Manage a Prima Donna in Business to Business Sales

How do you manage a Prima Donna? One thing to think about is how the Prima Donna got that way to begin with. Often we sales managers create Prima Donnas by leaving them alone over many months, taking a “hands-off” style (which is a nicer way of saying a lack of management) rather than continued and ongoing communication.

Also, sales managers often don’t communicate expectations, or set standards, on anything other than production. And a standard is only a standard if you coach to it on an on-going basis. So, naturally, top producers think sales production is the only thing that’s important to the manager. This is a logical conclusion for them to make.

If you are frustrated by one or more Prima Donna reps, then at least part of the solution is for you, the manager, to look in the mirror and ask, “What possible role did I have in allowing this situation to develop?” And, more importantly, “What changes do I need to make going forward to prevent future Prima Donnas?” What you don’t confront, you condone.

OK. So let’s say you have a Prima Donna on your team. What do you do now?

This person may exhibit some (hopefully not all) of the following characteristics: makes others feel bad, doesn’t care or doesn’t think about how he/she affects others, has an intimidating style, can be verbally abusive, arrogant.

But Prima Donnas are passionate, hard workers. If you come down hard on this person, he/she may just take their talent elsewhere. Not good.

So, you need to be flexible here. Have a heart-to-heart with your Prima Donna. Communicate specific examples of their behavior and ask, if roles were reversed, how would they feel to be on the receiving end? Communicate the importance of team work, and the important role that they have in the overall performance of the team. But at the end of the meeting, be very clear and specific about your expectations of their personal behavior going forward.

Passionate, hardworking, experienced and talented people deserve to be treated, in some ways, differently. They consider this special treatment a form of recognition.

But in other ways, ways determined by you, they must be treated exactly the same as everybody else. Be very clear and specific with your Prima Donna about what your expectations are going forward. You simply cannot allow them to continue to exhibit behaviors detrimental to the team as a whole. You must actively manage this situation, and manage to your expectations. Good luck!

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!”.