Is an unemployed salesperson “bad”? Throughout the years I’ve dealt with hundreds of sales leaders. What continues to amaze me is how many of these individuals say, “A good salesperson should never be unemployed”. I have even done business with companies that refuse to hire unemployed salespeople.
My answer to this interesting question is actually the same as if you were to ask me, “Are employed salespeople bad?” The truth is that there are some that are good, and some that are bad. Neither group could be ultimately classified as one or the other.
Ask Before You Judge
It is so important to ask questions and investigate a situation before judgements are made. There are many instances I’ve witnessed where a person lost their job due to something that was outside of their control. Maybe a company is being sold, a great salesperson has a tyrant boss who they just can’t get along with, a company is shutting down, or a company is relocating. I could go on and on, as these occurrences are quite common.
My Personal Experience As a Salesperson
Years ago, I proudly held the title of top selling sales representative at my company. Between my first and fourth year on the job, I tripled my income. I loved the job and my boss. Life was good.
Seemingly out of the blue, the company cut the highest earners, which included my boss, who was there for over 25 years and me.  We were told that the layoff was due to financial reasons, and shortly thereafter the company sold. I assumed that by taking some of the top earners off of the books, they were able to make the company look more profitable.
After this occurred, I had an extremely difficult time getting other companies to believe my “story.”  During the interview process I would get asked, “Can I call your company to confirm these details?  It doesn’t seem to make sense why they would let go on a top performing salesperson.”  My response was always, “Absolutely. Here’s my boss’s number. Feel free to call him right now or anybody you want at the company.”
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, there are some bad salespeople that get let go because of poor performance. However, not all salespeople that get let go are bad at their job.  Rather than immediately jumping to conclusions, and making judgements, ask questions and listen. If you’re still skeptical, ask to speak to their former boss or bosses and try to validify a candidate’s claims.
Something that I would strongly advise in this situation is to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that today, your boss came in and let you go, despite the fact that you’re a stellar employee. The reason is irrelevant, but maybe it’s because the company is going to be sold, is in financial trouble, or they’re relocating their office to another city and you’re not able to relocate. Whatever the reason might be, it has nothing to do with you and your performance.
Ask yourself, how would you feel if somebody questioned your ability all because you lost your job due to something that was completely outside of your control?
The bottom line is that if you want to be cautious of somebody who’s unemployed, that’s your prerogative but give them a chance to explain yourself.  Otherwise, you may be missing out on a potentially great hire.
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