Do Your Sales Reps Love You? Better Hope Not.

Sales reps – do they love us or hate us? That’s the million dollar question.

The truth of the matter is that if you are truly loved as a sales manager, you are probably being taken advantage of. When salespeople love you, in all likelihood it means that there are not many consequences for non-performance and that is almost certainly affecting sales effectiveness.

And, don’t get us wrong. We’re not saying that its better to be hated. That would be worse, far worse. Your reps would never do anything for you. But being loved is not the ultimate sign of a good leader either.

Hey, we all want to be loved. It’s a universal human condition. But it leads to a dangerous president when you are managing a sales force and your job is to hold sales representatives accountable.

Sending Messages

What message do we send our people when there is no consequence for non-performance? I’m not just referring to missing sales targets; I’m referring to things like not getting expense reports in on time (or just in, period!), showing up late for meetings, not completing sales reports, or simply not doing what they said they would do.

Apart from the fact that some of these things show a blatant disrespect for the sales manager and other members of the sales force, they help create an environment where this type of performance (or non-performance) is acceptable.

Like Children

Those of us who have, or have had, small children know that they’ll constantly test the limits set by their parents and if you give an inch, they’ll take a foot and go for the whole yard if they think they can get away with it.

It’s often the same with salespeople. They’ll constantly test the limits and guidelines you set for them until they learn, like kids, that they can’t get away with what they are trying to get away with.


One of the consequences of allowing poor performance is that the good performers often start to slack off. That’s when Val, your star performer tells herself that if Peter, the slug is still here after consistently under-performing, why should he bust his butt. Someone’s also going to figure out that no one seems to hold old Jim’s feet to the fire because he hasn’t learned to input his call information into, so they’ll back off awhile to see what happens. If nothing happens, they’ve just saved themselves the aggravation of inputting call reports. They win and you lose. Sure, they might love you for it…you’ve just made it easy…for them. But not for you. In fact, by not confronting this behaviour early, you’ve just made your job very hard for yourself.

Consistency Counts

Another bad habit some sales managers have is that they’ll cut their top performers some slack while still holding others accountable for performance. All they are doing is sending a message to the sales team that if you perform well you don’t have to be as accountable. Not a good message.

If you’re going to set rules for the team, they should apply to the whole team, not just selected members. I’m not saying you shouldn’t reward performers. I’m suggesting that you reward them in a way that sends the proper message to the rest of the team.

Why No Consequences?

What do you do if people don’t enter their call information into Salesforce? What do you do if they don’t complete their expense reports on time? What are the consequences for constantly missing a sales target? Do you fire people? Maybe, maybe not.

One of the main reasons that sales managers lead without setting consequences is the fact that they want to be loved, and instead of managing, they try to be a friend to their people. Remember though, you’re not hired to make friends, you’re hired to manage.

Meeting Sales Targets

If you’ve set reasonable sales targets and some of your people aren’t meeting them, then you first try to correct the problem through coaching and/or training. If that doesn’t work, then you have to consider replacing them. This is always a difficult decision. Salvage first, replace second. Do everything you can to make it work but, in the end, you have to do what is right for both the person and the company and assist them in getting a new career.

The truth is, that to do anything less, is the wrong consequence. This is not a popularity contest, its business.

Authored by Brian Jeffrey, co-founder of SalesForce Training, and originally published in the Targets newsletter.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and training firm based in Toronto, with training centers in Boston and Chicago, helping sales leaders achieve truly lasting behavior change amongst their sales teams…without having your salespeople LOVE you.

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