Where to Find Good Salespeople

One of the most critical functions you perform as a sales manager is putting together the right sales team. The right people, working together, can make business life a pleasure. On the other hand, hire the wrong people and your life can become hell.

Where are all the good people?

With the economy being what it is lately, you’d think there would be all kinds of good salespeople looking for work. Well, there are all types of salespeople looking for work but they’re not all good salespeople. Some of them, but certainly not all of them, are looking for work because they are the casualty of poor sales (theirs!) and were offered another career opportunity (unemployment).

Others become available for new opportunities because their former employers weren’t financially nimble enough to survive in their marketplace.

So, if you’re looking to expand your sales team, cast a wary eye into the open market and don’t ignore some of the candidate sources I talk about in my e-book “How to Hire Salespeople Who Can Sell.” Here’s a glimpse.

Start with the Obvious

Depending upon the stuff you sell and the class of the salesperson you’re looking for, the careers section of your local major newspaper is a good, but expensive, place to start your search.

A less expensive alternative of this form of print advertising is to run a display ad in smaller community-based papers. Your advertising dollar buys you a bigger ad and will get you much more visibility than advertising in major newspapers.

You can cast a wider net by putting an advertisement on one or more of the web-based job search sites such as Workopolis.com, Monster.com, etc. The investment is nominal and the reach is broad, too broad in some situations. If you’re operating on a small budget and you’re looking for a salesperson in Canada, you can post your position, for free, on the government site called Job Bank (www.hrmanagement.ca).

Look In-house

I usually tell sales managers, “If you want a salesperson, hire a salesperson.” Well, there is an exception to this rule. If the sales position in question is an entry-level one, you may have some ideal candidates right under your nose.

People within the organization know the company, are familiar with its products and services, and understand how you do business. Current customer or sales support people can often make an easy transition into the sales function. Service technicians or engineering staff usually have excellent product knowledge, and the person who has been typing up proposals may surprise you with his or her depth of knowledge.

Employee Recommendations

Your current salespeople and others within the company may have friends or neighbours who would be eager to work for your firm. When people read internal job postings, they don’t always think beyond their own interests or needs. Make sure you ask the question, “Do you know a friend or neighbour who may be interested in this position?”

Some companies offer a financial or other reward to staff who recommend suitable new employees. You may want to make the reward system multi-tiered. For example, you might pay $50 for anyone who is recommended and makes it to the interview stage, an additional $50 if he or she gets hired and a further $100 if the new person is still on staff at the end of one year.

Former Sales Staff

If you had someone in the past that was a performer but left for greener pastures, consider giving the individual a call. Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener, but the person might feel embarrassed about approaching you. Even someone who was a marginal performer may be worth talking to again. Time and experience may have matured the individual.

Personal Contacts

Talk with other non-competing sales managers. Ask if they’ve seen or interviewed any potential candidates that they could pass along to you. If you belong to any networking groups or breakfast clubs, make sure the members know you’re looking for someone. Bring along copies of your employment ad or job description to leave with interested parties.


Be cautious but don’t be afraid to approach a competitor’s salesperson. The advantages of hiring one are:

  • they know the product or service
  • they know the territory
  • they require less training
  • they come up to speed quickly, and
  • you weaken a competitor while strengthening yourself

Be careful to avoid starting a raiding war. You don’t want your competitor to start raiding your staff. Make sure your people are content and loyal. If you want to approach a competitor’s salesperson, it may be better to do it anonymously through a recruiting firm or neutral third party.

Recruitment Agencies

Agencies can be costly, 20 to 40 percent of the estimated first year’s income, but they can save a lot of time. The good ones will take the time to understand your real needs and attempt to make a reasonable match between the candidate and those needs. The poor ones will simply send you a pile of resumes with the hope that something catches your eye.

If you decide to use an agency in addition to conducting your own search, make it clear to the agency that if you are approached by a candidate as a result of your own efforts and that candidate is subsequently recommended by the agency, you reserve the right to deal directly with the candidate and no agency commission will be paid.

Bottom Line

Finding suitable candidates is just one step. The hiring process is complex and hiring mistakes can be costly. Not only in lost sales, but in lost customers and lost goodwill to say nothing about your lost time.

If nothing else, remember this: “Hire for attitude and train for skill.”