Owners: Stop Scaring Your Salespeople


(By Laurie Kahn) Many of us remember the style of interviews that were done in the ‘90s and early 2000s: Tell them how hard the job is and try to scare them away; if they come back, consider hiring them. Unfortunately, even with a tight labor market, many managers are still scaring away people who could be solid candidates and potentially successful in sales.

Three terms that need to be changed to attract more quality talent are:

  1. Job title of “Sales” – Much of the population has no interest in being in sales, too many negative images with the term, as soon as they hear or read the job title “Sales,” they run. Think about what a “sales person” does today and think about a more appropriate title. We see more companies using Account Manager, Marketing Expert, Client Manager, Business Solution Director, Revenue Producers, and more. Think out of the box and use the job profile to describe all that is involved, as we know it is much more than just “sales.” Have fun with titles; have your teams involved in deciding on their title or check social media sites like LinkedIn to compare titles at other companies.
  2. 100% commission – Money and security are right up there at the top of any employee’s, or potential employee’s, list factors in deciding whether to join a company. Yes, you can move people along until they are eventually on 100% commission, but bringing it up in the beginning and having a plan that kicks in too soon will turn potential hires off – especially those that are bringing skills and contacts to you while leaving a secure paycheck behind. Whether you decide to offer a base or a salary (check with HR to see which is preferred in your state), it is important to lay out a plan that will attract new talent and keep them engaged.
  3. Three-month guarantee – Following on from #2, as bad as stating that you pay on 100% commission is offering a short guarantee. Let’s be honest, someone coming in to learn your products, build relationships, and start billing enough to live on just isn’t going to happen in 90 days. Many companies know it takes longer, tell the potential hire that if they are doing well they will get an extended guarantee, yet the offer letter still spells out the 90 days. That has and will continue to scare people away. Lay out a plan that works for the new hire, and that offers security for them to feel comfortable about joining your team. Include non-monetary objectives to meet for those first 90 days to ensure they are moving in the right direction. We know billing is key, but there’s a need to be more realistic as to how long it really takes to ramp up.

It is, and will remain, a challenge to hire the talent that is needed and desired, so making your positons sound more attractive will help immensely. Talk to other employers with similar positions in your community and industry to find out how they are handling the same situations and to be competitive.

Laurie Kahn is the creator and founder of Media Staffing Network. She has worked with media companies since 1993 helping them hire top managers and sellers.


  1. Indeed, Laura. Radio has been going out of its way to re-establish and reinforce those very strategies that haven’t been of any significant benefit for decades. Noted: A simple reframe of a salesperson’s presenting position makes some people crazy.
    Like others in the culture – they find out what doesn’t work – and do it harder.
    This, as you may already know, crosses into Programming, as well.
    Too bad, too, as radio has the potential to be a magnificent platform, particularly for local audiences.

  2. Reading some of these comments reminds me why I left radio after 17 years, went to the digital side, grew my GSM skills and compensation grew from 250k to 500k. The same “thinking” has not departed the narrow mindedness of the “radio industry”. Thought leaders are hard to find because companies don’t instill that in their “sellers”.

    • Oh My,

      Aren’t we important.
      We’d like to thank you, Laura, for stooping, taking your so-important time to read RadioInk and the chattering of the little people. And the horse you rode in on.

  3. The world has changed. If you’re in radio, you’re reminded of that every time you look at your year-over-year numbers. The young talent–like the ad dollars– is heading to Google, Facebook, Linkedin and hundreds of other digital media outlets. Radio has to compete for top talent–and job titles, like it or not, are important. More important that that, however, is how radio pays. Straight commission comp packages are relics of days gone by.

  4. She’s a consultant…We have worked with this company to try to attract talent and they are average players at best..Finding average prospects…Take her comments with a grain of salt..Please

  5. Sorry Laurie,

    Any company that is ashamed of the title “sales” is a company that I wouldn’t trust.
    Sales is an honorable position. The best candidates are those who understand that and want to sell.
    Sales Reps are not:
    Account Executives, Marketing Consultants, Multi-Media Advisers, New Business Developers, Brand Developers, Media Consultants.
    They are Salespeople.

    The “tight labor market”, as you call it, is really an overabundance of candy-ass, weakling young people, Snowflakes who have had everything handed to them. You don’t want them anyway so forget catering to their fragile little selves.

    Be like the Marines who want A Few Good Men. (Or women)

    • I totally understand that they are doing sales. But when trying to attract new hires, they run from the title as to the younger generation it has a negative connotation. Today, sellers are doing more events, marketing, solution solving, so it is so much more than basic SALES.

      • Laurie,

        Good sales reps were always doing the tasks you mention. Are you new to sales?
        In many markets sales reps also do production, write copy, tell the news department about things they see and hear, show up at Chamber events, and serve as an ambassador for the station at events, largely unpaid, since they work on commission.
        And these pros have on their business card “Sales Representative.”
        Your approach will give a meaningless title to a new person and as they introduce themselves the first time to clients, an air of suspicion will emit from their mouth as they announce themselves as a “marketing consultant” 2 days into the job.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here