one negative consequence associated with co-worker substance abuse. The consequences include job stress, job withdrawal, health problems, absences and work accidents.
Before meeting with Mr. Bad Influence, gather any documentation of performance or conduct problems and think about what items to discuss with him.
If you feel that his drinking has gotten out of hand and is causing performance problems, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management suggests that you should take responsibility in dealing with the performance or conduct problem and hold the employee responsible for his actions.
Also, it would be best to refer the salesperson to your organization’s Employee Assistance Program so he can have some short-term counseling.
3. The Victim
This salesperson is convinced that her success is being sabotaged by everybody.
She blames her co-workers if she wasn’t able to close a sale and may even accuse others of taking the sale away from her. She may also blame the client and claim that they took too long to make a decision.
She may have even indirectly blamed you at one point, insinuating that your lack of support/encouragement/help is the reason why she’s not making more sales.
Salespeople with “victim syndrome” will always complain about everything in their lives. They will often choose to blame problems on other people rather than taking ownership of the situation.
What’s worse is they love to talk about being victimized and will gladly tell anyone who’s within earshot of all the ways that they’ve been mistreated.
It’s best to deal with the Victim by not encouraging her negativity.
When she starts to talk only about the bad things that have befallen her, you may want to steer the conversation towards a more positive direction by coaxing her to name the things that are going well for her. It can be anything, from closing a recent sale or just about anything good that has taken place in her life.
When she starts to blame someone in your organization for something, ask her if there’s something that she could have done differently to correct the matter.
You may also want to tell her that her contributions are valued and appreciated. Oftentimes, The Victim feels that she is not being recognized, so taking the time to do so may encourage her to be more positive in the future.
4. The Narcissist
While some salespeople may need to work on their confidence, the Narcissist is on the other end of the spectrum, as he can be too confident of his skills.
He talks louder than anyone at meetings and may often undermine his teammates.
When you offer advice on how to close a particularly difficult account, he brushes you off and may even remind you that he’s been doing this for years.
He can also be manipulative and may do anything to get ahead.
He may even refuse to work with new team members and sees himself as special. Moreover, he will only associate with people that he considers to be on his level.
A salesperson with a narcissistic personality may be hard to change, but you can manage him by creating a strong sense of team cohesion.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a group setting makes the narcissistic behavior more noticeable, more discussable and less acceptable.
You can also encourage your sales team to provide peer feedback, as narcissists may perceive a co-worker’s feedback as less threatening compared to comments coming from a manager.
It will also be helpful to create a safe and playful space where a salesperson with a narcissistic personality can learn to develop trust and accept feedback.
5. The Insecure
This type of salesperson constantly asks for other people’s help in closing sales, regardless if he has done the same thing several times.
He always asks his sales manager to be there during client presentations as he fears that he may not do a good job during his pitch and may need you to step in for him.
He constantly compares himself to others and fears that he may not be doing a good job.
The Insecure salesperson’s neediness can be annoying to some of his teammates, and the fact that he constantly asks for assistance can hinder the productivity of some of your salespeople.
While he aims to please and do a good job, his lack of confidence can hurt the team, especially when you’re trying to meet your quota.
Insecure or needy salespeople often need empowerment, so give them a pep talk to raise their confidence.
You can also coach them to become more independent because there will be times when no one on the team may be available to help out.
Provide training if they need it, and allow them to have the freedom to develop their closing skills.
Moreover, you can also listen more closely to what they’re saying in order to understand what they’re trying to tell you. Sales managers can become very focused on the end game, but it’s imperative to listen closely to your team in order to help them improve.
It may be a challenge to deal with difficult salespeople, especially if they’re meeting their sales goals yet their attitudes are getting in the way.
Remember that there are different ways to approach a problem and that you can help your salespeople become even better without hurting their feelings or causing conflict within the organization.
By tailoring your managing style to fit their personalities, you can have a stronger and better sales team that will be able to meet goal after goal.
About the Author
Now working as a writer, Jackie started her career in finance and banking, but after becoming a mom refocused and decided to spend more time with her family. When she’s not writing, she volunteers for a number of local mental health charities and also has a menagerie of pets to look after.