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Every month I receive a variety of questions from salespeople and their managers. These come from a variety of sources - my live seminars, the monthly phone seminars, questions that are sent into my newsletter, and issues that arise in the course of my consulting work. Out of all of these, I select those that I think have the most universal application, and respond to them here.

Questions and Answers

Q. Dave, I’m a sales manager, and I’m increasingly losing my patience with sales people who constantly whine and complain.  Any thoughts on how to handle the chronic whiners?

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A. Believe me, I can empathize with you.  I had my share of whiners in my days as a sales manager.  I’m thinking of one sales person in particular who complained constantly.  I hated to take his calls.  I even have vague recollections of hanging up on him in the middle of one of his rants.

I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear.  It is more your problem than it is his/hers.

Before you turn off completely, let me explain.  The most pertinent issue for you is that person’s sales performance.  If their performance is sub-par, that’s one thing.  If their performance is acceptable -- their numbers are good, their relationships with their customers are positive, they generally follow your directions and do what you ask them to do – then view their whining and complaining as just so much fluff.  The problem isn’t their complaining – the problem is the impact their complaining has on you!

When he complains and whines, you become upset, you become irritated, and you become exasperated.  Notice any pattern here?

There are two ways to solve this problem:  Either he/she can stop complaining, or you can stop reacting to it in the way that you have.

I’m assuming you have had a conversation with this person about their whining and complaining.  If not, please do so.  He/she may not even be aware of it. 

If you’ve had the conversation, and the behavior still continues, and the person is in other ways profitable and effective, then you must change your reaction.  Decide to not let the negative comments get to you.  That will go along way to making this person more palatable to you. 

If you are still having trouble, then I’d suggest you do a little research and find a book or two that provides you with specific techniques to deal with the emotions this person generates in you.  There are a lot of resources out there.

But what if their performance is sub-par?  Again, the whining and complaining may be this person’s outlet for a deeper seated understanding that their performance is not up to expectations and that maybe they don’t have what it takes to succeed in this situation. 

Regardless, the whining isn’t the issue – the performance is.  Focus on their performance, and put in place a specific set of expectations with quantifiable measurements and deadlines for improvement.  If they don’t make acceptable progress, then it’s time to look for a new sales person.

Readers, feel free to comment on this.

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If you have any comments or questions, email them to me. I do, of course, reserve the right to edit

Here are a few articles by Dave that you might be interested in reading:

What's the Best Way to Find a Good Salesperson... Good question! It seems that everyone has a favorite response. Some people only use recruiters, and others swear by networking. But classified ads continue to be the most common choice. Almost everyone who hires salespeople will, at some time, search for prospects via the "help wanted" section.... {Read More}

Is it Time to Revise Your Sales Compensation Plan?... If you're paying your sales reps straight commission, you're using an obsolete formula. If you're paying your sales reps a straight salary, you're also using an obsolete formula. Read this article to find out a much more effective way to compensate your sales staff.... {Read More}

How to Deal with the Salesperson Who Has Leveled Off... Every manager has, or will, confront this troublesome issue. It´s arisen in every workshop for sales managers or branch managers I´ve done. One or more of your salespeople has leveled off. Their performance hasn´t improved much in the last few years. Where before you were able to count on significant increases each year, now you can not. You know that these experienced salespeople can do better, but they seem unable or unwilling to break out of a certain level of performance. You are scratching your head, frustrated, and loosing sleep at night wondering how to improve the situation. What do you do?... {Read More}

There are also many other action-packed articles for sales professionals that offer how-to solutions to every day sales problems that you can read online at www.davekahle.com/article.htm.

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