Retail Solutions Forum: My best salesperson is a real jerk

The Expert Network's retail panel weighs in on this dilemma: Joe is the best salesperson on the floor, but the most disliked person in my store. While I’d hate to lose him, it’s getting more difficult to get others to work with him. What can I do to turn him around?

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Q. Joe is the best salesperson on the floor, but the most disliked person in my store. While I’d hate to lose him, it’s getting more difficult to get others to work with him. What can I do to turn him around?

A. Three specialty outdoor retailers chimed in with what works in their store (all responses are summarized):

Response No. 1: Sounds to me like he might be the motivated salesperson we all need. We used to make these types of folks give clinics with staff interaction. That way the staff starts to learn how this person functions and the manager can interject on how to soften the relationships between all of them. It puts the onus on the salesperson who can’t get along with his peers to find a way to communicate so they each can be heard, and allows management to direct the communication without calling anyone out.

The great Lou Holtz, head coach of the national championship Notre Dame college football team, was once asked by a commentator, “Coach, they say you are a great motivator?” To which Coach Holtz replied, “No, I just get rid of unmotivated people.”

Response No. 2: Basically, Joe needs to be led to discover that he needs to think beyond his own desk, his own space, his own core responsibility, or whatever one terms his job, and work on his interactions with others to make them better at their jobs while Joe is doing his jobThis means bringing the Golden Rule to the interfaces, using basic common courtesy, and thinking of how all the others can do their jobs better with his support, teamwork, communication and encouragement. Retail is a team effort, not a one-man show, no matter how good the one man. His voice needs to “smile and welcome.”

And, this needs to simply be communicated to Joe without sugar coating. “Joe, we all think you are a jerk, but you are a hell of a salesman, and can be of even more value to our company if you would do what is outlined in the above paragraph.”

Basically, if that fails, you have the wrong Joe, and he needs to be replaced.

Make sure he understands, is given directives to change to follow the above abstract, and then, if he fails, it is time to move on.

Response No. 3: Well, I’m old school, but here is what I would do. I would sit Joe down in my office and commend him for being such a great salesman. Then I would let him know how everyone else felt about him and why. This could be news to Joe, or he may already be aware of the situation. I would try to explain the negative issues, how they affect the sales team’s attitude, and how they could be corrected. In the end, Joe would have to change his ways. You can’t have one person, as good as he is at selling, drag down the entire sales staff. There is no room for negativity. Of course, if Joe has to go, the rest of the team better be ready to step it up.

About Grassroots Outdoor Alliance

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance unites independent outdoor retailers as a strong voice to protect and promote the experience of outdoor enthusiasts across the United States. We enable access to best business practices for our retail members, to the best equipment and apparel brands for the public, and to the backcountry for all. For more information, visit