Have You Addressed Your Bad Apples?

Recently, when visiting sales organizations, I have had conversations with senior managers regarding their sales culture and what to do when it becomes dysfunctional.

The frequent issue at many companies is “mad dog” sales producers fighting with operations staff. Typically, the argument centers on who is at fault for failing to deliver on a borrower’s closing date. As we all know, failure to close on time can be disastrous because there are deadlines involved for movers; turning on and off utilities etc.

The blame game goes something like this: Sales says operations had the file for 30 plus days and why wasn’t the problem fixed so the loan could close on time; operations says if sales had provided a correct completed file the problem would not have happened. Both sides have legitimate points but the end result is poor customer service, lost business and a toxic work environment.

What can managers do to reverse an unhealthy environment in the sales organizations that has bad apples?
To answer this question, first we must take a look at why it matters to a manager and their team when bad apples are in the group.

As Sutton and Rao discuss in Scaling Up Excellence, research shows that “bad is stronger than good” in that negative interactions between individuals has a five times greater impact than positive interactions. Bad apples have a disproportionately negative impact on group dynamics. Not only do they undermine trust between members of the group but they impact performance. It has been estimated that just one bad apple in a group can drop the performance of the group by 30 to 40 percent.

What is a bad apple? Essentially, a this type of sales person is someone with a self-centered mindset who acts in ways that are destructive to the group. Destructive behaviors can take many forms from outright selfishness, nastiness, anxiety and laziness, to dishonesty. These negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviors can undermine success faster than any market conditions ever could.

So, how do successful managers handle bad apples?
Top sales managers stamp out destructive behavior as quickly as possible. They believe that looking the other way constitutes a failure of leadership and that taking immediate action is critical for the team’s success, even if the producer is a good volume originator or the operations person is experienced and knowledgeable. Top managers confront bad apples directly and quickly because their sales teams’ success is at stake.

Have you addressed your bad apples today? As we move into a more difficult origination market, bad apples can sink your sales ship. Be quick and direct. If you need help on this issue, let me know and I can share what works in addressing bad apples.