How to Counter-Offer Proof your Star Sales Candidate

In today’s market, it’s harder than ever to find and hire sales talent. It takes a lot of discipline and time to find a top sales candidate, but it takes expertise and finesses to influence the candidate to accept your offer.

Many top sales reps aren’t actively searching for a new position, which makes this process even more difficult.

For example, when an average sales rep applies to your open positions, they’re more likely to accept your first offer with little to no negotiation. However, a passive sales rep is generally earning good money, has leverage with their current employer due to their revenue impact, and are likely to receive a counter-offer once they turn in their notice.

To combat a potential counter-offer, the hiring company you’re working with must establish a relationship with the candidate as a two-way street.

Find out what conversations your hiring company should be having with the candidate throughout the interview process to avoid a counter-offer.

Early Interviews

During the beginning interview stages, you should discuss the reasons surrounding why the candidate wants to leave. It’s important to ask these questions upfront because one of the number one reasons people stay or leave a job is their relationship with their supervisor. Make sure you or your hiring firm ask questions below:

  • What is your reason for wanting to leave?  Is your current employer not willing or able to address the issue?  Have your concerns been discussed with your employer and what was their response?
  • What is the relationship with your boss?  Do you have a personal relationship with them? How loyal are you to your supervisor and the position?

Later Interviews

As the candidate moves through the hiring process, you can then start to ask questions about how they might react if they were offered the job. Here you can really start to gauge how interested a candidate is in the position.

  • How would you expect their employer to react when you provide your notice?  Do you have any prior experience to back it up?
  • How would you respond if they tried to keep you?  What could they offer you that would entice you to stay?
  • Understand all facets of the candidate’s current compensation over the past few years – base, commission, auto, expenses, vacation, benefits offered and the expectations for each of those areas if they were to make a move before any offer is made to the candidate.  A lot of deals fall apart when the details are compared post-offer and acceptance.

Bottom Line

Candidates will be less likely to accept a counteroffer if the hiring company:

    • Treats them as a partner throughout the process. That means making sure the fit is right for both parties on all fronts. Asking the questions above and addressing any concerns upfront will help alleviate any potential problems in the offer stage.
    • Presents an opportunity that specifically addresses the “pain” in the current environment. For example, if the candidate is not happy at their current company because there is no growth opportunity, then make sure the candidate will be provided leadership training.
    • Offers a compensation package that meets or exceeds the candidate’s expectations.
    • Gives them the opportunity to think through the impacts of a counter-offer well before the candidate is ready to resign.  Help to pre-establish their mindset about the response before the counter-offer comes.

Overall, the hiring firm should encourage openness to ensure that the decision is a win-win for both parties in terms of opportunity, compensation and the other factors.  

It’s a very big decision for a top performer to leave their current company is not a decision they’re going to take lightly. The most important thing for a hiring company to do is to have a dialog with candidates throughout the process and ask questions that will help you accurately determine their interest and what it would take for them to accept the offer.

If employers try to have these conversations once the counter-offer comes – it is too late!