Honesty is the foundation that allows trust to grow. As such, it is crucial to any strong, long-lasting relationship — and relationships between recruiters and sales candidates are no exception.

Unfortunately, complete honesty can sometimes backfire — think: oversharing. Sales recruiters are quite familiar with this situation: It often happens when they’re discussing with candidates the challenges of working in a sales role for a particular company or industry.

Top sales talent understands each sales field and job presents its own hurdles. However, when a sales rep switches industries — or just moves between companies — they are often unaware of the specific roadblocks they’re likely to face in their new position. As a recruiter, you are in charge of communicating these challenges, but in a balanced way. You must be honest about the struggles the candidate will face, but at the same time, you don’t want to risk scaring great candidates off by making the challenges out to be too daunting.

Here is how to find the balance between being honest and being alarmist when discussing challenges with sales candidates:

Look Through the Candidate’s Eyes

It’s necessary to discuss the intimidating parts of the job, but it’s not always going to be a comfortable chat. You know you want to weed out those who won’t be able to cut it, but you don’t want a top candidate hearing something they dislike and dismissing the company as a valid employment option.

Navigate uncomfortable discussions by putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Remember, they aren’t naive. They know the sales field isn’t always a walk in the park. So, before the discussion, consider how you will respond to important questions they are likely to ask, including:

  1. How would these challenges specifically impact my ability to sell?
  2. In what aspects of sales would I need to excel to overcome these challenges?
  3. How long does it take the average new sales rep to begin succeeding in this role?
  4. Are the challenges and potential setbacks associated with meeting sales goals in this role worth the rewards?
  5. In what ways does the company offer adequate educational and leadership support to help sales reps face these challenges?

Make a list of your responses. If you are unsure of how to answer confidently any of the questions, reach out to new and seasoned sales reps and their managers for guidance.

Be Specific and to the Point

Talented sales reps don’t waste their customers’ time. They get straight to the point, and they expect the same kind of consideration from you.

Each specific detail you offer impacts the candidate’s decision about the role. That’s a lot of pressure, and unfortunately, it can easily rattle a recruiter’s nerves. Rattled nerves lead to rambling, and nervous rambling leads to overexplaining things.

Rambling makes it sound like you’re avoiding the truth, rather than being totally honest. Candidates are less suspicious when recruiters are direct about a role’s negative aspects and offer clearly defined ways to overcome those obstacles.

So, be specific and get straight to the point when discussing a role’s challenges. Before the discussion, write up a bulleted list of talking points and responses to candidate objections. These bullets will help you remain honest while sticking to the point. If candidates ask a tough question and you don’t have an answer, jot it down and get back to them after talking to a colleague.

Don’t Find Someone to Blame

Each sales rep faces their own unique roadblocks when they’re up against your industry’s challenges. To define each of those roadblocks, you must get a clear understanding of why former sales reps were unsuccessful or cracked under the pressure.

Take an in-depth look at the sales reps who proceeded your candidate — not just the role itself. This will help you identify the qualities that make someone successful — or not — in the job.

Remember, you’re reviewing former employees to understand who the best candidate is, given the industry’s common challenges. Be careful not to speak negatively about those who were previously unsuccessful. Focus instead on the specific skills each candidate has that will make them successful in this role. Show them you’re confident in their abilities to face the challenges head-on. Emphasize the positive traits of your current and former successful sales reps, and explain how your current candidate holds similar traits.

Karyn Mullins is president of Connect with Karyn on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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