Finding Great Salespeople–Have you cracked the code yet?

A hot, hot, hot topic at every one of our niche CEO roundtables is where to find top salespeople and how to successfully retain them. Other factors that complicate things are the breadth and depth of your product portfolio, your growth goals and the niche communities you serve. Is there a magic formula out there?  Probably not, but learning from the pros is a step in the right direction.

We consulted top sales leader Stephanie Holland and HR expert Don Harkey to talk about how to identify traits of great salespeople and to also share some creative strategies for finding that next sales star.

The essential traits of top salespeople

Stephanie: “These are the top three traits I look for:

  • Empathy. Often top sales people may have previously been marketers or worked on the agency side.  It is extremely important to understand what our customers are hoping to achieve.  This is important in both understanding what your customer’s goals are, but also being able to authentically gain their trust.  A great rep should understand what success looks like for each of their clients.
  • Drive.  Let’s face it, we get told “No” a lot.  A great rep not only has thick skin, but also has the determination to seek out a yes.
  • Life-long Learner.  Media has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Make sure your reps understand marketing trends, advances in advertising technology, understand how to leverage data and analytics.   As niche publishers, our customers expect an impeccable understanding of our audience and industry coupled with the ability to make strategic recommendations that will drive business results.”

Look outside the “normal” channels for super star salespeople

Stephanie: “Depending on your product suite, you can likely find super star sales people in various places.  When selling custom publishing solutions, former marketers often understand how to put together integrated content driven programs. For lead generation products often the best sales reps are those that may be involved in production or audience development.  These are often teams that know what types of content or campaigns your audience responds to.”

Don: “Experience is another indicator of success, but my favorite salespeople I’ve seen are often undiscovered talent.  This means they probably don’t work for another publisher doing sales.  Instead, you will need to read a little deeper into their resume.  One resume I recently reviewed for a client included experience making phone calls for a timeshare company.  This person didn’t really like the job much, but they were very successful in it.  You are looking for self-driven individuals who have been successful in their career, but might be looking for a change.”

The best candidates can come from within your own organization.

Don: “When I am asked how to attract good candidates, I think publishers are looking for the right website or social media to utilize.  However, by far the best place to find good candidates is from a surprise source: your own people.”



More about Stephanie: Stephanie Holland is a passionate leader with more than 15 years of experience in advertising sales and marketing. She currently manages global advertising sales and marketing at the American Chemical Society. In addition to sales, Stephanie is also the manager of marketing for ACS’s weekly news magazine Chemical & Engineering News.


Don HarkeyMore about Don: Don Harkey is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at People Centric Consulting Group. People Centric partners with clients to help them to create and implement high performance cultures through clear direction, effective systems, and engaged employees. Don learned the power of fostering a culture that creates high employee engagement when he was a senior-level corporate engineer overseeing millions of dollars in capital projects.



About this blogger: Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Niche Media. A former sales director and corporate marketing hack, she has now found nirvana in writing and wrangling quality content. Diana is a food, wine, art and SF Giants enthusiast…who sometimes gets carried away.



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