The Wall Street Journal’s article on Monday by professor/author Robert Sutton, “How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything,” provides a good reminder for sales managers to clearly communicate their behavior expectations of their sales force.
As Sutton writes, “Having just a few nasty, lazy or incompetent characters around can ruin the performance of a team or an entire organization no matter how stellar the other employees.” For a sales team, I’d also include salespeople who are disrespectful of other team members (perhaps even the manager), over-arrogant about their abilities, unwilling to accept advice and sales coaching, and/or so focused on their own sales results that they don’t mind stepping on others to make their numbers.
The best way out of this mess is for the sales manager to sent loud, clear messages to these individuals and the team as a whole about what is accepted behavior and what is unacceptable. Establish standards that are communicated to the team, and review each person against the standards.
To start, think about what you see in the “good apples” on your team. I’m betting they show a willingness to learn, are supportive of other team members, take the initiative in problem solving, pay close attention to their customers, and so on.
Pick one or two of the behaviors on your list that you’ll focus on with each person, and follow through. Talk with the person about whether they see themselves falling short in those areas, and what specifically they can do in the next 30 days to improve. Also talk about how you will be able to tell if they have improved.
Who knows. In a month or two you may end up with a whole basket full of good apples.