Human Resources: Taming Your Salesperson

Almost any conversation these days with any of our clients eventually turns to the topic of sales. And I might add it is usually not an upbeat conversation. The past couple years have been really difficult for most in our industry. But there are exceptions. Some companies have shown significant growth, even in the face of the continuing economic downturn. One big reason companies that are thriving are doing so is because their salespeople are successfully bringing in new customers and new business.

How is it that some companies can get the salespeople who really know how to bring in the business and others just can’t? The first reason is that successful owners know how to find the winners in the first place. The second reason is that the successful salespeople are managed properly.

If you have followed my articles, attended my seminars, or read my books, you know that I emphasize the importance of assessment tools to find the personality that makes the best fit for the position.

There have been many studies which have looked at top performing salespeople to see what their personalities look like. The results of these studies are consistent. The bottom line in behavioral personality is that the probability of sales success is significantly enhanced if Dominance (D) and Influence (I) are the high characteristics. The results are also consistent in that those same individuals have low Steadiness (S) and Compliance (C).

It is interesting to look at the descriptions that go with those characteristics:

High D – Competitive, immediate results oriented, demanding attitude

High I – Optimistic, inspirational verbalization, persuasive approach

Low S – Restless, quickness to change, demonstrative if things go wrong

Low C – Firm and confident, individualistic, independence from direct control

When these characteristics are applied to the sales role, they are all positive and the result is usually sales success. When those same characteristics are turned inward to the business and not managed, they create havoc in the workplace and can drive their fellow team members insane.


Working Examples

In case after case, its very common to see one or more of the following behaviors for high performing salespeople:

They can’t bother to get the details of the order correct. Because of their independence, they will resist creating complete work orders and ensuring they get into the work order system. It is frequently necessary to have an account manager to back up them up who can get the details and enter the orders correctly. The account manager may even have to take over customer contact and servicing because the salesperson wants only to move onto the next sale.

They are often insensitive to the work priorities in the store and to the status of the work load. They will commit the company to unreasonable schedules. They will avoid the daily production meeting. Worse, even if the WIP reports are given to the salesperson, they ignore them. They will insist on press checks but they will not be available at the agreed time for the check; holding up the press.

They will forward a lengthy string of emails to the graphic department expecting them to read them and interpret them to create a design.

Using their sales charm, they will bypass the in-house work processing rules and pressure team members to deviate from the approved work schedule. They will approach offset or digital press operators and insist they stop what they are doing and take on their latest job. They may even decide to take work to vendors when they do not get the response they want from the team members.

They bristle at attempts by owners and managers to control their activities. They resist entering their activities in the company calendar and they avoid any attempts to track their activities and account for them.

Dealing with even one of the above behaviors can be harmful to an organization. Therefore, the owner or sales manager is faced with a key decision. Should he or she apply their energies to gain control of the salesperson and prevent the behaviors I have described above or should they plan to constantly be on the alert to fix the issues when they arise and soothe the tempers of their other employees?

I have seen so many cases where the owner takes the second approach and is forever held hostage by the salesperson. They do this because they have fear that the salesperson will leave them and take the work elsewhere or they may lose the customer if they don’t meet the unreasonable commitments that were made.


The Time is Right

When you are ready to hire a salesperson, make sure the right personality traits are there. It’s a fine line, but there is a difference between tenacious and rogue—make sure you know which one you have.

Next, unless you want ulcers and to constantly be dealing with turmoil in the business, take action now to gain control of your salespeople and make them toe the line. Develop the processes that will support your salespeople and make them successful, but you also need to establish controls and enforce them to ensure the salesperson is a reliable, non-disruptive team member. I can attest to the fact that this may be a full time job, but the payoff will be worth it.


Debra Thompson is President of TG & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in Human Resources for the Graphics Industry. Debra can be reached toll free at 877-842-7762 or