Seasoned Sales Professionals – Friend or Foe

We are often asked what the most difficult position in the business world is, without hesitation the response is, a Sales Manager in the business to business marketplace.

Sales Managers must manage to many demands; management expectations, customer requirements, internal operational needs, and most importantly galvanizing a sales organization for world class performance.

The challenge of leading and optimizing a sales organization is very complicated. One of the frequent challenges revolves around the task of directing, managing, and coaching senior sales professionals.

Sales teams generally have more than average turnover, primarily because sales professionals are among the most mobile of any discipline. As the Sales Manager grapples with maintaining continuity and results, the management of senior sales professionals is critical.

Here are some stereotypical attitudes they often manifest:

  • I have seen it all before, here we go again!
  • OMG another young whippersnapper corporate has sent to change the world!
  • I should have had that job!
  • I have 2 years to go, I’ll just coast on in!
  • What can this rookie teach me?
  • And the beat goes on!

Because of their senior status they are in a unique position to generate influence. Often their behavior is passive aggressive and serves to undermine the Sales Manager, and their respective, styles, strategies, tactics, and processes.

Are they a friend or foe?

What does a Sales Manager do?

  • Fire all the old farts!
  • Suggest they take early retirement!
  • Isolate them from the more impressionable team members.
  • Apply two sets of rules to mollify them!
  • Simply ignore them!
  • Assault their negative behavior directly!

My tongue in firmly implanted in my cheek, however, anybody who has served as a Sales Manager has considered even more insidious measures!

The literature is replete with horror stories of how senior sales professionals can virtually sabotage a sales manager’s attempt to lead an effective organization.

Here a few ideas that may help positively manage these valuable resources:

  • Explain privately your need for their cooperation.
  • Solicit their support as a valued company asset.
  • Recognize their past contributions and ask them to capture their “secret sauce” to share with the team.
  • Give them a role in training in sales meetings.
  • Position them as mentors to new sales reps.
  • Publicly define their role and worth to the team.
  • Provide some reward and recognition.

Employing these suggestions does not guarantee success, however it at least presents a positive recognition of the person’s worth and your desire to include them.

If push comes to shove there are always performance management measures, progressive discipline etc. However, we strongly suggest trying to capture their valuable and positive participation.

For the most part, whether they’re “friend or foe” depends on how you manage them!

If you would like a free assessment of how to manage senior sales professionals give us a call at (480) 753-0990 or email

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