The Challenge In Finding Good Salespeople

This hardy perennial keeps being coming round, in good times and in bad. The question has gained added urgency because a lot of apparently ‘good’ salespeople have been found to be seriously lacking when business doesn’t come flowing in on a wave of business optimism. Order takers are exposed when the going gets tough.


The first principle to accept is that really good salespeople are not going to be in the open job market for very long.  By definition they are either going to be held onto by their employer or will have been head hunted directly into a new role.

A sales person who has been made redundant needs to be considered very carefully. There maybe a good reason, but getting rid of someone who should be paying for themselves several times over tells you all you need to know.

Employed salespeople registering with a recruitment agency will be doing so for one of the following reasons.

  1. They need another job because they fear redundancy – see earlier paragraph
  2. They need to find another job before they get fired for poor performance
  3. They don’t believe they can fulfil their potential/ambition/earnings with their current employer, or, to their mind, said employer’s business future looks uncertain
  4. They are going for a genuine promotion, which for some organisational or cultural reason is blocked where they currently are
  5. For personal reasons that are nothing to do with the job; partner’s career, being closer to family etc.

The problem is, all the salespeople in categories 1 and 2 will say their reason for wanting to move is to do with numbers 3, 4 or 5. The challenge is to find that out.

In our experience there is a correlation between organisations that develop their own salespeople as much as possible and so perform better over the medium term, than those that always recruit from outside. There are two benefits to this approach. First, the new salesperson will know the company and is likely to know the products and services as well. Secondly, if you know what a good salesperson looks like in raw form (because you indentify them in your own company and develop them into salespeople) you are more likely to identity ‘the right stuff’ when you have to recruit outside.


The single biggest reason why companies never get round to ‘growing their own’ is because they need instant success, which forces them out into the job market, often making expensive mistakes.