Beating High Sales Turnover: 5 Red Flags to Watch for in Sales Candidates

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When your sales team seems to have a revolving door, you know there’s an issue.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for many sales departments in America. According to Harvard Business Review, sales rep turnover in the US sits at 27 percent, twice the turnover rate of the labor force overall.

There isn’t one single, isolated cause of high sales turnover. Some say the sales field is especially conducive to burnout, while others blame the prevalence of job hopping in a hot job market. No matter the reason for it, high turnover is an expensive issue. Considering that, for 33 percent of organizations, it takes nine months or more to get new sales reps to full productivity, that’s a lot of investment just for sales pros to turnaround and jump ship.

Sales reps are the lifeblood of a company. During the recruitment process, your goal is to find those unique candidates who can head to the front lines and connect with customers. To avoid pouring money into hiring and training reps who fail to stick around, you need to be sure the reps you bring in are good fits for your organization. That means not only knowing the hallmarks of a top sales candidate, but also being able to recognize the red flags of bad fits.

Here are five such red flags that all sales recruiters should be aware of:

1. The Candidate Doesn’t Have a Good Reason for Job Hopping

Job hopping is incredibly popular today. Many people do it to climb the corporate ladder faster or expand their skill sets and experiences. However, some sales candidates leave positions quickly for more questionable reasons, such as:

– They’re not connecting with customers.
– They have trouble listening to leaders.
– They get bored and want a new challenge.
– They weren’t a good fit for the company or product.

Job hopping doesn’t necessarily mean a specific sales candidate isn’t the right fit for your job opening. However, a history of job hopping should give you reason to dig a bit deeper into why the candidate has moved around so much. Ask probing questions like, “Do you enjoy working in a team environment?” or “What were the most difficult parts of your last two sales roles?” to get a clearer understanding of a candidate’s career moves.

2. A Money-Hungry Mentality

Sales reps are often money-driven, and some would argue they should be — to an extent. When you’re working for a commission-based pay structure, money is obviously a motivator.

Some sales candidates, though, focus solely on money. That’s where the red flag reveals itself. These candidates will emphasize commission and salary throughout all your conversations, all the while showing little interest in your product, customers, or company culture. These, of course, are the three critical factors with which any sales candidate must align to succeed for the long term.

During the recruiting process, always take some time to discuss motivation. Let candidates lead the way on this one so your examples or suggestions don’t influence their talking points.

For more expert recruiting insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

3. They’re Blunt, Not Direct

Sales reps need to be direct in conversation. Many customers have limited time to chat, so they appreciate it when sales reps get to the point.

Unfortunately, many people confuse “being direct” with “being blunt.” A sales candidate who seems uncompromising or borderline rude during a conversation with you — someone they’re trying to impress — is more likely to offend customers by being blunt rather than direct.

4. They Know Nothing About Your Company

The greatest sales reps exhibit incredible inner motivation and drive. They don’t need someone giving them orders to know what needs doing and how to accomplish their goals. These sales reps put in hours of research and devise solid plans before ever setting foot in front of a customer.

Sales reps like this will do the same exact thing before an interview. So, if a candidate comes to a scheduled interview knowing nothing about your product, customers, or even company, chances are they’re not the motivated type you want on your team.

5. They’re Not Willing to Learn and Grow

The sales field is in constant evolution. Products, technology, customer demographics — nothing remains the same for long. Reps must be ready and willing to adapt quickly as changes develop.

A sales candidate who isn’t willing to learn and grow, especially from their own and others’ mistakes, will struggle to find success with any company. This red flag can be identified with intentional questions during interviews. Ask reps what type of learning opportunities they take advantage of and how they stay updated on changing sales trends. Situational questions like, “What’s one mistake you made and what did you learn from it?” can also reveal whether a candidate is capable of evolution.

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

By Karyn Mullins