Two million dollars is a serious chunk of change. But that’s how much more Paycor Inc., a payroll and HR software company, could’ve made in 2015 -- if they’d hit their sales hiring goals

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Paycor isn’t the only company struggling to hire reps. A 2014 report from Harvard Business School found it takes approximately 41 days to fill a technical sales job, compared with an average of 33 days for all jobs. In addition, the ManpowerGroup’s 2015 Talent Shortage Survey found that sales jobs are the second hardest position to fill.

What does that mean for your company? To bring on top sales talent, you can’t afford to make any mistakes during the hiring process.

Read on to learn the five most common interview mistakes losing you the best sales reps.

1) Being Secretive About the Role

Salespeople hate feeling like they’re being manipulated or deceived -- which means trying to gloss over the less appealing aspects of the job (or worse, “forgetting” to mention them) will definitely make candidates think twice about accepting.

That’s why it pays off to be straightforward about the role. Tell candidates exactly what they’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis, whether that’s making outbound calls, upselling existing customers, or securing demos.

“In the past, I’ve experienced a lack of complete transparency from the company regarding the job description, salary, work hours, and management roles,” one anonymous rep explains, saying it was a red flag. 

You should be clear about the compensation structure as well.

“Unclear compensation structure is a surefire way to miss out on great talent,” says Jared Houghton, Ambition CSO and co-author of A Winner's Guide to Running Effective Sales Contests. “The best sales reps want to know how to make money at your company. If you don't clearly define what that entails and show them the path to success, then they'll go to another company that will."

Giving new hires the right expectations will also boost your retention rate. After all, people usually quit if they discover the job is completely different than they anticipated.

2) Not Mentioning Opportunities for Growth

Many people get into sales because they love the direct relationship between hard work and results. 

And they apply the same mentality to their career growth. According to Glassdoor, the number one most important thing reps look for in a job is the opportunity to get quickly promoted. 

So to win the best salespeople, highlight your company’s internal mobility. During the interview, discuss things like:

  • The metrics used to award promotions
  • How long it takes the average employee to be promoted
  • The promotion path for the role you're hiring for
  • Whether there are non-management positions at the top of the ladder

3) Trying to Intimidate Them 

Remember you’re not just interviewing the applicant -- they’re interviewing you, too. If you insult, manipulate, or otherwise intimidate them, they might decide they’d rather not work at your company.

“Is it worth losing talented people before they ever started because you want to show them you are in charge?” says Daniel Galvin, Pipedrive’s Head of Support and Sales. 

Galvin also points out that successful salespeople don’t fit into a single personality type.

“I’ve interviewed people who would survive well in ‘intimidation interviews,’ but are terrible at sales,” he explains. “I’ve also interviewed people who would fail, yet are some of the best salespeople I’ve ever met.” 

The takeaway: Bullying your applicants isn't just risky, it's ineffective.

4) Criticizing Your Product 

If you want to turn off the most in-demand salespeople, criticize your product or customers during the interview. Sure, you might clearly be joking -- but you’ll make the candidate wonder if your company is worth their time.

“Good reps are selective about the companies that they represent,” explains Leticia Henry, an account executive for HubSpot’s Latin America team. “If you work for a disreputable company, you’ll potentially burn your currency with existing clients and tarnish your professional reputation.”

Plus, successful salespeople are passionate about their company’s product and mission. Imply that yours is less than awesome, and they likely won’t stick around for the job offer.

5) Jerking Them Around During Salary Negotiations

When it comes to salary talks, some back-and-forth is definitely normal. However, that doesn’t mean you should try to take advantage of candidates. Most people will walk away if you subject them to mind games -- and then you’ll be back to square one.

“I applied for a job where my base salary plus commissions was expected to be around $110,000,” one rep says. “When I countered, the company offered me a different compensation structure where my anticipated salary was only $80,000.”

When she then tried to accept the first offer, the company refused. The rep took a different job.

On a similar note, make sure your compensation packages are competitive. A Glassdoor survey showed that 57% of sales reps consider salary the first or second most important criteria of a new role. 

As a result, you’ll have trouble recruiting top reps with average offers.

It might take an average of 41 days to fill a technical sales role -- but if you avoid these interview sins, you’ll likely be able to hire faster and better.

Do you have any additional ways companies scare off great salespeople? Let us know in the comments!

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Originally published Aug 4, 2016 12:00:00 PM, updated October 01 2019


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