09 Apr 2015

When Should You Accept a Counteroffer?

When Should You Accepting a Counteroffer?

As the job market has been heating up we’ve been seeing more counteroffers from our candidates’ current employers. In fact, I’m seeing more counter offers than at any other time in my professional recruiting career. Given the high cost of losing a top sales performer, it can definitely make sense for employers to use any means at their disposal to retain them. But what about the sales professional considering staying? If you Google the topic of accepting counteroffers you’ll find article after article imploring you to never accept a counteroffer. Some of the reasons you’ll find are valid. A pretty good summary of them can be found in this U.S. News & World Report blog – 6 Reasons to Reject a Counteroffer. This begs the question as to whether there are some situations where it might be wise to accept a counteroffer.

I have come across sales professionals that accepted a counter by their current employer and it worked. So rather than giving you my top 5 or 7 or whatever # of reasons why it won’t work, I wanted to give you some scenarios where it can work. Consider accepting a counteroffer if:

  1. There’s a history of sales professionals accepting counteroffers with your company and it worked out over the long-term.  Reason #4 “Job security will diminish” from the 6 Reasons to Reject a Counter blog above is valid.
  2. Your problem is solvable.  If a $10k annual raise will be the difference in making you happy for the foreseeable future, you might want to consider staying. Conversely, a raise won’t solve your commute issue, friction with your boss or your company’s internal politics.  It also won’t make you feel valued over the long term.  Sit down and write out the reasons why you’re interviewing.  Will the counter solve your issues?
  3. Your long-term prospects are better with your current employer. This usually isn’t the case, which is why you were interviewing. Then again, sit down and logically think through each opportunity. If you feel good about points 1 & 2 above, you might want to consider a counter.

The truth is that accepting a counteroffer is a high stakes and high risk move. If there are issues with your current position, my suggestion is to sit down with your boss and let them be known before interviewing. I wouldn’t approach my boss from a fix this or I’m out perspective but I would be clear and firm.  Once my boss had time to consider my requests, I would approach him/her again a few months later (assuming nothing changed). If my boss still didn’t work with me? I would be out, as in I’m not going to look back out. Accepting a counteroffer at this point just wouldn’t be an option.

To give you a more empirical look at the pluses and minuses of accepting a counteroffer I give you the only potentially valid stats I could find (from Nick Gallimore’s blog – Is it true that if I take the counteroffer, the world is going to end?)

This is based on a LinkedIn poll:

  • 37% of those who accept a counteroffer regretted the decision.
  • 8% of those that rejected a counteroffer (and accepted the new position) regretted the decision.

I’ll end this post by sharing some advice that my dad gave me awhile back that has served me extremely well. To paraphrase him, “It’s easy to break something but it’s really hard to put it back together.”


Chris Carlson

President and founder of Sales Talent Inc, a B2B sales recruiting firm. Based near Seattle, WA we place sales reps, sales engineers and sales leaders across North America.