Home > Behaviors, Sales Force Development, Sales Performance > A Funny Thing happened when he quit (Part 1 of 3)

A Funny Thing happened when he quit (Part 1 of 3)

We know of a company in the Midwest that sells construction supplies through an outbound sales force of about 10 reps. Although they had a few new people, most of their sales team consisted of veteran reps who had been in the business for 10 years or more. They had the usual mix of a few underperformers, a few Top Guns, but with the majority of the team falling in the “average” category. One of those average performers (we’ll call him Robert) was well respected because of his knowledge of the industry and the market, but never really seemed to be able to make anything but a mediocre contribution to the top line. Interestingly though, Robert had appointed himself the “guardian” for the rights of his fellow team mates, making sure to question management on their every move concerning  comp plans, perks, marketing, pricing and other strategies. Also, it wasn’t unusual for Robert to recruit his team mates to gang up on management to insure they had frequent and active “bitch sessions”

 

Here’s the surprise

As disruptive as Robert was to the daily operations, he was considered “too valuable” to terminate or re-assign because of his relationships with key customers. The fear was that if he left, the competition would storm in, taking critical business that was needed by the company. Although management coddled him, gave him his way sometimes, and tried to reason with him, nothing much seemed to change until the economy stepped in with the answer. With sales down, the company had no choice other than to start cutting salaries. Management took the first hit, and then it was time to talk to Robert about his big fat salary. So Robert, being the “guardian of all things righteous”, decided to resign and go out on his own rather than suffer the indignation being offered at the heavy hand of the wrong doers.

 

Now it gets interesting

With Robert gone, his sales manager began to do damage control by visiting all of Robert’s key accounts. At the very first place he visited, within 30 minutes, he walked out the door with one of the biggest orders ever placed by that client. And it didn’t stop there. Many opportunities were popping up that seemed like they had just been laying there waiting for someone to take the business.

 

The lesson learned

Just as many banks were deemed “too big to fail”, it’s not uncommon to find companies that have reps or other personnel that are deemed “too valuable to let go”, even though they are no less a drag on the company than the banks were to the economy. Field reps need to have only a few key ingredients in their “sales DNA” to succeed. While everyone knew that Robert “could sell”, the truth was that most times he “wouldn’t sell”. While there could be many reasons for this, the lack of the desire to be the best, and the lack of commitment to his profession are surefire signals that mediocrity is about the best you can expect.

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  1. 11/01/2009 at 10:57 PM

    Hello and thank you,

    This is not just a sales problem, after being in manufacturing supervision Ii found that if you had a trouble maker (even if they good be the best producer) it brought down the performance of the whole team. Remove (fire) or correct the problem with the worst offenders and the results normally show the whole team improves.

    Ron

    • Fred
      11/03/2009 at 2:03 AM

      You’re right .. removal or re-assignment are sometimes the only choices after everything else has been tried. One of the odd things we have observed though, is that sometimes these disruptive people can be fairly civil and friendly a lot of the time. Because of that, managers often delay the inevitable for months or years by telling themselves “he’s a nice guy and I’m sure he’ll get it turned around soon”. Other times, a manager might have such a high need for approval (or need to be liked) that they won’t terminate someone out of fear of alienating others on the team, and therefore becoming “unpopular”. In cases like that the difficult question becomes “Who is the real problem here?”

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