Agencies Finding, Recruiting and Hiring New Salespeople

by Danny Collis, President, Collis Group, Inc.

I am used to putting ads in a local paper and seeing what comes of it. Yes, I just gave away my age. The problem today is trying to figure out which website or app will best apply to sales and what I particularly need.

Job posting or posturing has become very hard in many ways. A job was posted here at my facility many years ago for an internal salesperson. The most shocking response was from the Ph.D. in engineering — clearly a stop gap from what we do here.

So where do we find people today? Where is that diamond in the rough?

People, to me, are the strongest resource in a rep firm, so the choice has to be a good one. But where does that choice start? One of the most effective ways I have seen is to move someone from within the industry. If they are in the same industry, they come with a knowledge base on some level and may not take as much time to train. I personally have hired three sales representatives this way.

OK, now here is the downside: Three of the representatives I have hired came from our distributors. They were not happy where they were and approached me to work. This created a level of animosity between the distributor and me, even if I approached the distributor to discuss the situation. They felt I was poaching their investment.

I have a couple of thoughts on this. I have always believed that two things keep employees generally happy. The first is always money. If an employee feels compensated properly, you have a good chance of keeping this salesperson for a long time. Combine that with the second thing, which is that they have to like what they do. If you obtain both of these you are likely to keep a longer term employee.

So when I am discussing an employee moving, I am looking at that other person with respect to the fact that I am looking at his or her current employee but also that maybe the person wanted to move because they were not being compensated or they were not happy at their current job.

The other downside of this model is if you move forward with someone already in your current industry that has been there for some time, you are bringing all of their habits with them. You are bringing someone who already has a perception of how business should be done day to day and it may not be your vision, even if they are a great salesperson. That is one of the main reasons I decided to go younger in my hire — no baggage, just a clear way to train a newbie.

So where else do we get employees? Again, you can look at the traditional online apps where people are perusing every day and resume dumping. Some of these people dumping resumes are not even looking at a job description.

Recently I hired a new young sales representative. I tried to go non-traditional. I started asking friends and colleagues if they knew any young business minded people that wanted a great career opportunity.

I happened to be with someone on a trip, and he asked what I was looking for. Once I clarified what the job was and the type of young fresh clean mind that I was looking for, I was introduced to a young man who was looking for a career. He knew nothing about our industry. Now we are only two full months in, but we are molding the future.

So you can go on line to all those job search engines. Millions are doing it. Read all those resumes that have nothing to do with what you are looking for. Fill a stop gap for someone. Or just watch and listen to people you are out and about with. Let people know you are looking for someone. Describe what you are looking for.

Hopefully the search is fruitful.

Danny Collis is president of Collis Group, Inc., a manufacturers’ rep group in the Province of Ontario, Canada. Collis Group represents the food service equipment industry. They work closely with consultants, end users and distributors in the selection of equipment used in kitchens all around the world. Collis is past president of MAFSI (Manufactures Agents for the Food Service Industry) and currently sits as a board member of MANA. For information on the Collis Group visit