Where to Find Your Next Great Salesperson (Podcast) | Ep. #082

Elizabeth Larkin, Michael Kelly, and Eric Dollinger

Have you been struggling to find new salespeople for your business? Then, perhaps it’s time to start tapping into a different talent pool. While personal referrals and online submissions are still the most popular sources for finding job candidates, some businesses owners have begun turning their attention to local retail stores and restaurant chains when seeking out new employees. In Episode #82, Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks discuss the benefits of taking the recruitment process into their own hands and personally seeking out potential sales team members.

Executive Summary

0:30—Today’s Topic: Where Can I Find a Great Salesperson for My Business?

1:34—Apart from referrals and online applications, business owners should also be searching their local retail establishments for talented salespeople.

2:15—Observing your potential candidate in their current work environment (retail store, restaurant) gives you a more accurate sense of their natural abilities as a salesperson.

4:14—A base pay salary structure with commission or bonus is more likely to motivate your sales staff than one that relies solely on commission.

6:19—Gene advises business owners to carefully consider the pros and cons before embarking on a publicity stunt.


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Elizabeth: Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. Gene, how are you today?

Gene: I am doing very good Elizabeth. How are you?

Elizabeth: I’m good. We’re gonna get right into our question today. This is actually a question that I have for Gene instead of a listener question.

Gene: Okay.

Elizabeth: I think this will be interesting. You just submitted a column to me and it’s about where to find your next great salesperson, and you found a very interesting story that I want you to share with the listeners.

Gene: I was in a … I do a lot of speaking and I was at an event, actually it was a few weeks ago in Atlanta right when the hurricane was coming up. It was like a packaging world kind of thing. But anyway, this event, it was a sub-event of people that sell windows and doors. I spoke and I was moderating this panel. One of the people in panel was the owner of a company in southern California, and they sell windows, like double glazing windows and what not.

Elizabeth: And it must be hard to find a salesperson.

Gene: Yeah, so he’s looking for, you know always, and the question came up, we were having a conversation about sales and marketing. It was late and the question came up, it’s like where do you guys get, where do you get your salespeople? Where do people go, you know you wanna hire a salesperson for your business, where do you go to find that salesperson? First of all I just wanna say the number one source of new employees among everybody is always referrals. It’s always your existing employees. I just wanna say that.

Elizabeth: That makes sense.

Gene: People refer in their existing employees and there’s a lot of credence to that and then of course people then go online. This guy doesn’t do that. When he is looking for new salespeople he goes retail. And what I mean by retail is he told us, the group, that, and by the way, he runs, this company’s got, I don’t know, a hundred employees. It’s a nice sized company. He says every day, when he’s out at a restaurant, somebody comes and waits on his table, he goes to a store, somebody waits on him, he’s in Macy’s, he’s in the mall, whatever, when he stumbles across a good salesperson in retail he recruits them.

Here’s the reason why. He told me, he said listen, I can teach anybody how to sell doors and windows, and most of our businesses are the same way. It’s very teachable, but you can’t teach a person attitude and energy and …

Elizabeth: Personality.

Gene: Personality and all of that. So when he comes across somebody that’s just, I don’t know, do you want fries with that, but they say it with passion, you know, or somebody again, on the storefront that’s really into selling him a new pair of socks and just whatever. He’s like, I go and I recruit that person, bring them over and say I’ll pay you more than what they’re paying you.

Elizabeth: How does he do this in a non-creepy way?

Gene: It’s funny because I mean, it is true and it’s a very valid question because a lot of the people he recruits are younger and he’s a guy in his forties, so you gotta be, well listen, he goes over to them and just very politely and professional. He has business cards. He lives in a suburb of a larger city, but not unknown, so maybe people have seen him around, but he’ll just hand a card and say, listen I think you’re really great at your job and if you’re interested in maybe selling for us, I can teach you. You can make a lot more money and here’s my business card, feel free to reach out, and that’s it. He doesn’t sit there and send them flowers and peruse them and whatever. He just throws it out there.

Elizabeth: So I’m guessing he does this all the time, not just when he needs someone.

Gene: No, he does this, he’s always looking because you’re always, that’s the one thing about being in sales, Elizabeth, and I told this to my kids as well, is that salespeople is a recession proof job. No business has enough salespeople and even when times are down you can get rid of accountants, but need salespeople. You want revenues.

Elizabeth: How many of your kids actually went into sales?

Gene: None. As usual, nobody seems to want to take my advice, but you never know, sometime in the future. I believe that two of them, at least, would be very good at sales.

Elizabeth: Okay. So he gives his card, someone calls and is like, yeah, I wanna hear more about that. Do you know how he pays his employees? Does he do a bonus structure for salespeople? Is that the best way to pay sales …

Gene: It’s another great question. Him, in particular, he pays a base salary and then commission.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Other people that were in part of that group, because we had a whole conversation about, but there are a bunch of people that were these windows and doors people from around the country, they paid just commission, which I think is really, you know, I wouldn’t do that because you’re risking just to make commission, I think you’re asking a lot of an employee to do.

Elizabeth: Although people buy windows and doors year round though.

