Salesperson Mutiny: Handling salespeople who hijack your floor

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Salesperson Mutiny_Jonathan Schulman_HFA

After spending most of the past month doing sales meetings every morning, I’ve been exposed to tons of different kinds of salespeople. I thought that, in this modern age of information and with the benefit of developed high-level management theory, apathy and disengagement would be a thing of the past. Alas, it is not. It’s not rampant, but it is out there.

I’m reminded of a time long ago of an interview. A prospective salesperson told me that he had the ability to know, on sight, if a customer was going to buy or not. Ever hear that one? Genius! Amazing! I told him that he was a phenomenon of the industry and asked if he could teach the rest of us how to do that. He looked at me with a stunned look as he explained that he “just knew.” Some secrets can not be shared, I guess. One of the sales team leaders was desperate for another salesperson, and she offered him the job.

Fast forward three months, and the crystal ball he brought with him from his previous employer apparently ran out of power. He was constantly at the bottom of the production chart, and his KPIs were in the toilet, so the hiring manager came looking for help. “Barry is not doing well, and he’s infested my team. He’s negative, and he’s not taking responsibility for anything. I’m sick of him.”

Have you ever felt like that? I know you have if you work with the salespeople in any capacity.

Here’s the deal.

  • There are no bad salespeople, just bad managers. If you have a bad apple in your cart, first, you need to accept responsibility. It sucks, but it’s cathartic – own it.
  • If your expectations are not clearly defined, define them. Write them out and get everyone affected by these rules to read them, understand them and sign them.
  • Remember, it’s not the results that matter. It’s the behaviors that cause the results that make the difference. Are you observing the behaviors on the floor?
  • If they can’t, help them until they can. If they won’t, help them understand the “why’s” of the expectations and let them know that these expectations are part of the job. If you still have a won’t-er on your hands, maybe they are in the wrong position.
  • KPIs matter just as much as behaviors. Do you have a process to sell accessories or warranty plans that are not being followed? You have to be on the floor to see what’s up. Coach K is on the sidelines every game watching his players. It’s game time, so get out there, so you know what to coach!
  • Coach weekly with your team. If you’re senior management, talk to your immediate reports about what’s going on inside their teams. Celebrate turnarounds and deal with the people that aren’t producing. You don’t coach TO someone, you coach FOR them. Remember to have the employee sign anything that goes in that file and give them a copy.
  • Coaching docs always state why the coaching is needed, followed by a description of the policy in question and the future action plan. It’s not personal; it’s business.
  • Document Document Document. I live in California, where the employer is usually the fat cat villain, so make sure you document everything and your files are top-notch. We hope we never have to let someone go, but sometimes it just has to happen.

If you are nodding your head in agreement or shaking it in disbelief, I promise you that you will feel great once you take back your floor. I’ve recently run down this list with a few retailers retailer, and the one thing that always comes up is that one of the offenders is also a top producer or related in some way to a key member of the team. A story as old as time. It makes no difference who that person is. Top producers who don’t play by the rules are usually just bullying other salespeople out of their way to get sales, and rarely are those sales based on the fundamentals like a personal relationship, rapport, and consultative selling. They are like a cancer and need to be cut out. Fix if you can, extinguish if you must.

This isn’t a clubhouse; it’s a business. Peter Drucker said that the sole purpose of a business is to get a customer. It’s also to keep a customer. Ask your customers by the way you run your business and lead your staff if there is anything you can do to make their experience better. In the end, this is the EBITDA we all strive for.

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