Consult Carson 6/11: “My top seller is a prima donna. How do I manage them?”

From today’s mailbag: “I’ve got a top salesperson whose ego is over the top and regularly puts themselves ahead of the team.  It’s very difficult to manage the situation, but I fear living without their sales.  What should I do?”

Carson: Ego in sales is very important, however no one person is more important than the team.  Look at Michael Jordan – unarguably the greatest basketball player of all time.  He had several seasons where he was the best scorer, but he was not getting his teammates involved and they were not winning championships.  When he became the best playmaker as well and the best competitor, the Bulls could not be stopped.

In the end, we can all be replaced.  I’ve replaced and had to replace numerous top producers due to promotions, job movement, attrition and because it was ultimately not a fit for the company.

1. Any time an employee’s actions and behaviors are not in the best interests of the team, that very conversation must be had.  “Thank you for your amazing revenue contributions.  But this is a team game, it’s a big picture.  The company and I need you to excel in all areas of this endeavor, not just in revenue.  Let’s work together to make a plan to get there.  What behaviors do you feel you make now that are not in the best interests of the team?  How will we change them?”  Get them to commit to a course of action.

2. Figure out what motivates your top seller.  If it’s money, and money alone, they can often keep up their detrimental behaviors unless you are able to corral them through making them fear losing what they have.  “Joe/Mary Rep, I have dozens/hundreds of people applying for this role every month who will undoubtedly pledge their devotion to the team.  Sure, they may not sell like you out of the gates, but I can coach them and manage them.  When your attitude continues to negatively affect our team, what’s stopping me from making that change?”  You will learn a lot about next steps from their reaction.  If they are or remain defiant, they likely have to go.  If this is enough to shake them up, it’s likely they will at least be willing to change.

3. Work to get them more involved with the team.  Sometimes a chasm can develop between these prima donnas and the team that seem so impossible to do away with that no one tries.  Encourage your top seller to be more of a leader.  Also, do they want to be in leadership?  Because, if they do, this is the acumen they must develop; they have the sales part down pat, but it is very unlikely they can coach someone who was once a peer if they do not even have their respect.  We must work on bridging the gap between the top seller and the team; humanizing them.  Sure, you can give them leadership posts and tasks and projects, but they must learn to reach out to their team members, get them involved and engaged, and work to change the perception that they are selfish and only out for themselves.

4. Work for consistency.  Just like a bad relationship that can boomerang from horrible to great for a couple of weeks after making up until reverting to its true form, your top seller may try for a bit and then return to their comfortable ways of failing in the team environment.  Like any sales coaching, it is imperative you set clear expectations, gain their commitment, and follow up – recalling the prior conversation, discussing where you were, where you are and where you’re going.  Have a few of these such conversations over a period of a month or three and you’ll know if this person is good or bad for the team.  That will make the decision for you.

No one salesperson is above the team.  They likely have a lot to offer the team in sharing best practices and helping others reach the level of success they have.  If they choose not to do that, they are expendable.  You can find people out there who will excel at the job and help their team members selflessly.  You can replace your top seller and you likely will have to numerous times.  When you identify a cancer in your organization, you cannot let it spread!  You must treat it and keep it in check until the issues either subside or you decide to part ways.


Carson V. Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership.  You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving.  You will also be directly contributing to his third book, “A Salesman Forever.”

Question submissions can be made via LinkedIn to Carson V. Heady, this Facebook page: , Twitter via @cvheady007 or e-mail at or you may post an anonymous comment as a reply to my WordPress blog at the bottom of this page:

Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” that has a unique spin that shows you proven sales principles designed to birth in you the top producer you were born to be.

If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to

About cvheady007

I am a Christian, Husband, Dad, workaholic and author. Biography Carson Vincent Heady was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and moved to St. Louis in 2001. He has served in sales and leadership across Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Carson is best-selling author of the Birth of a Salesman series, the first book of which was published by World Audience Inc. in 2010. He released The Salesman Against the World in 2014, A Salesman Forever in 2016 and Salesman on Fire in 2020. He is also featured in Scott Ingram’s B2B Sales Mentors: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. Carson is a 7-time CEO/President’s Club winner across 5 roles at AT&T and Microsoft and National Verizon Rockstar winner. He has been recognized as a top social seller at Microsoft and is consistently ranked in the top 25 sales gurus in the world on Rise Global. He is included among the Top 50 sales authors on LinkedIn. With over 330K social followers, Carson has also been interviewed on over 30 sales and leadership podcasts, by such luminaries as Jeffrey & Jennifer Gitomer, Jeb Blount, Brandon Bornancin, Sam Dunning, Larry Levine, Darrell Amy, Scott Ingram, Thierry van Herwijnen, Jim Brown, Sam Jacobs, Luigi Prestinenzi, Donald Kelly, Marylou Tyler, George Leith, Pat Helmer, Eric Nelson, Ron Tunick, Jeff Arthur, Mary Ann Samedi, Jean Oursler, Andre Harrell, Marlene Chism, Bill Crespo, Matt Tanguay, Josh Wheeler and Chad Bostick. He has also co-hosted the Smart Biz Show on EG Marketing Radio. His articles have appeared in several noteworthy publications such as SalesGravy, Smash! Sales, Salesopedia and the Baylor Sports Department S3 Report. Carson lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife Amy and daughters Madison, Sidonia and Charlotte.
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