Gene: They do, but listen, it’s still tough to get stuff. I have one other … There were a few people there that were in that group that don’t pay commission at all. They just do bonuses at the end of the year, so they compete against their people. They have sales quotas and if they meet the quota, it’s the same kind of thing. The other thing that was interesting as well in that same conversation is I was asking, and if you are listening to this and you’ve got a group of salespeople in your company, I asked, do you share sales information among them? Do you have them compete, and overwhelmingly, the business owners there, including the more successful ones, they have their salespeople compete.

They put on a whiteboard in the sales break room, everybody’s sales per month, where they are so far to date. They give away old school stuff, like they still give away the vacation to the Bahamas for the number one salesmen of the year and all that kind of stuff. That kind of stuff, which has been going on for years is still popular among a lot of businesses and for a lot of salespeople, it works.

Elizabeth: Interesting, alright, so if you’re looking for salespeople …

Gene: Go retail.

Elizabeth: Rather than look on Craigslist or LinkedIn, maybe you wanna start looking at the places you shop and eat and neighbors and friends and just other people in their work environment.

Gene: Correct.

Elizabeth: Alright, we’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

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Elizabeth: And we’re back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

Gene: So it’s two words today …

Elizabeth: It’s never just one word.

Gene: I know, it’s never just one word. I could cut it back a little bit but okay. The two words are publicity stunt.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Where do you draw the line with publicity stunts, Elizabeth? I wrote about recently, an article about a company, a pizza restaurant, pizza, in Adelaide, Australia, that created an outrage because they took a cow that was, a stuffed cow, the entire carcass of stuffed cow and they hung it …

Elizabeth: Like a stuffed animal?

Gene: Yeah, like it was gone, I mean the cow had been, it died, but it was a stuffed cow, but it was a real …

Elizabeth: So it was a real …

Gene: It was a real cow, stuffed, and they hung it in their restaurant, like right down over where the diners are. The restaurant is such that when people driving by and walking by this restaurant, they can see right into the restaurant and see this giant stuffed cow there. It’s kind of a grotesque weird sight and some diners complained and the reason why they said is they wanted to draw attention to the ethics of how cows are treated. It’s a pizza restaurant, so it’s dairy cheese and whatever. This is where your food is coming from, never forget that, appreciate how cows are treated during the process of food. That was their intent, but a lot of people are accusing them of just creating just a stupid publicity stunt to get a lot of attention. So my question for you …

Elizabeth: So it worked because we’re sitting here in Hartford, Connecticut talking about it.

Gene: Talking about it in Hartford, Connecticut and they’re all the way around the world, and that is the issue is, is any publicity a bad thing? They wound up upsetting a lot of customers, but then again they certainly got a lot of people’s attention.

Elizabeth: Alright, I’m gonna take it to the Gene Mark’s level.

Gene: Go ahead.

Elizabeth: Which is how much money did it make them?

Gene: That’s a really good question and that was because it was so early on, that’s a hard thing to tell. I would look at it the exact same way, Elizabeth. If I was gonna do a publicity stunt and I was ready to grow a bit of a thick-skinned deal with, I’m sure the people that would be offended by whatever quote, unquote, stunt you would do. I would definitely be measuring it. I would say, okay, we’re gonna put this cow up here. It’s gonna create an uproar, so I’m gonna, right here, my weekly sales have been this so far to date. Let’s give it 30 days and see if there’s been any difference and if there hasn’t been any difference, unless you really feel strongly about the ethical treatment of cows, they were really on …

Elizabeth: If you did you wouldn’t own a pizza place.

Gene: That’s what I was thinking. You would be like well you’re selling pizza that was made from dairy, that’s the cows and all that, but apparently, and by the … Pepperoni and sausage, does that stuff come from cows? I don’t even know, is that just pigs? Pepperoni, yeah it’s pigs. Well, okay it’s meats, ground meat on those pizzas from cows. That’s what they did and right now we’re waiting to see if it works out.

My advice is, in the end, is if you’re gonna do a publicity stunt, because a lot of business owners are tempted to do publicity stunts to try and get that kind of, I’m all for it as long as you’re not breaking any laws or whatever. Know that you’re gonna offend people if you’re gonna do it, so prepare yourself, grow a thick skin, but most importantly, like anything else, measure it. What is, like you just said earlier, what is your return on investment for doing that? Go ahead and give it a shot if it keeps you sort of jazzed up, but make sure it’s worth the abuse that you’re about to get.

Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s kind of a bizarre one though because you’re directly profiting from the suffering of those animals.

Gene: But they wanted to draw attention, Elizabeth, to the ethical treatment of those animals. I mean we’re eating pizza with ground beef on it from the cow, but they just wanted everybody to know that they were concerned and wanted to raise awareness how those cows were treated.

Elizabeth: If they were really concerned, then they would have been like we ethically source our products from ethically treated … Because even just getting regular milk, cheese, cows actually suffer for that.

Gene: They do. They’re hooked up to machines, it’s horrible.

Elizabeth: Not even that, but they’re babies are taken away from them like right after they’re given birth, it’s really sad.

Gene: It’s horrible. Well that’s part of the reason, so maybe they’re genuine in their concern for cows.

Elizabeth: But then I hope that they’re buying their dairy products from a farm that treats the cows really well.

Gene: Fair enough.

Elizabeth: Alright, that’s gonna do it for this episode of the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. Thanks for being with us.

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