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?


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.