Recruiting new salespeople is a permanent task for many replacement contractors. Let it go even a little while and you can be scrambling to cover leads.

Like most home improvement contractors, Garden State Brickface, Roselle, N.J., attacks the problem on several fronts: newspaper advertising, job fairs, even college campus recruiting, says Doug Jimmink, vice president of sales and marketing. But during the last few years, he says that the best source has been “family and friends.”

Advantages and Rewards Hiring employees' friends and family is good for a couple of reasons. Candidates already know something about the company. More important, these candidates often get more support than candidates “cold” off the street. Other than the individual sales trainee and the company, “nobody has a vested interest in that person selling a job and us getting paid,” Jimmink says. “When we bring in people who are friends or relatives of employees, people are more friendly and helpful.”

To keep those recruits coming — the company has about 20 salespeople with a 20% to 25% annual turnover — Jimmink pays employees a bounty for sales candidates. Garden State Brickface pays a flat fee in increments when the candidate is hired, when he finishes training, after three months, “and the big number after six months,” Jimmink explains.

In Grand Prairie, Texas, Statewide Remodeling uses newspaper ads and informal networking, too, to keep some 30 sales spots filled in three locations. But what works best is radio advertising, explains vice president and partner Frank Manzare. The company has been advertising on an afternoon talk show for about five years, he says. Manzare says that the show's host “does our spots and makes a comment that we need sales reps. That gets the phone ringing.”

Combating Burnout The phone better keep ringing, not only for Manzare but throughout an industry known for sales burnout. The attrition rate can be staggering. Manzare says it was 120% each year at one company where he worked. “If we had 15 salesmen, we had a core of 9 who stayed and then you might hire people to fill the other 6 slots six times a year.”

Manzare estimates that of 10 sales candidates, he hires 3 and keeps 1 for any length of time. “That's not likely to change, even with personality tests, seasoned judgment, and a crystal ball.”