Question: What should we do when a sales representative attempts to build a relationship with a customer on a personal basis, but refuses to build a relationship for the company? He or she prefers to wear the “white hat” and portray the company as wearing the “black hat.”

Answer: Incredible! I’m not sure where some salespeople get their ideas. Unfortunately, it is not that uncommon. I come across this frequently.

Some salespeople believe that to make themselves more valuable to their customers, they have to make their company seem less competent, so that they, the salespeople, will be the heroes who get the company to do what the customers want. They want to make it appear that without the help of the salesperson, the customer would be in a real pickle.

That’s the idea anyway.

This is a poor decision on the part of the salesperson and completely unacceptable from the company’s perspective. In other words, this is a stupid idea (I’m trying to be kind, here.) 

It’s a poor decision on the part of the salesperson because any attempt to make someone else look bad, whether it is a competitor or your company, always ends up making you look bad. The customers are not ignorant. It doesn’t take a whole lot of discernment to understand that the salesperson, by casting the company in a poor light, is really showing poor character: immaturity, stunted ethics, and a severe lack of judgment. I suspect that this salesperson’s sales could be larger than they are, but are being hindered by his or her actions.

It’s a poor decision on the part of the salesperson because it detracts from the customer’s perception of the company’s competence. The customers may believe the salesperson. If so, then why would they want to deal with an incompetent company?

The salesperson has made it less likely that they will buy, not more. Even if the customers see through the salesperson’s strategy, they still have to question the company’s competence. What kind of a company would employ a salesperson like this? So, regardless of how the customer perceives the truth of the salesperson’s comments, it is negative.

It’s a poor decision on behalf of the salesperson because it is unethical and immoral. Regardless of the impact on the customer, the company, or the salesperson, behavior like this is wrong. Empirically, categorically wrong.

From the company’s point of view, this behavior is completely unacceptable. Would you allow a customer service representative to badmouth the company? Would you close your eyes to a driver who used his/her customer contacts to paint a negative picture of the company? I suspect not. Why would you then accept this kind of behavior from a salesperson? Ultimately, one of your company’s richest assets is the composite strength and depth of your employees’ character. 

This sales representative has exhibited behavior that indicates an immature and unreliable character.

So, to answer your question...Terminate this person at your earliest opportunity.

Dave Kahle is a leading authority on distributor sales. He’s authored 10 books, presented in 47 states and 10 countries, and has trained tens of thousands of salespeople and sales leaders. He can be reached at, or 800-331-1287. Visit for more information or sign up for his free weekly Ezine.