Don’t Allow Yourself to Be Held Hostage as a Sales Manager

Threats are sometimes spoken, and sometimes they are implied. Promises are sometimes made, and sometimes you believe promises that can’t be kept. A salesperson can hold you hostage with either . . . if you let them.

Hostage to the Performer’s Threats

Sometimes high performing salespeople make the numbers without being anything that even resembles a good employee or teammate. They don’t share or adopt the company’s values. They don’t follow the sales process. You don’t know where they are or what they are doing because they refuse to report to anyone. They miss meetings. Sometimes they are just disruptive, argumentative, and they cost your credibility as a leader.

Generally, these salespeople operate as if they are outside the company.

When you ask for what you need as their sales manager, they threaten you with their resignation. Sometimes it doesn’t sound like a threat (they are salespeople, after all). It sounds like: “You know I just can’t work that way,” or “That isn’t going to work for me.” They make their point clear: if you ask me to adopt your values, if you ask me to buy into the company culture, if you ask me to do what other salespeople are required to do, or if you ask me not to spread my cynicism and destroy the team, I will take my business and my obvious talents and go across the street.

They make the numbers. They are a performer in that regard. You need them. But they are keeping your team from performing well, and they are sowing the seeds of dissension. Other salespeople are following their example. And you have lost your credibility as a leader. They are holding you hostage.

Except “they” aren’t holding you hostage. You are being held hostage by your fear.

You are being held hostage by the belief that you cannot succeed without your hostage-taking salesperson. You are a captive of your fear that you aren’t good enough to lead your team to produce greater results without the problem salesperson. You doubt you can find a replacement that will produce the same or better results.

Your company can and will survive the loss. No one is indispensable, least of all those who believe that they are.

Hostage to the Non-Performer’s Promises

Sometimes you can allow your salespeople’s failure become your failure. Non-performers offer hope. They help you to justify keeping them for a while longer with tales of how close they are to that big win. They just need a little more time. But if they are on the bubble, it is rare that a single win can save them.

You hear promises. Implied promises, anyway.

But future wins are not the non-performing salesperson’s to promise. They can only work to obtain the opportunity, but they aren’t making the decision, and they can’t promise it is won.

Your non-producing salesperson is holding you hostage. Really, your reluctance to release the salesperson is holding you hostage. You are really the one hoping against hope.

Don’t be held hostage. You can do better.


How do salespeople who really don’t buy into the company vision, values, mission, or culture damage the sales organization?

Why are sales managers reluctant to release salespeople who produce while sowing dissension in the rest of the sales force?

What message is sent when the sales manager refuses to hold these salespeople accountable?

Why are sales managers reluctant to release non-performing salespeople?

What impact does the retention of hostage-taking salespeople have on the rest of the sales organization?

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Filed under: Sales

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