The rush to dividend-paying stocks has made it harder for even veteran portfolio managers to find good stocks to buy, says a long-time manager.

“I find it an easier climate to sell, rather than to buy,” says John Spears, vice president of the Tweedy, Browne Fund.

While it’s harder, it’s not impossible, and it helps to have an entire world to choose from, he adds.

Spears spoke at the Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago. Also on the panel were Hersh Cohen, managing director, senior portfolio manager and co-chief investment officer for ClearBridge Investments, and Jesper Madsen, portfolio manager for Matthews International Capital Management LLC’s Asia Dividend and China Dividend strategies.

Cohen says it is hard to find good names and admits he’s made some stumbles. One was media company Gannett, calling it one of his biggest mistakes. “I didn’t realize how quickly it would erode,” he says.

It’s important to keep a long-term perspective when buying dividend-paying stocks, he said. “You have to have a sustainable business model, with free cash flow,” Cohen says.

Spears says one of the recent additions to the Tweedy Browne fund was Cisco, a stock both Spears and Cohen own. Cisco’s lack of debt and valuation of 11 times earnings attracted Tweedy Browne, in addition to continued demand from the company’s clients, he adds.

In energy, Spears says he likes Royal Dutch Shell and Total. Hersh is not as impressed by those two companies, preferring Exxon and Chevron, the latter of which he calls “great.”

Financials are still an area where Cohen and Spears tread lightly.

It’s better if an investor look at the financial sector as banks and non-banks, Cohen says. Insurance companies are worth a look, he says, adding that Travelers Insurance is one of his picks. The firm came out of the 2008 credit crisis with a “pristine balance sheet,” he says.