Retaining enough high potential sales talent to meet sales goals and grow business is one of the biggest concerns for sales managers.
In many industries, expecting 20-40% annual sales attrition rates has become the status quo. And yet, some sales managers beat the odds and continue to retain long-term high-producing sales talent.
In one of our recent sales manager training classes this point was again illuminated by a sales manager who asked, “What is the secret for retaining salespeople?” She went on to explain that her frustrations stemmed from the amount of time she spends recruiting, selecting, on-boarding, and coaching new hires. “My team and I could sell a lot more if I didn’t have to spend so much time on these repetitive activities,” she said.
The truth is … the formula is not a secret
Over the last two decades Learning Outsource Group has engaged more than 40,000 sales managers and executives from a variety of industries to develop their sales management competencies. If we simply draw on what we’ve learned from the most successful of these sales management professionals, we know that retention success is the culmination of doing the right things, for the right reasons, all of the time.
What we’ve learned is that there is a potent sales employee retention formula, but it’s not a secret.
It is true that most sales managers are in constant need of finding and hiring new talent for their sales team. Recruiting, hiring, and on-boarding sales associates can consume an inordinate amount of the sales manager’s time. Since most sales managers do not consistently look for new talent, their talent pool is too small when they need to hire.
It is more likely that they will hire ‘some’ body rather than the ‘right’ body! Just as salespeople need to prospect every day, so should sales managers be looking for new talent.
If salespeople are going to stay with you they must be invested in the mission.
Consider the fact that given the opportunity most managers and executives will stay with a company longer than most salespeople do. These management and leadership professionals understand to a greater degree the company’s ‘big picture.’ As a result they are more invested in the mission and goals.
Sales employees also need to understand how their efforts are cohesively linked to an important mission, goal, or direction that is greater than them. They also need to know they are part of a cohesive team which does important work. Some selling days can be frustratingly difficult and salespeople need to be reminded regularly why they do what they do and how their work ultimately produces important outcomes for everyone.
Having the ‘right reason’ to stay involved may be part of the formula, but certainly not all of it if you want sales employees to stay with you. Working every day to create and sustain the right motivational environment is equally important.
Through research and the collection of effective best practices, we can identify what this motivational environment must contain if you want more salespeople to stay with you longer.
Components of a Balanced Motivational Environment:
Employees are more likely to stay if they perceive their role to be personally satisfying, interesting and challenging. To the best salespeople, ‘It’s not just a job… it’s a pursuit!’ Challenging employees with goals, personal development, and improvement expectations is an important part of keeping people focused and on the job.
We can confidently say that when we review our client list, those companies which regularly invest in teaching sales managers to develop their employees and invest in salespeople with continuous sales education keep their sales talent longer and that talent produces more.
One of the most difficult things for a caring and committed sales manager to do is to ‘get out of the way’ of their salespeople and simply let them do their job. In our sales manager training, we frequently hear all of the reasons that sales managers are afraid to let go and let salespeople succeed or fail.
The simple truth is if you don’t allow, develop, and expect salespeople to think, make decisions, and then accept the consequences or rewards for those decisions, they will most likely become unmotivated or unhappy and leave.
Sure sometimes they will fail, but more often they will not. Furthermore, is it not true that both success and failure are an important part of growth and development?
Sales managers must have an employee development plan that includes challenging and developing salespeople. And they must be allowed to use that plan.
The Sales Employee Retention Formula
A formula for sales employee retention is sometimes elusive. But it is common knowledge for those sales managers who have learned to do the right things, for the right reasons every day.
When you have the right people for the right reasons in the right environment with the right challenges and you get out of their way then you will have the perfect formula for sales employee retention.