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Dealing With A Salesperson's Very Bad Day

Furniture World Magazine


How to stop one person's unfortunate mood from impacting store culture.

Retail sales people may have bad days, but they should never be allowed to communicate their malaise to the rest of your organization, or to your customers.

Sales people often conduct themselves in a manner that communicates to everyone, including customers, that they are having a bad day. Owners and other sales people have said to me, "Well it looks like so and so is having a particularly bad day today. We better cut him a wide berth."

When I ask the owner or sales manager about the situation, they remark that it is just a natural part of the business and that virtually every store employee has a bad day from time to time.

I would like to challenge that thinking.

Many times, sales people come to work giving the impression that they have already decided that their day is going to be a bad one. They may have a family problem or their mood might be triggered by something as trivial as a traffic jam. Many others routinely bring their bad attitudes with them to work.

Owners and sales managers must recognize that sales people can arrive feeling less than on top of their game. The question is, what can we, as management do about it? The challenge is to keep these events and emotional occurrences from having an impact on our business and our customers.

The best place to find out if anyone is "having a bad day" is during daily morning sales meetings. If your sales manager's morning is spent in his office handling issues and returning phone calls, he may not find out until half way through the day that there is a problem on the floor.

While handling sales meeting issues such as training, advertising, and communications, it should become obvious to any sales manager who knows her staff, whether or not anyone has decided to have a bad day. Should this occur, the sales manager should ask that sales person to stay for a moment after the meeting.

With the door closed and with genuine concern, the sales manager should ask about the problem. Salespeople will only discuss problems openly if they have a good relationship with their manager (discussed in the June 1996 issue of Furniture World).

The sales manager must encourage the sales person to vent or "dump" that which is causing them to bring a less than perfect attitude to their job. It is very important that the sales manager understand the following rules:

  • It is not the job of the sales manager to fix the sales person's problems.
  • It is not the job of the sales manager to argue with salespeople or try to convince them that their problems are not important or real. 
  • The sales manager must accept the sales person's problem and empathize with their situation.

Like everyone else, sales people need to speak about their problems. If the sales manager can't get the sales person to talk, the sales person will probably vent their problems on other employees, or worse yet, your customers.

Once the situation is understood and the sales person has been given the opportunity to vent out their anger or frustration, the sales manager must ask a number of very important questions.

  • "As bad as this situation is, do you believe that it is going to impact the way you handle yourself with your co-workers here today?"
  • "As bad as this situation is, do you believe that it is going to impact the way you work with your customers today?"

Asking these questions is very important if you want to fix the problem. It is essential to get the sales person to declare that they understand their responsibility. They must ultimately tell the sales manager that their personal situation isn't going to affect their work. If the sales person believes that their interactions will be adversely affected by the problem, then the situation must be worked out before they return to the floor. As a last resort, the sales person should be sent home for the day.

If this behavior becomes a chronic problem, a meeting must be held to discuss whether a sales position which requires the sales person to remain "up" on a daily basis is an appropriate job for them.

If the sales person agrees that the situation will not impact their performance, the sales manager should ask permission to remind him of their conversation if he witnesses the salesperson's bad mood affecting job performance.

If handled properly, the sales person will look upon this as support from the sales manager, not criticism. Furthermore, these conversations generally:

  • Let salespeople know that store management cares about them.
  • Indicate that there is an accepted tone and culture in the business for which everyone is personally responsible.
  • Make employees mindful that their personal moods not only influence their personal sales, they also affect the entire mood and culture of the store.
  • Remind salespeople that in spite of the situation, both the sales manager and the sales person have important jobs to do.

Finally, the sales person should be told that if the problem persists and he needs someone to talk to, the manager will always be available to listen to his concerns.

Anyone can have a bad day. If management has the skills to deal with an employee's bad day, they can also prevent this mood from negatively impacting store operations and store sales.

Ted Shepherd is the founder and CEO of Shepherd Management Group. The company specializes in changing the selling culture of furniture stores from merchandise-driven to customer-driven using an intensive hands-on process of consulting, training, and mentoring. For more information on the topics in this article contact tshepherd@furninfo.com.