You praise people in public, and you reprimand them in private. By reprimanding them in private, you prevent them from being embarrassed, from having to defend themselves, and you demonstrate to those in your charge that they are going to be treated fairly. This is a good practice, except when it isn’t.
You may have someone on your team who is doing well, and who their peers look to as a model, for advice or for help understanding the way things work. Occasionally, one of these high performers will also be negative and cynical. Worse still, they will also be vocal.
Even though they are succeeding, they will speak up in meetings about how your products are not right for the market. They will explain out loud why your competitor’s products are better, and they’ll point to lost deals as proof. The people in your charge will hear this and take note, thinking to themselves, “If this top performer loses because our products aren’t right, how can I win?”
This top performer will also complain about your pricing model, even when that pricing model has afforded them the luxury of a compensation structure that provides them with an exceptional living. Even though this person is doing well they’ll point out all of the deals that they lost to your irrational competitor as proof that the price is too high, stating out loud that a concession on price was all that would have been necessary to win. The rest of the sales force will hear these words and believe that their deals going to suffer the same fate.
And here is the outcome of this negative high performer complaining out loud: The rest of the sales force will believe it is is true, looking to this person for their beliefs about what is necessary to succeed. In this negative person’s words, they will find the rationale for their failure to perform. It won’t be their skills, it will be the product. It won’t be an inability to convey the value of your offering, or the fact that they aren’t prospecting enough to have good prospects, it will be the pricing that they blame for not succeeding. It won’t be mistakes that they made during the sales process that causes losses when the irrational competitor is there to serve as their scape goat.
This is why you must deal with this negativity in public. Your team needs to see you stand up to the high performer, pointing to the absurdity of someone who is doing well complaining that sales isn’t easier, and disabusing them of their excuses. Doing this in private deprives them of seeing what you believe strongly enough to fight over.
Your team needs to be infected with your beliefs, not the beliefs of someone who would provide them with excuses. You are the spiritual leader of your sales force, and that means building the right mindset in your team.
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