Top Sales Performers Who Behave Badly

top sales performer

Having a team of top sales performers is great!

Well maybe.

Sports teams that have many great players don’t always win championships. Less talented teams who have great chemistry and are committed to doing whatever it takes to win usually come out on top.

When I coach sales managers on how to get the best out of their team, I realize that not all top performers are the same. Performance is not just about hitting sales numbers but how we do it.

Many companies call this “Values and Behaviours”.  When it comes to evaluating the sales rep, overall performance companies will look at sales performance and values and behaviors equally.

So why am I sharing this with you?

This week I had two coaching sessions with sales managers from different companies. One sales manager was new, and the other had 20 years of management experience. What they had in common was they both shared with me the challenges they were having with a top performer on their team. The details of the challenges they face with these top sales performers are strikingly similar.

This got me thinking that this is a much bigger problem that many sales managers are dealing with. I want to share some of the Bad behaviordetails and provide a possible solution.

Sales Rep #1 Pat: Tenured rep/top sales performer

Undesirable Behaviours:

  • Repeatedly calls their manager every day (6 times a day)
  • Leaves voice messages, send texts and emails their manager on the same issue
  • Expects the sales manager to solve all issues
  • Complains about their teammates and the office support people
  • Doesn’t pick up the phone to resolve issues
  • Expects people to respond immediately to requests
  • Is first to complain about their sales managers

Sales Rep #2 Randy: 20+ years experience/top sales performer

Undesirable behaviors:

  • The only sales rep who continually complains about their colleagues
  • Sends the sales manager emails complaining
  • Doesn’t go directly to the person to resolve issues
  • Works in the interest of the customers at the expense of the company
  • Doesn’t take responsibility for their actions.
  • Always blames others
  • Complete lack of self-awareness

As you can imagine these two reps consume most of the sales managers time and energy in comparison to the rest of the team. I call them “Energy Drainers”.

The underlining problem is that these two sales reps have not been well managed by previous sales managers or the organization (senior leadership) has consciously decided to overlook these negative behaviors for years. The organization was willing to accept these behaviors because the sales rep was delivering their numbers year in and year out.

There was a fear that if managed the sales rep would leave and the company would lose so much business. In fact, the company has helped to create this monster. They have been ENABLERS.

Both sales managers are intent on changing those behaviors as they are feeling consumed by the energy required to deal with their sales rep.

Coaching top sales performers who behave badlyCoaching top sales performers

Both sales managers feel that sitting down and having a discussion with the rep on the impact of their actions and what they expect from the rep would help change the reps behaviors. Really?

These negative behaviors have been going on for years. Do they seriously think a stern talking to or a warning letter would make a difference? Well, it may. But only for a short period and then these same behaviors will resurface.

My recommendation is that the sales managers need to change the way they approach the rep to create any change in behavior. Yes, it is up to the sales manager to change how they manage the rep. 

Step 1: STOP ENABLING bad behaviors

Anytime the sales rep exhibits any of the undesirable behaviors, FIGHT the easy route to give into them. Don’t enable the behavior or it will continue to go on.

Step 2: Redirect

To extinguish the behavior, you need redirect it. Explain to them how you are going to do things differently, and any time they go down the path of exhibiting the undesirable behavior, you must follow through and do what you said you are going to do.

Let me give you a couple of examples of how this would work.

Pat calls his/her sales manager multiple times a day, and if he/she doesn’t reach him, Pat will then immediately text and/or email him.

  • The sales manager allocates half an hour at the beginning/end of the day to speak with Pat.
  • Any communication outside the agreed time will not be responded to or read.
  • Do not, and I repeat do not respond outside the allotted time when the phone rings or when a text comes in.
  • When speaking to the rep at the allotted time and s/he complains about others, ask them if they have spoken to that person.
  • Do not, and I repeat do not fix the problem.
  • Stay the course, and within a couple of weeks, you will extinguish the undesirable behavior.

Try this approach and stick with it. It is up to you to change your behavior so as not to enable and allow the reps behaviors to continue.

Feel free to share your challenges with your top sales performers that drain your energy.

Let me know what successes you have had.

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Steven Rosen 2022

Hi, I’m Steven Rosen, and I’ve been coaching sales executives for over 20 years!


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Steven Rosen - Executive Sales Coach


Steven A. Rosen

Steven helps companies transform sales managers into great sales leaders. His focused coaching helps clients achieve greater personal and professional success. Steven is the author of 52 Sales Management Tips - The Sales Manager’s Success Guide.

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