Six types of salespeople you should never employ

Sales Pitch

Herman Alvaranga

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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One of my simple pleasures is observing the interaction between buyers and sellers - or buying behaviour, if you will.

As often as I can, I am out in the trade observing buying behaviour in our supermarkets, shopping plazas and sometimes in the bustle of Princess Street in downtown Kingston. Often I hear buyers reminding salespeople, “Don't give me any 'salesman' talk, just tell me the truth.”


Let us agree that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth are not always bedfellows with salespeople. But here in sweet, sweet Jamaica, where did this misalignment with the truth come from?

Certainly not the Tainos or the Arawaks. Neither was it Anancy. He would 'trickify', but he never lied. Which takes us to Columbus. Columbus? Here's why.

Question: “How many ships did Columbus bring to the Caribbean?”

Answer: “Four. The Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria and Ginnal-ship”!


Speaking of ginnal-ship, here is a true, unforgettable tale from a previous life. I was at lunch at Montego Bay's most famous restaurant with two people who had prior careers selling life insurance. But that didn't work out well for either of them, so they switched to selling tangibles, as they put it.

They were excitedly sharing their recent conquests in sales. The gentleman (who was from another city) boasted how he dumped almost two years' supply of black T-shirts on an unwitting merchant in Montego Bay, got paid, but could never face him again.

“I must be the greatest closer ever, to have made that sale,” he bragged. He may be right. But by his own acknowledgement, he could never face that customer again.

While we are not undervaluing closing skills, we must relentlessly identify and ruthlessly eradicate ginnal-ship from the noble profession of personal selling. Those days are long gone. And it is clear that there were no winners in the case cited, for there was no possibility of repeat business from a buyer with the bitter taste of an unscrupulous salesman.


Let us agree that nobody likes the unscrupulous salesman. But how about their employers? Are they unwittingly guilty of aiding and abetting? Consider this.

Some time ago I saw an advertisement in a local newspaper for a salesman who was capable of selling snow to ... you guessed it… an Eskimo. If that is what the employer is asking for, shouldn't you be suspicious not merely of the salesperson, but indeed of the company itself?

Perhaps the employer was merely stressing the need for a skilful salesperson, but hey - every word you say and everything you do affects your brand. And your brand may be your company's best asset.

Other types of salespeople to avoid

Having spoken of the ginnal salesman, here are five other types of salespeople you should never employ:

o The rep who wants to be on fixed income. There are always exceptions; but is this rep going to be out there hustling when it is the 32nd of the month, you have aggressive sales targets to meet, and an unhappy principal who is threatening to find a co-distributor? Beware!

o The rep who relishes office time. Reps do need to come to the office for several good reasons, not least of which is strengthening ties with internal customers. But when a rep is getting too comfortable in the office and all his paying customers are out there, beware!

o The well-travelled rep who has a new sales job every year. “Yeh mon. I have good sales experience. Worked at seven different companies in the past seven years. I know the ropes!” So why are they selling for a different company every year? Quite often they lack some of the most basic of selling skills, and instead of addressing them they find fault with their organisation and move on in search of greener pastures. If yours is a high-intensity environment, beware of hiring those!

o The rep who is inflexible. For years, extroverts were considered by hiring managers to be great sales candidates. After all, it does take some confidence and social skills to finalise a sale. However, new studies suggest that extroverts definitively exceeding introverts in sales success is a myth. Beware!

o The final one for today is “the rep who is always offering a “deal”. “Yeh mon. I have a 1-in-10 deal for you today!” Those will slash your margins without any compensating growth in your portfolio. Beware!


Having discussed whom we should never employ, what then does the astute sales manager do when looking for new reps? Here is a good way to get started:

o Carefully revisit the job description.

o Clearly define exactly what attitude, skills and knowledge the salesperson must bring to the job.

o Don't be fooled by the superficial. The real answers may be several questions deep.

o Periodically employ outside of your industry to bring fresh insights.

Having shared with you, doubtless you have opinions of your own. Care to share them with us?

Herman D Alvaranga, FCIM, MBA, is president of the Caribbean School of Sales & Marketing (CSSM). For more insights on sales and marketing please go to his blog at




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