My star salesman rubs everybody up the wrong way

My top-performing salesman is a pain. Can I afford to get rid of him? Jeremy Bullmore advises.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 02 Dec 2014

Q. I can't work out if a member of my team is an asset or a liability. On the upside, he's a star salesman and consistently outperforms the others. On the downside, he's arrogant, tactless and rubs everyone up the wrong way.

We've had disciplinary problems with him in the past. How do I deal with him?

Jeremy says: This is what's known as the KP problem and why England's most successful batsman was dropped from the country's cricket side. Not everyone thinks he should have been – Kevin Pietersen certainly doesn't – and I don't suppose there will ever be unanimity. KPs are inherently divisive.

In your case you need to do a hard-nosed audit. By how much does he outperform the others? Who are your next best salespeople and do you risk losing them? Does the presence of KP in your team make attracting new talent easier or more difficult? How distracting is it for you, personally, dealing with KP and those who complain about him? Rather than let matters drift on, can you make a mental note of a breaking point beyond which you'd tolerate KP no longer?

This last point may be the most important. The greatest risk you run is allowing KP's arrogance and undisciplined behaviour to affect your entire sales operation so much that, by the time he finally flounces (as he probably will), you'll be left with a demoralised bunch of second-rate salespeople. It could take you a long time and a lot of money to build it back up again.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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