Once you recognize that someone on your team is negative, you have to begin the process of removing them. The longer you wait to remove that person, the more you risk the rest of your team. Negativity is the only cancer that spreads by contact, and leaving the person in their role is far too dangerous a risk.

Proximity Deprivation

A negative person has the ability to chip away at the people that surround them. The negative person gets to complain about their company, their manager, their compensation plan, their leads, how difficult their job is, how unfairly they are treated, and how stupid and short-sighted everyone is—everyone but them, that is.

You are never around when the negative person is making their complaints to anyone and everyone who will listen. They make sure that you aren’t there so that they aren’t exposed–and so there is no rebuttal.

Over time, a negative person will win people over to their view because they have the advantage of proximity. Positive people don’t turn negative people positive. The negative person’s cynicism spreads and infects others—unless the culture is strong enough to reject the negative person straightaway.

Your job as a leader is to deny a negative person the advantage of proximity. This means that you remove negative people before they can do any damage.

Negative Spiritual Leaders

Every sales organization has a spiritual leader. This is the person the salespeople follow, regardless of any formal hierarchy or structure. The sales force looks to this person to decide what they believe about sales and selling.

If you allow a negative person to become the spiritual leader, they will change the sales force’s beliefs. First they will destroy the sales force’s belief in their own company, that they do good work, that they deserve to displace their competitors. Then they will work to infect the sales force with the belief that selling is easy, but that it is only difficult for them because of their company, their pricing, their management, and their target clients.

Once the infection takes hold, it’s likely that you will lose salespeople who could have, should have, and would have succeeded were it not for the negative person being allowed to occupy the role of spiritual leader.

It is tougher to remove a spiritual leader. It’s better to remove a negative person before they spread their infection.


How do negative people win others over to their beliefs?

Why don’t positive people change negative people?

Who is the spiritual leader of your sales force?

What is the risk of allowing a negative person to occupy the role of spiritual leader?

Sales 2014
Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 23, 2014
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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