Manny Being Manny – When to Terminate Top Producers on your Sales Force

Our Boston Baseball team is having an acute case of Manny being Manny.  For the past seven years, when Manny felt like being Manny, it was sometimes comical, like when he recently made a great catch, high fived a fan in the middle of the play and then threw a runner out to complete a double play.  There were the two times when he entered the left-field wall to use the facilities and to talk on his cell phone.  But there have been other occasions when he wasn’t so comical.  There were serious, but not career-ending moments like when he failed to run out ground balls or, during a pinch-hitting appearance, when he failed to take the bat off his shoulders. This year Manny has been the aggressor in two well documented shoving matches and there were two important games where he asked out of the lineup.  Now, for the 8th time in 8 years, he is asking out of Boston again.  It used to be that Manny being Manny was harmless fun, but when Manny has become a serious distraction to the entire team, all the home runs and RBI’s in the world won’t compensate for his behavior.

Most sales forces have a person – a maverick – like Manny; a top producer who marches to the beat of his own drummer.  We have a different set of rules for these producers and as long as they’re not causing difficulties for anyone else we tend to tolerate what they do and don’t do.  They don’t attend all the meetings, aren’t held to the same standards, regularly give us a load of crap and we tolerate it as long as they continue to produce.

Can you imagine Manny on your sales force?  He pushes your HR VP to the floor, slaps your hardest working salesperson, refuses to listen to your coaching, tells everyone he hates the company, doesn’t attend company events or sales meetings, but comes through and brings in the business you need, just when you need it.

But when Mavericks become serious problems I usually get a phone call.  “I don’t know what to do!” is the typical comment.  And it makes sense, right?  If this person didn’t outperform everyone else in the company, the decision to put them on the first plane out of town would be an easy one.  Nobody would miss the antics and aggravation.  But all that revenue – the thought of losing it and the possibility of a competitor getting it – is too much for most executives to handle so they inevitably call and ask me what they should do.

I’m fairly consistent on matters like these.  As Bill Murray says when Walter Peck is being kicked out of the Mayor’s office in Ghostbusters, “Bye.”

Most companies do more with less.  After two basketball players are encouraged to quit the team in a disciplinary move, team members yell, “they were our top two scorers last year!” Coach Carter, in the movie by the same name, says, “then we’ll have new top scorers this year!”

If you were to interview the salespeople who are impacted by the behavior of your top producers, you would learn that they would be quite happy to see your Maverick depart.  It’s not like they thought they could outsell him…and guess what will happen to their sales when they finally believe  that they can become the top producers!