It’s a sales candidates’ market right now. Candidates have choice and you have serious competition for their attention. Just when you think you have a commitment from a candidate they are swept off their feet by another suitor and your are back to square one with building your pipeline

This market is empowering candidates and emboldening them in the interview process. The power balance has changed and with that shift, we are noticing a serious trend toward earlier, tougher and really pointed questions from sales candidates in the process. Hiring managers need to be prepared for this onslaught of tough questions and get ready for potentially radical transparency – especially when it comes to questions on performance. 

Here are some of the questions we are seeing -…

Standard questions….

these questions are obviously asked in every interview process but the difference at the moment is how early they are happening –  sometimes at the very top of the funnel – literally as a prerequisite for any further engagement…and if you don’t answer them you may never get to see these candidates and may risk an amemic pipeline.

  • What is the base and OTE range? (the challenge here as a hiring manager is that you not are able to judge the worth of the prospect before potentiallly showing your comp hand early in the process. The challenge for some candidates (especially more junior ones) is that they might be overpricing themselves and, in the refusal to have detailed conversations about the role early-on with this insistence of getting comp ranges upfront, they potentially lose out on solid advice from recruiters and hiring managers alike that can help them understand their true value in the market).
  • Are options part of the package and what is the std ownership percentage for this role and strike price?
  • What is the quota, average deal size and typical makeup of deals to get to your number?
  • What support structures are in place to make me successful? (SDR, volume of inbound leads, events, Field marketing support etc.)

Market questions

  • Detailed questions on total addressable market
  • Valuation at last round

And the really tough performance ones….

  • What percentage of your team / the company are actually making their quota?
  • What percentage missed their number last year?
  • What did the top reps make  w2 wise last year?
  • How many reps did you turn over on your team and why did they not work out?
  • How much padding do as a manager you have in your team numbers?
  • What is your hiring plan and how do you plan on balancing pressure to grow team growth with giving all of your reps a good shot to exceed their number?

There are now services out there that give reps a window on how sellers in your firm have performed or at least self-declared their performance. Check out Repvue to see an example of this. The self-declared commission reporting approach is definitely a bit flawed given sellers known propensity for slight embellishment (!) but it is a great start to more transparency for sellers. We are also about to launch a service called Verified Performers (sign up for go-live notification here) that will verify the w2 earnings of sellers who can then badge themselves as a “Verified Performer” on Linkedin. The intention is for this to be a specific candidate-centric service but, with critical mass, could also potentially provide an anonymized verified aggregate view of the earnings distribution of top sellers in those firms for any candidates looking at those firms. That transparency is coming – through this service or others, so you need to be prepared to address a potential window on hitherto hidden information.

And the detailed comp plan / structure questions that used to get skipped a lot by candidates….

  • (For hunters) how and when does the handoff to CS / Acct management happen and how long do I get to retain accounts for upsells?
  • What percentage do I get paid per year on multi-year deals?
  • Detailed drill down on comp plan including timing of payments, accelerators, and decelerators. (This too is happening way earlier in the process). What is the trajectory of the comp plan over the past year or two? What changes do you expect next year?
  • Detailed breakdown of expectations on ramp time and when you realistically expect me to hit my OTE run rate.
  • A full understanding of SDR, sales engineering, and Marketing support, volume of inbound leads.

Culture and style questions

  • Company wide culture questions often Glassdoor-review led.
  • Detailed questions on your specific style and approach as a manager.
  • In-office versus remote culture. The questions here are getting really granular – again early in the process. Exactly how many days a week do you expect me to be in the office while ramping up and when fully settled, and for the latter piece, why do you need me in there? Approx how much travel do I need to do? Does client travel replace any need to be in the office?

So how do you deal with these questions?

Basically get prepared. Anticipate these questions and have answers readily available to candidates.

For comp questions that come really early in the process:

Whereas before you were able to figure out the value of a prospective seller to you before you talked comp, going forward, you may need to give up comp ranges for positions way earlier than are comfortable with and then, when it comes to offers, sell candidates on why you put them in that specific place in the base/OTE range that you gave them. Sometimes that means convincing candidates they are not worth what they think they are worth and explaining to them that a lower base/OTE might set them up better for success.

For performance questions:

Answer truthfully. If the answers don’t look great, you need to sell the vision of how things are about to change. If you are an early stage firm and don’t have the history of earnings to discuss yet, that is ok – obviously it is up to you to sell the vision of the nascent potential but you may need to be prepared to offer draw, sign on bonuses or more options when the early-stage risk becomes apparent to candidates.

Hopefully, these approaches will help you move those candidates closer to you rather than the exit doors when the spotlight is on you as the hiring manager and hiring company.

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