What To Do With Your Sales "Golden Child"

by Chris Young

"Fred" (not his real name of course) was one of the first hires 20 years ago when the company started.  He is a childhood friend of the founder.


Fred is the "golden child". He is untouchable.

Twenty years ago, Fred was a "hero" and today he is destroying more value than he is creating. 

There was a time when Fred added value... In the early days, the founder did all of the selling and Fred took care of the accounts.  It was a magical combination. Today, Fred makes $250k annually and works 20 hours a week. If Fred comes into the office, it is usually from 10 am until 3 pm and he spends a lot of his time tracking his favorite sports teams. That's IF Fred comes in...

Fred has not made a true sale in over a decade. He has not needed to actually sell until recently. Fred takes orders and collects cash. The only "value" he adds to "his" Customers is by keeping the price lower than everyone else and by giving away service. He protects "his" Customers from price increases. One by one the people he "sold" to are retiring. The replacements are seeking something more than a price discount.

Fred is in serious trouble. He and everyone knows it. sales golden child resized 600

Fred's sales are decreasing because the old days of "relationship selling" as the primary reason to do business are going away. His Customers are increasingly expecting value - not price and Fred cannot deliver.

Fred knows he needs to make changes but his personality, lifestyle, and habits will not allow for it. Fred knows he needs to add value to "his" Customers or they will leave him but he cannot make the shift.


Everyone knows what Fred really is...

Fred is a "golden child" - a model of no accountability. The CFO, the other 22 salespeople know, and the service department knows... Everyone knows that Fred is a farmer making the big cash - even the CEO knows. A newly-hired account manager (what Fred really is) makes $50-60k.

The sales manager would like to do something about Fred but cannot because he would like to keep his job as sales manager.

Who is to blame?

  • The sales manager? Perhaps.
  • Fred? No.
  • The CEO is to blame because they allowed this to continue to this point.


Today, the company is in trouble.

They must grow their sales and profits.

The CEO brought us in to turn the sales team around. Our recommendations were obvious...

  1. Know the cost of the problem.Until a dollar figure is attached to what Fred costs the company, it is too easy to allow it to continue.
  2. Hold Fred Accountable.Fred cannot be allowed to continue at this level and while it is unfortunate for Fred, his compensation must match his contributions and his actions.  In most cases, the "golden child" needs to leave the company.
  3. Reshape The Culture To Reinforce Accountability.No one can be allowed to avoid adhering to the sales systems - regardless of contribution or past heroics.

What do you think happened after we provided our recommendations? If you said, "nothing" - that pretty much sums it up. I would like to say this Client listened to us but unfortunately their commitment to Fred was greater than their commitment to profitability, their Customers, their shareholders, and their employees. With the value Fred was destroying, the company would have been better off doubling Fred's pay and having him stay home.


When you allow a "golden child" to remain on your bus...

You are not fooling anyone. You are destroying Customer and shareholder value. You are also teaching every salesperson and every other employee a valuable lesson...It's not what you know - it is who you know.

The best and brightest sales talent want a "level playing field" where they have a real shot of real rewards for adding value, working hard, and modeling the values of the company.

When you create a level playing field... When you show existing and new sale talent that by playing by the rules of adding value, doing the right thing, working hard, and following the company code - you open the door to new potential.


Do you have a Fred or two on your sales team?

I would like to tell you this is an extreme situation but it is not.  Unfortunately, this story is very, very typical. Most sales teams have a "golden child" or two who are untouchable.

From my experience, when the cost of the status quo are fully-understood, it is much easier to make the required changes. Ultimately, you must remove the "golden child" from your team or the consequences will be severe.

No salesperson should ever be untouchable. Every single salesperson must be accountable to an appropriate activity level and outcomes as well as to how they are living the "code".

If this sounds like your sales team, the most important step is to decide to make a change for the right reasons.

Remember... Interested people do what is convenient. Committed people do whatever it takes.

If you are committed... If you are ready to dramatically grow sales and to create a culture of accountability, give us a call and we will help guide you.

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