Dealing With Troubled Salespeople

Nicki Weiss
 


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Has one of your salespeople recently made you angry or frustrated?

The answer is probably yes. Friction frequently arises when people depend on one another to get work accomplished. If co-workers don't get something done on time, or somehow drop the ball, you feel “something” – anger, disappointment, frustration – and you may feel that “something” very strongly. Of course, the first step is to talk about what happened and to try and resolve the issue. However, if you are finding that the work of one employee in particular frequently raises your emotional temperature, you might want to consider that he or she may be having troubles outside the job. Those troubles may be marital, financial, alcohol- or drug-related, or perhaps the employee has suffered a loss or is dealing with a sick relative.

In the past few weeks I have learned about these situations:

Cynthia, Lisa and Steve lost their fathers recently, and all three find they can’t focus on their jobs. Cynthia is often weepy.

A long-time salesperson in Robert’s team is having tremendous difficulty working because his spouse is ill with breast cancer.

Debra is coping with a clinically depressed husband.

Sonya holds a full-time job and is also the primary caregiver for her ill and disabled mother.

David’s 18-year-old child recently died of leukemia. These personal heartaches are not uncommon in any organization. While you may not know the details of your sales team’s lives, you may have noticed a decline in one employee’s work that does not improve, even though you’ve tried to address it. This decline may be a tip-off that you’re dealing with someone who is struggling.

What you can do:
Don't go it alone

Most of us can’t sort out difficult situations by ourselves. We need help. (And many of us forget that asking for help is a powerful leadership quality. ) Consult with someone who knows how to compassionately untangle messiness, perhaps an employee assistance counselor, an HR specialist or a coach.

Helpful hint: Before diving into the nuts and bolts of how to work with the issue, talk with your helper about what an ideal relationship with this salesperson would look like:

Imagine your best hope for the situation. For example, Robert’s best hope was that his salesperson trusted Robert enough to open up about the kind of help he needed, and that this salesperson would be an active contributing member of the team.

Then look at what already exists that could make that hope a reality, for instance, you usually like the salesperson's work and you mutually respect each other.

Then talk about your worst nightmare. In Robert’s example, his worst nightmare would be that his salesperson would drain the energy out of the team, that Robert would feel helpless, and that he would have to fire this salesperson. The conditions that could lead to that scenario coming true might be: Robert is getting pressure from above for results, he is uncomfortable giving balanced feedback about poor work, the salesperson is unapproachable and there is no improvement in behavior.

You are in a good position to talk about next steps. Some possible next steps that could arise might be: role playing the conversation beforehand, acknowledging the salesperson’s struggle and their accomplishments, asking them about what is possible for them given their difficulties, and alerting senior management about how you are handling the situation.

Don't ignore a developing problem

Ignoring a problem doesn’t solve it. In fact, doing nothing just might make the situation worse. Pick up the telephone and get help at the first signs of trouble. Early action will frequently eliminate the need for discipline.

Be a role model

Support the individual who is struggling, while continuing to promote office morale and productivity. It may be helpful to ask your employee what the office can do to relieve some of the work stress during this difficult time.

Knowing the “right thing" to say to someone who is struggling or grieving is not critical, but a few guidelines are helpful. Saying nothing is worse than saying the wrong thing. Appropriate words are: “I am sorry to hear about your loss/difficulties;" “You are (or have been) in my thoughts;” “How are you doing?" or “I don't know what to say, but if I can be of any help, I'm here. "

Offering time to listen can be helpful, or temporarily taking over some burdensome tasks. Managers also can show appreciation to team members who may be carrying an extra load due to the situation.

Most employees can and will resolve their problems, given time and support.

Talk Back: I'd love to hear your tips about working with troubled employees. Please contact me at nicki@saleswise.ca

Nicki Weiss is an internationally recognized Certified Professional Coach, Master Trainer, and workshop leader. She brings to her work 25 years of experience with corporate sa1es executives, small to medium size entrepreneurial business leaders, and sa1es teams of all shapes and sizes.

Sign up for her award winning ezine - Sa1esWise - for great tips on finding, retaining, and developing ideal clients and sales teams at http://www.saleswise.ca

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