Managers Dealing with Difficult Salespeople - Part 1

Managers Dealing with Difficult Salespeople - Part 1

You've probably had to contend with difficult personalities, as a sales manager, from time to time. Attempting to motivate, encourage, organize, and enforce systems while juggling the needs and demands of the personalities on your staff can feel like an intricate chess game. And when the chess pieces are actually diverse humans with different personalities? Things can get tricky, and even difficult. Usually, these difficulties are rooted in a sales person’s placement in the wrong environment, or with the wrong manager, or the wrong motivational approach.

As a sales manager, how you can you ensure that you place the right people in the right positions? And how do you handle each type of difficulty that occurs? To do this, you have to begin by identifying what types of salespeople you have.

Different salesperson personality styles:

1. The Relationship Builder, I Personality Style Salesperson

This type of salesperson makes “friends” with their clients, rather than simply engaging in a business transaction with them. This can be one of the most effective personality styles for sales. Any good salesperson knows the importance of making a personal connection and its relationship to success. In spite of this, many sales managers may struggle dealing with this type of salesperson when they make great contacts and relationships, but hesitate on closing the deal.

2. The Problem Solving C Personality style (or Conscientious) Salesperson

This type of salesperson relies heavily on their knowledge of the product or the details regarding the product to sell it. They struggle making the intuitive leap between describing and comparing the product to similar products and actually illuminating why these details make it better than the competition. The problem-solving salesperson may be more concerned about finalizing the details of the last sale than moving to the next sale. They are great at remembering and attending to details, but they may occasionally become too bogged down by them. They are thorough, but they are not necessarily productive.

3. The “Do It My Way” D (or Dominant) Salesperson

This can be one of the most frustrating types of salespeople to deal with due to their inconsistency. They exhibit spurts of brilliance and great sales abilities at times, only to cause problems for the entire team at others. This type may occasionally offend or turn off a good client due to their assertiveness. They can be difficult to deal with, and this is compounded by the fact that most managers are always deciding if this person is more of an asset or liability.

4. The Forceful, Strong Closer (also D style) Salesperson

This is the type of salesperson we all think of when we think of the stereotype of the “Pushy Salesperson.” This type tends to always be trying to “push” a product on a client, even when they do not want it. They also always seem to be trying to close a sale before the customer has received enough information. This style is effective sometimes, and completely ineffective at others. We will address why that is below.

5. The "I Know Better Than You" Salesperson

This type of salesperson may annoy their managers the most. Characterized by obstinance, they seem to defy their management just for the sake of being contrary. This level of unprofessionalism may spread to their work and clients, and can make them very difficult to deal with.

6. The "Hard Working" Salesperson Who Doesn’t Sell

Do you have any of these? They put in more time than anyone else and probably work harder than anyone else. And yet, they never produce. You would get rid of this person, but you feel bad because they work so hard so you tolerate their poor overall performance. How can you get a better performance out of this type of salesperson? Read on to find out.

7. The Unmotivated "I Just Show Up for Work" Style of Salesperson

With this type of style, it is essential to quickly determine if there is an underlying factor to their lack of motivation and resolve it, and if this is something internal with them that resists resolution, you need to cut ties with this person. There are a number of factors that could be contributing to their lack of motivation. Maybe they don’t feel like they are being adequately compensated to do anything beyond show up, maybe they are not being given the tools or resources they require to succeed, maybe they don’t feel like they are getting sufficient support from management. There are a number of factors that could be contributing to this issue.

Sure, there are many other styles, but many difficult salespeople fall under one of these categories.  You may also have a few salespeople who are a combination of two or more styles. Some common combinations are the Problem Solving/Hard Working but Doesn’t Sell type. There is also the “perfect storm” salesperson who has a deadly combination of Do It My Way/Forceful/I Know Better Than You. With that type of salesperson, you may be asking yourself “why did I even hire this person to begin with?” With the perfect storm salesperson, it may be because this style often comes across well in an interview but after that it is all downhill. With this type, maybe your solution is to hire people on a probationary basis, so you can work with them for a little while before they become official employees. This may help to eliminate “Perfect Storm” type salespeople from your staff. How do you, as a sales manager, mitigate the issues that arise from some of the other styles?

Before we talk about solving the problems of the different styles, think about what style salesperson you were. Have you identified which style is closest to how you were as a salesperson? Would your former bosses agree?

Now, what type of manager are you? Are you more autocratic (I am the decision maker), or participative (let’s work as a team). Are you steady and determined in your methodology, or would you rather try something different when you don’t see quick results? For all types of sales managers, there are certain sales styles that will conflict with this management style, and others that will thrive under that management style. The salespeople who will always be at odds with your style will continue to do so unless you understand yourself and their style so you can deal with it. A highly effective sales manager is one who knows more about themselves and their salespeople than the salespeople know about themselves. Yes, this is possible, you simply have to become more knowledgeable about the different styles, communication styles, motivators, and environmental preferences for each respective style.

First, let’s look at the sales styles:

The Relationship Builder style is probably your best salesperson if they do not fear closing. This is the hardest thing for this type salesperson because they consider a “successful” encounter as one where they make a friend, not a sale. To reinforce their need to CLOSE, you must first understand if they believe in your product and service. If they do, then why do they hesitate to close? As a manager, you must help them to understand this customer is going to buy from someone, and if you have the best product and service then you are helping them, making them more of a true “friend” because you helped them to make a good buying decision. This style is so relationship oriented that at times they forget they have a task to perform and a goal- to help get the best product at the best price into their “new friends” home or business. It works if they believe in what they do. Don’t forget to give this type of salesperson additional training because they may overlook the true benefits and features of the product or service they are selling and only focus on a relationship.

Next is the Problem-Solving salesperson. They see sales as though their job is to convey as much information as possible to the customer whether they want to know it or not. I will give you a prime example from my own buying habits. I tend to be the customer that does a lot of research before I go to the store. Recently, I went to buy a large screen, high definition television. I knew for certain the size I wanted, the resolution, and had a price range in mind. I went to my local store knowing I would buy only one of two specific models that they carried. I was not interested in the several dozen other types sold there. My buying style is one in which I want a little bit of a relationship (not too much, or I consider it fake) and a knowledgeable salesperson who can confirm I am making a good buying decision. For me, a strong closer would have gotten the deal because they would have honed in on one of my two choices, and confirmed this was the best. I would have been home watching the TV before you could say SOLD! Unfortunately for me, and the store, I got the Problem Solving salesperson. Instead of talking about the two sets I was interested in, he began to take me down the line of products and explained to me the features (and drawbacks) of each. By the time he was done I was so confused, I didn’t know what to buy. So I did the obvious thing, I left the store! A competitor was just down the street so I stopped in there to see if they also carried the same brands, which they did. I didn’t get a closer type salesperson, but I did get a relational sales type person that wasn’t interested in showing me 10 different models. He was just making sure I was happy and I liked him. He said, “You really know your sets. I can tell you really considered this and you picked two of the best models on the market!” Yes, I felt better. Then he said, “Both are great, but this one we have on sale and we have it in stock.” I left with both a new TV and a new friend, which was a double win for the salesperson and the store!

Read Part 2 to learn more about the different types of salespeople and the best strategies for managing them.

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Posted By: Brad Smith

Bradley Smith, Ph.D. is the Director of International Business Development at PeopleKeys, and works directly with our international distributors and business partners. Personality Style: D