Coaching for Performance

Coaching the Arrogant / High Performer

Many sales managers are now in the process of doing midyear reviews with their salespeople. Whether you are doing a midyear or year-end review, it is important to provide constructive feedback to help your sales reps improve.  Some sales managers struggle when they have to highlight areas of skill improvement with their reps. Many managers find it far more difficult to address behavioral issues. As we all know, this is a long and arduous but important process. Managers invest two to three hours writing up the performance review in addition to many hours discussing the review with their sales rep.

Managers tend to walk on eggshells as they want to keep their reps “motivated.”

When I have coaching sessions with managers I have come across a reoccurring question “How do I address a sales rep that is a top performer yet has an attitude issue?”

Here are some examples that my clients have shared with me:

Causing issues at meetings

John is well regarded and an influential member of the sales team. He was in a breakout session at a national sales meeting, and a new template was being rolled out.  He says in front of the team “I won’t do that.”

Not a team player

Elaine is always the first to complain that her team members are not working as hard as she does. She still takes full credit for success and never shares her accomplishments with her colleagues.

Blame their sales manager or head office for issues

Rashid usually blames his manager or the marketing team if he does not get the resources or support he expects.

Anatomy of the Arrogant Performer (AP)

When you ask the AP about their troublesome behavior, they either get defensive or altogether deny it. The issue stems from a complete lack of self-awareness or entitlement. They fail to see the impact their comments or behaviors have on other people. All they see is their performance and are completely blind to any negative aspects of their behavior. In fact, they believe the end justifies the means.  As a top performer, they feel that they are entitled to do and say what they want.

Here is my 5 Step Process for addressing The Arrogant Performer or other similar behavioral issues.

Addressing behavioral issues is much different than discussing skills improvements. Firstly a behavior-based issue is owned by the individual. They control their behavior, and they must decide that their behavior needs to be changed. If you tell them what needs to be changed the likelihood of changes is remote.

Step 1: Give feedback

Prepare for the review. Make sure you have specific observations and feedback to share.  Start by saying I observed… or I heard you say

Step 2: Is the rep aware

See if the sales rep is aware of what they did and if they are aware of the impact of the behavior. Ask questions like.. Do you recall saying that?  What do you think the effect is on the other sales reps/ your managers?  What do you think the perception is?

Step 3:  Seek a commitment to change

As I mentioned earlier, the sales rep must be aware of his/her behavior and impact. He/she must be committed to improving. Otherwise, no change will occur. Ask questions like .. Who owns this behavior? Are you open to changing this behavior?  Would you be willing to try other approaches?

Step 4:  Plan of Action:

If you get a commitment from the rep to change a specific behavior, you need to get them to develop their plan of action. Ask them … What different behaviors will they adopt? What is your plan of action when you are in the same situation?  Have them write up their action plan and submit it to you.

Step 5: Hold them Accountable

Now that you have a commitment and an action plan in place, it is up to you to hold your sales rep accountable. When the rep is in a similar situation, and they exhibit the new behavior make sure you reinforce positive changes in these new behaviors.  On the other hand, if the sales rep goes back to the usual behavior remind them of their plan.


Coaching your reps to perform at their full potential is critical. When you have a top performer who is exhibiting the negative behavior, you shouldn’t overlook the behavior because of their performance. It is up to you to have this awkward conversation and follow a process to get the behavioral change required.

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52 Sales Management Tips