5 tactics to avoid losing candidates to counter offers

Back to blog 4 December 2017

Counter-offers are one of the top three recruitment challenges faced by employers today. With 54% of respondents in our Quarterly Sales Index saying they have to fighter harder for candidates than they did in the past, and 34% saying they are filling vacancies with second-choice candidates, it’s clear that the fight for talent is stronger than ever.

The supply of professional talent is shifting, while demand continues to increase. According to PwC’s 17h Annual Global CEO Survey, 63% of CEOs are seriously concerned about the availability of skills in the marketplace, particularly with the predicted increase in competition for talent. Counter-offers will always have their place in the recruitment sphere, but how can you reduce their likely impact on your business? Here are five tactics you can employ to avoid losing out on candidates who are lured back in with counter-offers.

Understand a candidate’s motivations for leaving their role

Meeting with sales people who have not yet left their current role can present numerous challenges, one of which is establishing what exactly they’re looking for in a new role – and what they don’t like about their existing workplace. Tackle this issue head-on during the scoping and interviewing process, asking candidates directly why they are looking for a new opportunity. It may be related to compensation, as 84% of top-performing sales people say that compensation is very important to them when it comes to staying with an employer. Alternatively, candidates may feel frustrated at the lack of core sales activities they are involved in, with sales representatives spending 59% of their time on non-sales related activities.

Whatever a sales person’s motivation for moving on from a role is, it’s your job to understand how your position and company are different, and how likely it is that a counter-offer would lure them back in. A sales person who is most unhappy with their salary may very well accept a counter-offer of more money, but one who is disillusioned with a company’s structure and policies may not have the same pull.

Offer a reasonable salary and benefits package

In order to maintain a candidate’s interest, you need to offer them an attractive compensation package. Money matters to sales people, with 94% of professionals saying base salary is the most important element of the compensation plan, compared to 62% who are interested in commission.

Do your market research to find out what a reasonable base salary is for the role you’re advertising, particularly in comparison to competing companies in your industry and area. Be clear on the package you are offering from the get-go – if your initial offering is deemed to be too low by a candidate and you then backtrack to offer more, you risk annoying them and losing their trust.

Make sure you sell the company culture

Don’t underestimate the impact a positive corporate culture can have on your reputation within the market. In fact, 47% of people actively looking for new positions say that company culture is their main reason for doing so. Focus on your cultural strengths as an organisation and ensure these are communicated to your target candidates. Everything from positive leadership, rapid career progression and open communication through to social activities and flexible work conditions can add up to make your business a truly great place to work, and may help to encourage your dream sales person to join you as opposed to reverting to their previous organisation.

Your employer branding is a key opportunity through which to promote your company culture. Share details of any charity work or sports days you host, post photos of your office environment and encourage your employees to share their stories of why they enjoy working for you. Career pages on your site can be instrumental for this, and employee videos can help to bring your story to life. Your organisation’s social media sites and employee profiles can all be used to enhance how your company is perceived externally.

Don’t neglect online review sites either, as your reputation online can be a significant factor in how you are perceived by potential employees. In fact, 79% of candidates check employer reviews before accepting a job offer.

Address the counter offer question head-on

As you head towards the latter stages of the recruitment process, or indeed reach the offer stage, you may wish to ask the counter-offer question directly to your top candidates. Have a conversation around whether they expect their current company to present a counter-offer, and how they would address it if this does arise. Their response should be telling as to whether or not they are willing to fully invest in a new role, or if there’s something about their old organisation that could tempt them to stay. While a good sales person will be quick on their feet and eager to convince you of their honest intentions, watch out for a flicker of doubt or conflict when you pose the counter-offer question. This conversation is best saved until you’re confident you’d like to offer the candidate the role, as it can be perceived as a strong buying signal.

Communicate throughout the offer stage

Communication can make or break the candidate experience. Potential sales people who aren’t kept informed of their status in the application process are much less likely to apply to the same organisation in the future, with 80% of job seekers saying they’d be discouraged to apply to a company that failed to notify them of their application status. With that in mind, it’s crucial that you keep candidates up-to-date with where you’re at in terms of hiring. Regular updates will keep them interested in your role, and enables you to check in to see if they have other offers on the table. This is particularly important when you make an offer to a sales person, as the period between offering them the job and the start date can make all the difference when it comes to counter-offers.

One way to further engage your new sales people is by inviting them out with the team or to spend time in the office before their official start date. This will help to integrate them in your company culture and hopefully encourage them to feel more committed to your company.

We can help

Recruiting star sales people can be difficult at the best of times, particularly when counter offers are on the table. A specialist recruitment partner can help you to seal the deal. Contact us here to start a conversation on how we can work together.