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Is Your Top Sales Performer Holding you Hostage?

June 4, 2013

Feel Like This?


Does this sound familiar?

You have a Top Sales Performer that angers everyone in the organization; always demanding results yesterday from your internal people.  She is never accountable when something goes wrong with the customer.   She is telling you, Mr. Business Owner, that without her your business is dead.  Yet some of the business she brings in, when you really analyze it, is not profitable.  You are afraid to fire her, yet she is making your whole organization unhealthy.

When you take a closer look, this situation is holding you back.

As a sales consultant here are two situations I have personally witnessed.

Situation 1: George was a top performer.  He had several large accounts and he used them as leverage.  He openly told me, “If I go the account goes”.

The internal team responded to his every whim within hours; yet he constantly complained about their performance.  He spent so much money wining and dining clients that when you looked at the true profitability, he had dwindled it away.  He eventually started his own business thinking his customers would follow him and his ego.  In two years George was out of business and the clients he had threatened to take were still safely maintained by us.

Situation 2:  Allen was a top performer because his nephew was the owner of our largest account.


The other accounts Allen had never paid on time and he never considered it part of his job to help collect the money.  His accounts were in the 60-90 day range payment, yet he never failed to ask for his commission check.  I kept telling him the Sale is not made till the Bill is paid.  He eventually left the company and he took his nephew’s account with him.

However, when the sales manager added it all up, we were a lot more profitable after he left.  Oddly enough, he also started his own business and then complained to me that his customers were not paying the bills.

Why do small businesses see this so often?  I think there are several reasons.

Tell me if one of these is your situation.

  1.  You hired someone with experience who could bring in business quickly.
  2. Although there is a culture within your company, it is never discussed, written or followed.
  3. There are no processes or systems in place. You know someone sells, but you don’t know how they sell.
  4. The Top Performer has been with you for years and has worked hard to achieve success and you feel a certain loyalty to them.

In my roles as sales coach I have read many articles that tell you to fire these prima-donnas.  In principle I agree, but I know that is easier said than done.

Let’s not be too hasty.  Perhaps you feel you have let the situation go on too long to turn the tide, but you have to try.

Here are four steps a sales manager or business owner can take before firing the ‘Big Dog’.

  •  Spend some time considering what your sales culture really is.  If you are a small business owner, the culture is you.  That is those core values that you feel are most important for your company.  Write it, discuss it, and live it.  Tell your staff, especially your “Big Dog”, when he/she is not living the culture.
  • Benchmark your Top Performer.  What do they do differently than the others that help them get the sale?  See if the positive points can be duplicated by others.
  •  Spend time with your sales people developing and implementing the sales process.  Including your sales team in the development process helps to make sure everyone knows the process and has commitment to the process.
  • Stop paying commissions based solely on revenue and develop other Key Performance Indicators that will drive success not only for the individual but for the team.

  Contact me to get your sale process started.

Please comment: What else would you do with these performers?

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