How to Manage a “Prima Donna” Sales Performer

Most sales managers I know have a love/hate relationship with the prima donnas on their sales teams. They love the star player’s passion and hard work. They hate the self-centered behaviors that demoralize or discourage the rest of the team.

This puts the sales manager in a quandary. If they come down too hard, the prima donna may pack his/her bags and leave. But a simple truth in sales management is that what you don’t confront, you condone. And what sales manager wants to send a message to their team that self-interest supersedes team-interest?

To change the environment that created the prima donna, make a list of specific inter-personal “success attributes” that you would like your entire team to adopt. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to think about what a prima donna does that you don’t like, and write down the exact opposite behaviors!

Based on a few prima donnas I’ve worked with, I quickly came up with items like “criticize privately, compliment publicly,” “attempt to solve problems yourself before seeking help,” and “support others in their attempts to deal with change.”

Once you have the list of “success attributes,” share them with your team, starting in a one-on-one meeting with the prima donna. Explain to the prima donna that you’d like him or her to take a leadership role in adopting these behaviors as an example for the team, because everyone looks up to them.

Don’t worry that he or she will see through what you’re trying to do! People with bad attitudes don’t usually recognize it in themselves. They are almost always blind to the ways that their own behavior is disruptive to others. So, I’m suggesting that you can use their ignorance to your advantage.

Afterwards, talk about the attributes with the rest of the team. Then make sure you coach the team to these new standards regularly.

Now, that’s Sales Management Leadership!

Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.