The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Coaching Difficult Sales People: "Nancy the Narcissist"

    by Kathy Collins / April 28, 2016

    Sales managers have a clear purpose—to coach their team to hit and exceed their sales number. Research proves time and time again the impact sales managers have on performance. Poor performing sales managers can cost an organization upwards of $20M per year in lost opportunities. The EcSell Institute believes that nothing impacts performance more than sales coaching.

    “To coach effectively you don’t treat everyone the same. Everyone responds differently. Some require encouragement and some require increased pressure and challenge. Same goes for management.” - John Wooden

    Recently during EcSell’s Sales Coaching Summit in Las Vegas, we learned some valuable sales rep coaching insights from Paul Bilodeau, VP of Marketing and Sales with The Brooks Group. Paul shared three of the most challenging sales rep personas as well as insights as to what makes them tick. Let's explore these personas in this three-part series and suggest some coaching tips for managers on how to specifically coach each of these types of sales people.

    Some of the top 3 most difficult sales rep personas include:

    • “Nancy the Narcissist”
    • “Legacy Larry”
    • “Darryl the Untouchable”

    This blog highlights difficult sales rep persona #1, Nancy the Narcissist—and she’s a tough one. “Nancy” believes that her way is the only way and is not open to regular, constructive feedback. She lacks accountability in her job and what’s worse is that she lacks accountability in her self-awareness. It’s no surprise that she is rarely compliant. Her high-maintenance attitude is only by her self-motivated sense of drive.

    There’s a lot on the line when a sales rep embodies this particular persona. Without coaching, a Nancy the Narcissist sales rep could damage your brand while boosting their ‘personal brand.’ They may also jeopardize the team dynamic by being too self-absorbed to be a team player. They put other “A” players at risk as well as steal way too much of your coaching time and energy.

    A solid coaching approach for this particular sales rep persona would be to assist Nancy in understanding where her gap areas are as well as where they originate. Spending valuable time with Nancy in well-thought coaching conversations could help Nancy to adjust some of these negatives behaviors into team positives.


    To increase Nancy’s motivation to perform as well as create behavior change—it all begins with the quality of relationship that she has with her manager.

    Coaching Tip #1 for Nancy: Schedule Regular 1:1 Meetings

    Taking time to connect on a personal level with each of your sales reps has been proven time and time again to effectively and efficiently motivate sales reps like Nancy to sell more. Effective 1:1 meetings create excellent work culture. Sales reps who report that their manager schedules regular 1:1 meetings with them also report that their manager cares about them as a person—not only as a sales producer.

    One-to-one meeting time with Nancy will allow the coaching relationship to be strengthened so that trust is built in conversations on how to enhance Nancy’s ambition while working to enhance Nancy’s ability to work within a team.

     Coaching Tip #2 for Nancy: Provide Leadership Opportunities in Team Meetings

    Team meetings can be both fun and productive. It allows the sales manager an opportunity to provide internal leadership opportunities for your team members by asking them each to take turns leading a portion of the meeting in order to share best practices with their peers. It also provides team members with a forum to share ideas, problem solve as well as give and get input on challenges they may be facing. 

    A few good coaching tips for Nancy include asking her to contribute to the team by leading a portion of the team meeting. Giving Nancy responsibility in a team meeting to run the “developmental topic” or “best practice sharing” portion of the meeting allows her to showcase her knowledge while also contributing to the team culture. Another idea is to ask Nancy to lead team recognition at the end of the meeting in order to better involve her in a sense of team community.

    Coaching Tip #3 for Nancy: Joint Call Planning

    There is nothing better than walking into a client meeting organized, prepared and with a shared goal in mind. By a sales rep providing call plans for your joint calls together, it establishes some very important information. Even though Nancy may give the impression that she works autonomously and doesn’t need to schedule regular ride alongs with her manager, this practice is integral in the sense that it provides coaching time as well as an opportunity for the manager to objectively observe her selling skills. It also provides a key opportunity for the manager to observe her interactions with her client base. With such a strong, type A personality, it may be important to observe if she is using good listening skills, responding with problem solving ideas that include thinking outside the box for the client as well as always sharpening her skills and not becoming stagnant in her professional development for the organization.

    As a manager, be sure to note areas during your joint calls together on what the sales rep did effectively, or perhaps needs to improve. These observations will come in handy when executing the next quick tip, sales call evaluations.

    Coaching Tip #4 for Nancy: Sales Call Evaluations

    The key to an effective post call evaluation is honing in on two or three areas that you noted during your joint call work together to suggest as areas that the sales rep could improve. Providing an exhaustive evaluation after a trip together can leave Nancy feeling overwhelmed, confused and entirely ineffective. The goal in the evaluation is to refine and refocus...not leave her feeling rejected. Be sure to ask Nancy questions. By asking, it creates an opportunity for her to self-diagnose her effectiveness during the calls you had together. She is also more likely to own the areas of improvement that she needs to then work on in order to create a higher level of performance. 

     Coaching Tip #5 for Nancy: Career Development Discussions

    This is an area that is especially important to a persona like Nancy.  Career development discussions should happen annually at a minimum. These discussions are opportunities to discuss career tracks, growth opportunities, personal goals, professional development, etc. Always provide Nancy with the discussion questions ahead of the meeting, so that she has an opportunity to review and formulate her thoughts about what she wants and needs from her career.

    For Nancy, this annual discussion is vital so that she can feel that her manager is invested in her personal and professional growth track. This doesn’t just include growth in terms of promotion, but growth in terms of understanding what growth looks like to Nancy within her role at the organization in the next month, next quarter and next year. Allow her to share her talents and skills that are not currently being utilized in her role as well as a discussion on how you can best support her growth goals.

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    Tags: Sales Rep Motivation

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    Kathy Collins

    Kathy Collins

    Kathy Collins is the VP of Client Success at Ecsell Institute. She currently handles software maintenance, client needs and support and all company operations. As an empowered facilitator, she dedicates her work to efficiently improving upon strong organizational process and the corresponding measurement and tracking that coincides.