Dealing with High-Maintenance Salespeople

Having a high-maintenance salesperson around is like owning an older car that requires constant tinkering to keep operating. Unfortunately, you can’t give a high-maintenance salesperson an oil change or replace a few parts, although I’ve often felt that a dynamite enema might just do the job!

In case you’re wondering what a high-maintenance salesperson is, it’s one of those people who seem to require almost constant attention to keep operating properly. Sometimes it’s not a matter of the person needing attention, it’s more a matter of the person wanting attention.

Wants to Talk

Highly social salespeople fall into this latter category. These are usually bright, cheery individuals who like people and like talking to people. Sometimes, when they don’t have anything of real substance to talk about, they’ll chat about anything or simply make up problems and situations that require the advice of someone else, usually you.

These people will often go into long, drawn-out explanations of situations and then seemingly ask for advice. I say seemingly because if you look into their eyes, they’re not listening to you. They’re waiting for their next opportunity to talk. In other words, they’re not looking for a solution to their real or imagined problem; they just want to talk about it.

Unfortunately, these types of salespeople take the same approach with their customers. They prefer to talk than listen and miss key information and buying signals. This can result in lost sales, the wrong thing being sold, product returns, disgruntled customers, and a small multitude of other sales management aggravations.

Many of us end up with salespeople like this because we hired them. They seemed charming and outgoing during the hiring interview and you felt they would really get along with people, both inside and outside the company. And you’re right, they do. In fact, that’s often all they do! They don’t sell; they just make friends.

Then the question becomes, what do I do now? The salesperson’s job is to sell, which is a measurable activity. Being measurable means, you can set measurements (sales and activity quotas) that need to be met or exceeded if the person is to maintain his or her eligibility for employment.

Needs Help

What about the second type of high-maintenance salesperson – the one who needs rather than wants attention? These people are usually suffering from one of three ailments: lack of experience, lack of skills, or lack of confidence.

Sales managers occasionally end up with this type of salesperson because they were sloppy in their hiring process or they were desperate for a warm body and this person came along at the right time for the salesperson and the wrong time for the sales manager. The salesperson got the job, and the sales manager got the problem.

If the constant need for attention comes from lack of experience, shame on you. Why did you hire someone without relevant experience? I know, I know, selling looks easy and anyone should be able to do it. Well, selling isn’t easy and not everyone is suited for the job. It’s better to hire someone who has been out there banging his head against the selling wall and who brings some selling street smarts to the job.

If lack of skill is the problem, train ’em! I figure that over 80 percent of salespeople have had no formal sales training. That doesn’t mean they can’t sell; it just means they’re doing it instinctively and that may or may not work. When it does, they’re successful. When it doesn’t, they are ripe to receive some formal sales training.

If the person has the experience and the skill but he’s still camped on your doorstep asking questions and seeking direction four times a day, he probably has a self-confidence problem. He’s unsure of himself and afraid to make mistakes.

Give people permission to make mistakes. That’s how they grow, learn, and gain experience. Now if they keep making the same mistakes over and over again, you have yet another problem.

If you have a salesperson with a self-confidence problem, I recommend The Dale Carnegie Course, the Christopher Course or perhaps Toastmasters. Any one of these programs will boost a person’s self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence. They’re a great investment in personal growth for any individual.

Bottom Line

When you find your job as sales manager and coach turning into one of simply a shoulder to cry upon, it’s time to change the rules. Help your people help themselves. This may mean giving someone a new career opportunity in another company or simply giving them the tools and the freedom to go to the next level of personal growth.