The top reason your sales talent is leaving – and how to convince them to stay

Back to hub 16 June 2017

The sales industry has always been fast-paced. The ever-changing market, demanding customer needs and continual pressure to meet sales KPIs mean it’s not uncommon for people to switch jobs regularly. As a result, your team can not only miss crucial targets, but also frequently be left with gaps to fill, making your job as their manager even more difficult.

Many people believe the key to attracting talent is paying more, especially for sales people. Indeed, sales professionals are money motivated and paying a competitive salary is certainly important, but there are other factors too, such as company culture, team relationships and products which all contribute to employee satisfaction. Our index shows that career progression is the number one reason for leaving a company, with 51% of salespeople looking for a move after just two years. To keep your star talent, it’s vital to engage and show that your business is just as passionate about upward career progression and career development as it is about meeting those all-important sales targets.

Take a structured approach

Our Index shows that 31% of employers still don’t offer a structured approach to career progression, despite this being the number one reason sales people leave a company. Sales people like to work to targets and the natural next step when it comes to career progression is giving them a good idea what they should do to advance further in their job. Everything from highly detailed target and bonus documentation through to regular goal setting and performance reviews can help to nurture your sales team and ensure they know whether they’re on track or not.

Research released by SHRM/Boston Consulting Group in 2015 revealed that leadership, talent management and strategic workforce planning are three of the areas organisations most urgently need to improve upon. An easy way to address all three is by creating and sharing career paths and ladders with all team members, showing your commitment to their progression within your company.

Don’t wait until someone is threatening to leave to put this plan into action, either. It’s important to lay the groundwork as soon as new members start work with you. Tell them which behaviours, competencies and responsibilities you expect to see from them throughout their career with you – you could give them a plan that explains the new areas they should develop in at six month intervals, for example. Outline how your employees can progress through the company in the coming years. There’s no better way to motivate than telling your workers which job routes are available and what they can do to improve their chances of progressing further.

Communicate regularly and be SMART

Plan for every quarter by writing down personal SMART objectives for each employee. This can be anything from increasing customer meetings, phoning existing accounts or even attending a training course. This not only helps measure performance but keeps people motivated by creating a sense of achievement, direction and shows your investment in their career.

For managers, giving feedback is also vital when it comes to developing talent and improving your sales team. This is especially true of millennials – the future of your workforce. Young people thrive on feedback, and nearly three quarters of millennials who consistently receive feedback from their managers feel satisfied in their roles. This is in stark contrast to just 37% of workers who feel fulfilled at work despite receiving any feedback, according to Clutch HR.

Don’t ever be too busy to conduct regular reviews: if necessary, you can combine performance reviews with account reviews and sales meetings. These meetings are a great opportunity for you to assess the progress of your employees against their smart objectives and KPIs – and gauge how happy and satisfied they are in their roles. If they’ve done well, then take the time to communicate their good work to other people: by giving people feedback, you’ll help to increase their motivation and self-worth.

Push them to the next level

Salespeople thrive on challenge: give it to them! Encourage your employees to take more responsibility and have more autonomy; whether it’s hosting client meetings, running forecast calls or presenting ideas to the team, let them take charge and push themselves. They’ll be able to learn on the job, and develop their sales and managerial skills as a result.

By challenging your team, you’ll be putting the Pygmalion effect into practice. Also known as ‘the power of expectations’, this theory describes how managers treat their direct reports in line with their expectations of them. Therefore, if you as a sales manager have high expectations of your newest recruit, you will communication these expectations to them either consciously or subconsciously. Your recruit will pick up on these expectations and perform accordingly. It’s another way of saying that if you have faith in people, they will typically excel in response to this expectation of their success.

Promote from within

66% of companies in the UK offer ongoing mentoring and coaching – make sure yours is one of them. Encouragement only takes employees so far: you also need to make them aware of any ongoing training and coaching plans that you offer. There are huge benefits to promoting workers from within: not only do they have a better grasp of your company’s values and ideals, but they understand every inch of the job, having worked their way up from the bottom. It also adds extra incentives to other employees to work harder and attain that elusive promotion: don’t underestimate the employee satisfaction that changes in job titles and salaries can cause, especially when it comes to motivating your sales team.

Research supports the benefits of hiring from the inside rather than externally. According to this Development Dimensions International whitepaper, senior executives are more likely to fail when they’re brought in from outside the company, as opposed to within, while external hires not only cost your company more money in resourcing and training costs, but they’re also more likely to leave your business.

To conclude Show you are committed to developing careers

When it comes to building a successful sales team, retaining talent is key. Demonstrating that you’re committed to developing your employees’ career, applying a structured approach, communicating with your talent and rewarding them with a step up the ladder or a change in salary all go a long way towards creating a company culture that promotes career progression and employee satisfaction. Don’t wait for your talent to leave: be proactive and convince them to stay.

Find out more about how you can retain your best people here.

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