by Chad Bronstein, CEO

It is hiring season once again for your company—this may feel exhilarating but it can also be anxiety inducing. Attracting premier talent to your company can be a tough sell, but the good news is you’ve already recognized the most important fact of all: that hiring commission only sales candidates is an important sale in and of itself.

Commission only sales candidate happy

In gritty honest terms, you’re basically communicating to candidates, “Hey, I’d like you to come work for me but I can’t guarantee you’ll make any money.” This is why most commission based salespeople have to be “sold” on the idea of it being a worthwhile choice. Depending on the sales structure, most commission opportunities only offer to pay as much as their salespeople accomplish and, knowing this information, many candidates back away from the idea. So how does a hiring manager counter their concerns?

Over time I’ve learned to apply sales methods to the hiring process. Here are five important tips to help you successfully sell your commission based sales job:

1. IT’S A NUMBERS GAME, BABY

Reframe your hiring approach so that finding the ideal commission based sales candidate is a numbers game. The conversion rate in this business can be brutal—you may find that after arranging 10 interviews, only three show up and out of those you are left with one qualified candidate. In a way, it’s healthier to lower expectations. Most hiring managers try as hard as they can, even cutting against the grain, to reach good commission based sales candidates, and are left both discouraged and disappointed.

The best starting point when selling a job opportunity is to plan on hiring more than one person. In fact, when the opportunity is commission only, plan on hiring as many as you can handle, keeping as many good workers as possible but also willing to make necessary cuts. Even when limited to one opening, hiring at least two workers is a healthy way to inspire competition within your company. In due time—probably within a month—it will become apparent that one commission based sales candidate is better than the other(s), but together they may be productive enough to justify retaining both.

To some, this can be overzealous and unappealing, but once competitive nature kicks in and begins to drive results, owners quickly realize the favors of a multi-hire process. The goal is for candidates to covet your job opportunity. There is no better way to sell a commission based sales job to a candidate than to have them perform side-by-side on the battlegrounds!

2. IT TAKES SOME TRIAL AND ERROR

As the founder of Time to Hire, I connect hiring companies with candidates but some report back, often during their initial run, that they couldn’t land the ideal commission based sales candidate. Or worse—they couldn’t even get candidates to show up for the interviews. This is a problem my employees and I explain to clients as normal because one of the most trying aspects of selling a job opportunity is that you may fail. Sometimes there won’t be a clear, definitive answer as to why. Success is knowing how to bounce back, namely by continuing to refine your process of selling the job opportunity until you develop some proven methods.

When selling a job to a candidate, keep in mind that the pitch, who is conducting the interviews, whether you interview over the phone vs. in-person, and what questions you ask will all play into a candidate’s psychology of whether they accept you, your company, and the job opportunity. The impression you give to candidates is comparable to how people feel about restaurants—it could be bad service, bad food, or otherwise, but once the customer’s good faith is lost, the likelihood they will return depreciates considerably.

Therein lies the Catch 22 of selling a job to a candidate: due to the many factors in success and the inherent unpredictability, failure is more likely. In fact, some of the most common feedback I receive from hiring businesses is “we’ll just have to be better prepared next time.”

Failure is an integral part of the process. In a competitive market, how else can you expect to better yourself than by getting knocked down a few times? It’s a nuanced skill learned by trial and error to convince an industrious individual to come work for you, in light of all the other opportunities available to them. Like a good sales process, when you sell a job to a candidate, it is crucial to be flexible, adaptable, open-minded, and then willing to lay it on the line with ambitious hiring techniques. Doing this, you may just find a few gems that will staple your company’s hiring process for years to come.

3. BUILD TRUST WITH TRAINING

An attractive business has a support system in place. In other words, they have employees who proficiently guide new hires through their early tribulations. This starts up-front when selling the job to the candidate. It’s pivotal during these initial exchanges to paint a commission based sales job with honesty and candor, and to let them know how intensive the calls, networking, and groundwork will be without much initial compensation. This embeds trust in your employees from the start and preemptively defends you from the “I’m working too hard without enough money” conversations.

An effective model to establish trust works all the way up through management. Management should have a stake in the performance of their employees and also be incentivized to groom new hires, positioning them for success.

Common practices include daily training exercises for informing about the product or service, how to sell it, tips and tricks, the approach, and a general array of topics to cycle through with each new stream of employees. This keeps everyone in the organization sharp on the business, including management.

commission sales job growth

Another tact that builds a strong support system is to organize new hires with people who seem to be on a similar career arc. Utilize proven employees to lead new hires into the waters by mirroring cold calls, walking through different strategies and approaches, and having them train and learn together. This stabilizes confidence levels throughout the early times and gives new hires a tangible vision of their future prospects with the company.

Take this approach one step further—arrange ‘rah-rah’ meetings to get together and celebrate small and large victories throughout the company. Anyone who’s been in a sales rut knows the associated feeling of despair, but once you get a sale or two behind you and suddenly have a room full of people clapping for your success, the confidence rises. Even if employees sense it’s all a mirage, positive reinforcement has numerous advantages for your business.

4. IT’S GOTTA BE IN PERSON

I advise my clients that it’s alright to interview on the phone at first, but to maximize that time to gain a commitment to an in-person interview. There are too many factors outside of a hiring manager’s control when interviewing over the phone: missed calls, easy cancellations, and candidates feeling less of a connection to you and your company than they would speaking to you in person.

To prepare, you need to first know what your goals are for the interview. Try starting with one simple objective: to get the candidate to commit to an in-person interview. It’s a logical first goal because it’s the necessary next step to a successful hire and landing top talent. Over the phone can be effective to drive interest, but keep pitches high-level and use the time to schedule getting the candidate in your office to sell them the job in person.

5. KNOW YOUR STUFF

The person taking calls from candidates needs to have most of the answers, or at least be able to improvise well enough to sell the main points when questioned about the job. Remember that you’re approaching the hire as a sale, and just like any sale, if the salesman spends time talking about things that the customer didn’t ask about, it is less likely to have a positive result.

Candidates are in a delicate spot when looking for a new job; they’re as hopeful as they are skeptical. One useful tactic to consider is a “negative reverse sales,” which promotes that by making something hard to achieve, its worth increases to the listener. Try implementing selling points that challenge the candidate. For instance, you could say:

“I don’t know if you realize, but this job can include working 50 hours a week for two years and making nothing, but we have guys who stuck to it and now pull half a million per year. But you must have the motivation.”

This method for selling a commission based sales job to a candidate can be beneficial in two ways: candidates appreciate the honesty and they’re intrigued by the possibilities, both of which encourage them to interview in-person.

Throughout the process you’ll be asked questions from candidates that may be precarious to your position. You never want to lie, but it’s sometimes wise to not divulge all the information. Find ways, as the interviewer, to reinforce positive aspects of your company without sounding repetitive and to regain control of the conversation.

It’s hard to do—really hard to do—but then again, so is sales, and the hard-earned results are why we stay in the game.