Competition Displaces Top Rep

A client asks, "For many years, I had only two salespeople on my sales staff. One of them significantly outperformed the other and was treated like a superstar. Recently I have doubled the size of the sales staff and one of the new hires is outperforming all three of the others. I am beginning to have some real trouble with my former star. Their productivity has dropped and, quite frankly, they are often surly with others during the work day. I do not want them to leave. What can I do?"

This often happens in small sales organizations and it can be a very uncomfortable situation for all concerned. You are right to want to address the issue, both to keep your long-time employee and to retain your newest employee as well. If some of the surliness is directed their way, they may decide to take their talents elsewhere; there will probably be no shortage of bidders.

Face the facts

It may be that your entire sales team, including the former superstar, has been underperforming for a long time and you just didn't realize it until the new hire came along. Your former star may have been the top performer in a below average sales staff.

Review the numbers

Take a look at the former superstar's productivity numbers. Are they making the number of calls that they used to? How many prospecting calls are they making? How many new accounts have they opened up recently? Have they been coasting in recent years or were they still working hard? Has their territory been realigned or did they lose any accounts to the new sales representative? Could any of these situations have impacted their performance?

Hold a meeting

Review the findings with your sales representative. If organizational changes have made it virtually impossible for them to reach their former sales goals, at least for the short-term, acknowledge this and take steps to correct it. Perhaps a temporary quota reduction or a territory expansion is in order.

If you can clearly see that the arrival of the new sales representatives has had little impact on their ability to surpass quota, tell them so. Let the numbers back you up. Perhaps they had stopped prospecting some time ago or had grown complacent with established accounts. Work with them to create a plan that enables them to step up their sales production.

Address their attitude

When the sales productivity part of the meeting is concluded, bring up the issue of their behavior. Using specific examples, talk about the detrimental impact their negative attitude has had on the organization; tell them it must stop immediately.

Consider a change in title

Is there a special way to recognize their contribution to your organization? Could they have acquired tremendous product knowledge over the years? Have they put together some amazing presentations? Did they write much of the content for your website? If so, think about enhancing their title to something like Senior Sales Representative or Product Specialist. This would acknowledge how much you value them and would give them some of the special attention they undoubtedly miss.

Though it may surprise you, your former star might be concerned about their future with your company, especially given their loss of prestige to your new superstar. A one-on-one meeting may help them to talk about their concerns and give you a chance to assure them that they are still a valued member of your organization.