How to Manage A Negative Sales Rep

BY Kathy Crosett
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We’re all struggling to stay focused on our jobs right now, so managers should expect some level of negativity. It's tough enough to know how to manage sales, but if you’ve got a negative sales rep in your organization, you’re facing a big challenge. That individual won’t be producing, and their attitude could seriously damage the morale of everyone else on the team. Don’t kid yourself about the impact this kind of sales rep can have on your organization, advises Colleen Francis. Instead, take action.

Today’s Challenges

You may have hoped all along that the gloomy rep in your group would cheer up one of these days. And you might have imagined that this person was entirely different with customers. Maybe they reached deep within themselves and brought forth sparkling optimism when they made prospecting calls. After all, some negative sales reps may possess outstanding sales skills such as preparing for an initial call, but then display a negative and pessimistic attitude during a discovery call.

Now that we’re challenged with staying upbeat as our professional and personal worlds are turned upside down, we’re all having some tough moments. Achieving sales goals isn’t easy because customers and prospects don’t want to connect with your reps. These difficult days may highlight an additional challenge in your organization: the negative sales rep is bringing down everyone else in the organization. They’ll be the ones during the team video call to highlight just how many people are dying from COVID-​19 and how nobody is safe anywhere.

The Important of Optimism

According to our Voice of the Sales Rep survey, the ability to be positive and optimistic is critical to job success according to 54% of respondents. So most reps have a keen understanding of their demeanor and its influence on prospects. Sales managers agreed. In our separate Voice of the Sales Manager survey, 65% of sales managers listed the positive/​optimistic attribute as critical for success. 

Managing a Negative Sales Rep

If you’ve inherited an existing sales team, you may need to work with the rep who doesn’t show enough optimism. Let them know exactly how their negativism is impacting the people around them. Find out if they aren’t happy selling a specific product. Their lack of enthusiasm will be noticeable by prospects, so shifting the rep to another product line might help. 

A negative sales rep might also be concerned about a personal situation that’s only temporary — caring for a sick family member, for example. In that case, reassure them that the organization is willing to support them. If your rep explains that they’re not happy with their compensation structure, you may be able to tweak that as well.

If the rep’s outlook doesn’t improve over a set period of time, be prepared to let them go. These decisions are never easy, but your first priority must be to protect the team and your department’s sales. In the future, use a sales hiring assessment test to determine the mindset of candidates before you extend a job offer. Knowing how to manage sales is an ongoing learning process. Once you've dealt with your first negative sales rep, you'll feel more confident in the future.