Hiring Inexperienced Sellers In Small Markets


(By Loyd Ford) One of the great things about writing this column is I get comments, ideas and suggestions for new articles from you. Great ideas come from anywhere if you listen.

A suggestion was made about how different recruiting is in smaller markets. Would I consider writing a piece that focuses on those markets and recruiting? Yes, I will.

By the way, everyone wants to uncover and hire a great seller. It’s harder in the real world. That’s why building a strategy that allows you to look for traits, behaviors and skills are critical and important in the recruiting and hiring process.

  • Selling is very often about ability to build relationships. In situations where the talent pool of experienced sellers is limited or unavailable, don’t hire for resume. Hire for the person. A good person can be taught. A bad person is a bad hire. When you are hiring, investigate the relationship-building experience of the applicant. Encourage them to tell you stories about how they’ve built relationships and the value of relationship building to them.
  • Look for traits that are conductive to a great seller. Someone who is naturally curious, a good listener, someone who asks questions and listens and someone who can problem-solve. These traits are for hiring in potential sellers no matter what they have done in their past and their lack of experience selling, selling media or especially selling radio.
  • You cannot teach initiative. So, build your own curiosity about potential hires around identifying if they take initiative often. Ask questions that lead to stories about experiences where they took action on their own to gain a positive outcome for their team.
  • Radio can no longer hire the same old people. Our goal now should be aggressive recruitment of sellers focused on people who also exhibit signs of being able to move fast, have a balance of compassion, empathy, the ability to hear buying signals and take appropriate action to close. We have to look in unusual places where sellers might exist in jobs that are less fun than radio sales in your market today. Remember that non-radio employees likely look at our business as being a lot more fun than a ‘normal job.’
  • Try to hire emotional maturity. This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked in the heat of the hiring process. When your reps are problem-solving in the field, you might often not be there to make any decisions. You want them to make a good decision each time. There is a rumor that Nick Saban has a test on emotional maturity for recruits. If he has the best player on Earth but they fail this test, he won’t take the player (according to the rumor). Why is this important? Because maturity is worth its weight in gold.
  • Build an intern program in your building with connections to the local colleges and high schools. Any intern program should have real benefits for the students, experience for their resumes, real world experience in the different aspects of media today, including on-air, digital and social media, sales assistant experience, promotions, events, public speaking and more. You should also make sure you showcase these benefits to the college and high school. The biggest reasons for this are building up your abilities, especially in the social and digital end of your business and to help you identify candidates that would become excellent sellers.
  • Any interview should involve effort to see if your applicant is a good storyteller. People (and prospects) are wired for storytelling. Tell me a story and you have opportunity to sell a vision.
  • Don’t be afraid to build in a question about the pivot. Sales, like life, often has punches, knock downs and situations that require positive approach and the ability to leverage creativity to get buyers emotionally engaged. It doesn’t matter if your inexperienced seller has never sold a thing, having a positive attitude and an understanding that life knocks you down and you get back to your feet is powerful. Creativity has saved many sales budgets. If your potential sellers can’t pivot and keep working to capture the client, you will lose sales.
  • Consistently encourage your team to be on the lookout for potential sellers in all walks of life. We no longer live in the more formal universe of the 1980s or 1990s. Here, you need to consistently be on the lookout for the next talent up.

You might have a few you could add to this list. That’s good. In fact, it’s the idea.

When you have fewer sellers, your business gets smaller. I don’t care who you are. In the future, relationships will probably mean more to you, and you will need new and younger sellers to refresh our business, approach and look for radio executives seeing local customers.

Recruiting great local sellers is tough but losing more revenue and continuing to struggle when you could be growing is worse.

With the right recruiting process and hiring questions, you can hire sellers in any size market and “teach them how to fish.” In other words, hire good people and teach them to sell.


Loyd Ford is president and chief strategic officer at Rainmaker Pathway Consulting Works (RPC).  Reach Loyd at 864.448.4169 or


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