The sales manager who doesn’t play fair

Q: When I promoted “Alex” to sales manager, I knew there would be tension. Our best sales agents are ambitious and competitive and Alex has bruised a couple of the other sales professionals’ egos. Still, he was the logical choice, given he won the lion’s share of our company’s 2017 sales contests. My other option was bringing someone in from outside who would need to learn our industry, and that would take at least six to nine months.

Alex was pleased, but wanted to make sure he’d still make his commissions. Since he’s a top rainmaker, we told him we wanted him to keep selling and would simply bonus him for leading the team.

The problems started right away and haven’t stopped. The other agents claim Alex takes the best accounts and plays favorites. Several have threatened to quit. I don’t want to cave into demoting Alex based on these threats, but need to know how to turn this around.

A: You picked Alex based on his sales skills and drive. Did he have leadership skills? If not, you may need to move him back into a sales position or you’ll lose other agents.

If you want to keep Alex in his new role, you need to change his goalposts. Alex likes to win; challenge him to become a leader. Let him know you’ll no longer judge or reward him based on his own sales, but on his team’s total sales. This eliminates the conflict of interest he now has when he allocates accounts between himself and his team. Finally, Alex needs what all new managers need — training.


© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” and “Solutions” as well as Regional Director of Training and Business Consulting for The Growth Company, an Avitus Group Company. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at

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