Advice: "I got promoted to sales manager, but the guy who passed over won't let it go. What should I do?"

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Dear Quota Team, 

I've been in sales, selling IT hardware for more than 3 years. Recently, I was promoted to a sales director role, where I am responsible for 10 account managers. I really like the job but there is one guy on my team who can't handle the fact that I got promoted at the beginning of this year. 

He’s been working for the company for more than 8 years and was building the sales department from scratch. But he’s also the kind of guy who only does what he is asked to do and usually just wastes the rest of his time. Since he manages the biggest customers, he only waits for requests to come in and isn't chasing the huge potential of his customers. 

The thing that gets me angry is that he could be an absolute over-performer, but instead, he is relaxing, coming in late every day, and exceeding his 1 hour lunch break to show that he doesn't accept me as his boss (he was really pissed when he didn't get promoted to sales director). 

I’m really trying to get the best out of my team members, to support them in every way, but this guy drives me crazy. I sat down together with him and we had an open conversation and it looked like everything was fine but obviously, it’s not. He also negatively affects other team members, who are really pushing hard for every sale, by chatting about nonsense and keeping them from doing their work. 

I also talked to my managers and their response was basically, "Yeah, we know how he is but you can’t change him." The problem is that he always hits his targets and from a sales standpoint he is doing okay (but of course he can do 200% better, as I explained before). We are in an industry where it is super hard to find new and skilled account managers, which is why we are not in a position to fire him. But I'm at a point where I don't know how to handle him anymore.

Any advice?

Exasperated in Germany 


Dear Exasperated,

We definitely understand your frustration, though some of our readers are probably wondering whether you have a right to be so upset, given the fact that according to you, this rep is hitting his quota. At the end of the day, that is his job, right? 

Samantha McKenna, CEO of #samsales, a sales and sales leadership expert, says: “I would encourage you to talk to your leaders so that they support you in having a direct conversation with him. Highlight the overall negative impact of this person on the organization. Focus less on his performance and revenue, and more on what he’s doing to deteriorate the culture while distracting your other team members.”  

“Statistics show that top performers can actually negatively impact company performance by five times their own revenue. Consider that if that individual is bringing in 1 million annually, their impact to culture can actually negatively impact overall company revenue by up to 5 million.”

She continues, “I would also refrain from factoring in the difficulty of finding new account managers as a reason to keep this individual. He is a sum of all his parts, not just his own revenue. It’s vital that he is a team player, that he respects leadership, and that he acts in a way that creates a positive work environment for everyone around him.”

So what can you do about it? McKenna recommends getting everything out into the open. “Once your leadership is aligned, schedule a meeting with everyone and have a direct and candid conversation around expectations. Generally, if he isn't respecting you as a leader, it comes back to a lack of trust and/or something larger at play (like the fact that he didn't get promoted). Either way, having this conversation will hopefully help uncover the larger issue and also make your goals, as well as the organization's goals clear. He can then be open to working on the outlined goals, or continue down the same path which could ultimately lead to his termination."

Whatever happens, we wish you good luck from across the pond!

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