Wanted One Great Salesperson. Where Is She?

by Jeffrey Gitomer


The question of the century: Where do you find great salespeople — the key to growing your business?

Answer: The great salespeople are working. They may not be happy, they may not be satisfied with their situation and they may be looking for change — but they’re working.

Okay, so how do you let them know you’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime available? What’s the best method to recruit talent? How will you know where to find the right salespeople?

When you need a great salesperson, you need to look beyond traditional recruitment methods to be successful. The best way to recruit is face to face. There are two types of face-to-face recruiting:

1. Direct solicitation — “I want you.”

2. Indirect solicitation — “Do you know someone who might be interested?”

Indirect solicitation is always the best and safest route because it does not put anyone’s business or career in danger, and it allows the other person — the one you may want — to make the first move.

Here are 11.5 methods that will help you find a great salesperson.

1. Your vendors
A great indirect source because they’re in contact with so many people in your industry. Note: You must deliver the message to them a few times before they act.

2. Present employees
You’d be surprised at the number of people working for you who would love to be in sales if given the opportunity. Employees make great salespeople because their product knowledge is already in place, and they are eager to achieve. Bonus: Because an employee was previously known in a non-sales capacity, customers will now see him or her more as a consultant than as a salesperson.

3. People who call on you
If they’re trying to sell you, they may buy you — or know someone who would.

4. Customers
Danger: Taking a salesperson from a customer will result in a lost account. That customer will also talk with everyone in your industry and community about what you did. Use the indirect method only. Don’t solicit their salespeople. Just don’t.

5. Competitors
Second-best source, but biggest danger: Your reputation is at stake. If you steal someone, be certain that he or she does not bring anything from the old company. No customer lists, customers, prospects or training programs — no nothing. Taking their salesperson is bad enough, but taking their business goes way beyond fair or legal play. If you hire a salesperson away from a competitor, make it a clean, ethical and professional move.

6. Trade shows
Best source. Everyone from your industry is there. This arena is especially good for finding unhappy salespeople in non-competing companies, those who are familiar with your customers and your industry. Trade shows are the most fertile and least politically disruptive way to find great salespeople.

7. Networking
Business meetings, chamber of commerce events and business groups can provide a great connection to the right person.

8. Word of mouth to the business community through your business friends
Like networking, use your business reputation in the community to get the word out that an opportunity exists in your company.

9. Your present sales team
Their word of mouth is the most powerful — or the most damning. Are you treating your sales team well enough to get referrals?

10. Headhunters
A dangerous method, because they may not know your industry — and their objective is to collect a fee.

11. Advertising
Yes, you can advertise — but be creative. The local newspaper typically is the most expensive, least effective and most time-consuming arena because you get responses from unemployed salespeople. The good ones are working. Your local “business weekly” is a better bet because it reaches the employed and is read by the assertive. Trade publications — yours and your customers’ — are also okay. You might also try your own company newsletter: An article about the opportunity might pull in just the person you’re looking for.

11.5 Be attractive
If you’re great, and if you treat your salespeople well, the word gets out about you. Your sales team will be out on the street, bragging about how great it is to work for you. People will call you. How do your salespeople talk about their job behind your back?

Finding a great salesperson is challenging, but when you realize how important the right choice is and how much money that choice can bring you — or cost you — it’s worth investing some quality time.

Here are a few more success strategies:

  • Approach individuals in a low-key manner. Make them qualify. Don’t sell the position — make it attractive enough for them to buy it.
  • Start your conversation with questions about the candidate, not stuff about you.
  • If you interview someone who says, “I’m in sales and I haven’t been able to find a job in six months,” don’t even think about hiring that person.
  • If someone has a bunch of hard-luck stories, you’ll be the next hard-luck story if you hire that person.

Here’s another point to ponder:

Experiencing high turnover? It’s time to conduct a self-evaluation. Turnover costs 10 times more than the few bucks you’re saving by under-supporting, under-training or under-paying your salespeople. You can blame everyone and everything — but most of high turnover is caused by poor company performance, not poor sales performance.


© 2006 All Rights Reserved – Don’t even think about reproducing this document without written permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Little Red Book of Selling and The Little Red Book of Sales Answers. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on sales and customer service at www.trainone.com. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to [email protected].