Salary Discussion

A client asks, "Just before completing a phone interview with a prospective hire, they asked me the following, 'Can I make six figures in this position? I'm interested in the job and your company, but if I can't make enough money, I don't even want to start the interview process.' They did not ask the question in a combative way, but I wasn't sure how to respond. Colleagues have told me that money shouldn't be discussed during the first interview."

This is a great question and it can be a very awkward situation for even the most seasoned interviewer.

Discussions of Money

Your colleagues are correct; you should not discuss money in great detail during the phone or first in-person interview. Certainly, you would not divulge any specifics about the compensation plan and here is why. Salespeople making a six-figure income have the experience, maturity, skills, drive and discipline that enable them to earn that kind of salary. Early in the interview process, the candidate should be demonstrating to you that they have those skills and can succeed at the job your company is offering.

However, discussing an income range with a prospective hire is an acceptable thing to do.

Don't Overpromise

If your sales staff has some strong producers on it, but not one of them earns more than $85,000 annually, bonuses and commissions included, your company is not the right fit for this candidate. Resist the temptation to say, "I am confident that a real superstar could make a six-figure income here!" Making inflated promises will result in their resigning after six months or less. Say something like, "the income range for this position is between $70,000 and $90,000. What are your thoughts on that?"

If Tenure is an Issue

Sometimes a company can have a sales staff in which many or most of the sales people are making six-figure incomes. However, few of them made that amount of money in their first year with the company. Whether it is a pipeline, sales cycle, or product knowledge issue, it just isn't possible to get enough traction in that first year. If this is the case, let the candidate know. Especially if they are switching industries, most potential hires will not be deterred if they have to wait a year. They just want to know that the potential is there and that there are many in the organization who are realizing the kind of income they want to make.

Say something like, "First year earnings are in the $70 - $90K range. Second year earnings exceed that amount. My plan is to discuss the compensation plan, in detail, with all candidates making it to the second interview. Have I answered your question to your satisfaction at this point?"

In general, I would look at the candidate's question about potential income in a positive light. They are obviously ambitious, and most companies are looking for money-motivated salespeople. Just keep the discussion about money general rather than specific and don't mislead a candidate about income potential at your company.

What is money motivation? Do you ever wonder whether the candidate you are interviewing is truly money motivated? Find out for sure. Ask them to complete a pre-employment assessment before the interview process begins. To find out more about pre-employment assessments, click here.

Though my clients come from many different industries, the challenges they face are similar. In "Sales Management Tips," I regularly answer questions that have been posed to me by my clients. I hope the answers will help you to solve some of the sales dilemmas you face in your own sales organizations. If you would like to ask a question, please contact me. The identity and affiliation of those submitting questions will be kept confidential.