When to Remove Your Top Sales Producer


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Pat is a top rep – he blows out his numbers consistently.  He “single handedly” brings in an easy 15% of all of Sales’ revenue. To many, Pat would be viewed as an A player. He’s actually a problem. Making numbers, meeting KPIs, and adding revenue isn’t enough. A players can’t be just about performing to numbers. You see, Pat was great externally, but horrible internally.

Performance management; problem top sales reps producers; decide to keep or dismiss.

This post is for HR and Sales leaders with “problem” Reps. In the post, I discuss what the problem impacts could be. Also available is a downloadable tool, the Problem Rep Fate Decider.  This tool helps you determine how to handle a problem Sales Rep – based upon the situation and impact. 

The “Successful” Rep’s Behaviors

Back to Pat. Here’s a typical issue Pat is involved in.  When moving an opportunity along, he likes to use presales support. For the project sales Pat is involved in, presales engineering is key.  Unfortunately, Pat monopolizes available presales resources. Part of the reason is his success – the presales resources share incentive compensation in successful deals. However, if they had their druthers, they wouldn’t work with him. Reason being is his abusive, arrogant manner with which he treats them – like Pat is entitled to their services. 

Pat also demands that Customer Service actually does sales administration tasks for him.  Because Pat is so successful, he’s got the ear of leadership. This can be good as Pat provides customer, market and product intel. But, it is dangerous if the company only reacts to Pat’s feedback – it might be biased. Even among his own sales team, Pat isn’t well liked. He protects his territory and customers from other reps. He is very directive in the Marketing activities he wants applied to his opportunities. He rarely shares best practices with the rest of his team – ensuring others will not challenge his status. HR programs like individual development or training fall on deaf ears with Pat. He goes through the motions of the annual performance review, but that’s about it. Pat has very low usage statistics of the company CRM – instead keeping all his account info on personal spreadsheets. Only the bare minimum goes into the CRM.

Problem Rep Fate Decider Tool

The Impact of a Problem Rep

The problem isn’t so much on how Pat is horrible internally. That does cause some impacts.  The bigger issues is that management lets Pat get away with this behavior. A blind eye is turned since Pat brings in so much revenue. But is it really worth keeping Pat and his behaviors employed?  Let’s look at the impacts that a Pat brings to the sales force and company. 

1. Morale – Pat’s behaviors will impact morale – especially those that have to work for and not with Pat.  Even presales engineers that earn money working with Pat take a heavy toll emotionally.  Fellow Reps may not like the special treatment that Pat gets.  Poor morale can result in increased turnover or lower productivity. 
2. Opportunity Cost – Pat’s monopolizing of internal resources means other opportunities do not get attention. Those other opportunities may be better than Pat’s. Not having presales or Marketing for those opportunities turns them to losses/no decisions.  They might have been won with less internal cost and at a higher margin. 
3. Customer loyalty – Sales Reps like Pat feel they “own” their customers putting your company at risk. If Pat leaves, he’ll take “his” customers with him to his new company – most likely a competitor. He’s built up the relationship and kept the other company resources at bay. As such, the customer may be loyal more to Pat than your company.  Your company will have a lack of info on customers that stay – since Pat didn’t log any details in the CRM.   
4. Skewed data – Pat’s sales numbers are always the best in the firm. He sometimes exceeds targets by 300-400%.  The impact here is that his statistics skew the sales force data. Especially when trying to determine territory or talent changes, this could negatively impact decisions.
5. Missing the market – Leadership values Pat’s opinions – but only because he brings in so much revenue. But Pat’s views are biased towards the products and services that make him the most money (and are easiest to sell).  That may not actually be where the market is headed. If the company relies only on Pat’s advice, it may miss the market.  
6. Lack of organizational learning – Pat does have some good sales methods. Unfortunately, that knowledge doesn’t get shared, so your other Reps don’t improve. Worse, no other Reps will want to share any good practices – since Pat doesn’t, why should they? Also, the front-line intel that Reps can provide isn’t gathered. Again, Pat isn’t doing it, so why should the other Reps? 
7. Dangerous precedent – The biggest impact of all is the precedent Pat is allowed to set.  Management turning a blind eye for the sake of revenue doesn’t help. Pat is allowed to get by with poor CRM records. He doesn’t share the best practices that work for him. He isn’t complying with HR development or training programs. He overuses presales and customer service resources. He behaves like he is king and everyone serves him.  All of this sets precedents that other employees may leverage. The end result will be lost employees, lost customers, and lost revenue. The company has to ask if the short-term revenue gain is worth the overall impact. 

What To Do

1. Determine if you have a problem employee. Here is another post by my colleague Drew Zarges that may help. The available tool helps you see the costs a Rep may be incurring – that may offset some of the perceived value this Rep is bringing. 
2. Download the Problem Rep Fate Decider.  Use this decision tree to determine what to do with the problem Rep.
3. Determine if there are other factors that cause your Rep to behave this way. For example, check if compensation is set up to encourage such action. 
4. Act upon your decision. Don’t let a star Rep hold the rest of your company hostage. 
Please comment below with stories of your problem sales reps. Let us know how you dealt with him or her.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Loftness
Steve has worked for more than 20 years in process design and implementation, as a certified Six Sigma Black Belt. While at Sales Benchmark Index, he has helped many B-to-B organizations eliminate non-value add selling activities resulting in productivity improvements of 20+%.


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