Dealing With the Antagonist in Your Sales Team

Every manager has had (or will have) to deal with an Antagonist. This is the person who always has a negative comeback to your suggestions, raises questions as to the effectiveness of new ideas you have for the team, and always has a reason why your new implementation won’t work. They could be a seasoned employee who has seen it all before, a stand-alone superstar whose sales are an important part of your organization’s sales numbers, or someone with a strong personality that the team looks up to for direction.

Many times, this becomes an issue when the manager attempts to pass something along to the sales force that the manager has recently learned from a management training, a new manager takes over and brings in new ideas, or the established manager reads an article like this one, and a light bulb goes off in their head.

In every case, the Antagonist needs to be dealt with. The rest of the team will be watching to see how (or even if) the manager will handle the issue. The team needs a leader, they want someone to follow. If it is not the manager, then they will follow the Antagonist. This is why it is imperative that the manager take the reins and maintains control.

Okay, we all know that something has to be done, but just how and what does the manager do?

First, take stock of the situation. Is the Antagonist a seasoned sales person? If yes, pull them into a one-on-one meeting and appeal to their ego. Let them know that you know that the team looks up to them as a natural leader due to their experience. Tell them that you need their help in making some behavior changes in the team. If they feel that you are working with them and not against them, they may just become a valued positive leader of your sales team.

If the Antagonist is just a bully with an inflated ego, you will have to bring them in for the one-on-one session and let them know that you appreciate their sales abilities, but that you also need them to work together with you in setting a higher bar for the team. Be specific in bringing up instances where they have been antagonistic. Let them know that this will not be tolerated. The next time it happens, bring them back in and give them a written counseling (be sure and coordinate this with your HR department, as each company has its own method of counseling). Losing the sales numbers from one negative Antagonist will quickly be made up by the rest of the team which now is working together in a positive light.

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