Research suggests that across B2B organisations the annual turnover of sales staff hovers somewhere around 35% of total headcount, that’s a shade over 1 in 3 of the sales team departing every year.
Assuming that much of this business is relationship-based this poses a massive threat to stability and continued business growth, so why are sales staff turnover generally really high and how can sales managers change this?
Broadly speaking there are two headline threats to any aspect of a business, the internal and external.
As an owner or manager, you have little or no control over external threats and there’s little point dwelling on those concerns. Instead, we need to reflect on how we manage, motivate and measure our sales teams.
How to stop losing top sales talent
Invest in learning and development
You can never predict how a relationship will develop from initial contact, some sales processes are fairly straight forward exchanges of goods\services between organisations whilst others require a more complex or consultative approach.
If an employee is not thoroughly trained in product knowledge, negotiation or account management they will only progress a deal to a certain point and then lose it, consumer confidence is not based solely on your offering but on the people behind it.
Effective learning and development programs need to be viewed as a long-term investment in order to retain confident sales teams that return positive results.
Nurture soft skills & people management
As much as not everyone is a natural salesperson, not everyone is an effective leader. Sales management isn’t just about financial tracking, it is very much a soft skill and relies on the ability to identify what makes a team or individual tick and encourage that to gain a commercial advantage.
Feedback is vital to this, both positive and negative, so long as it is constructive and where necessary mentoring, coaching or training is offered. A lack of direction, and recognition, will only serve to undermine team morale and force talent to look elsewhere.
Management is a position of trust and responsibility and not a reward for length of service. Effective management will increase productivity and return – don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions at the top.
Be conscious of work\life balance
The age-old debate of whether we work to live or live to work will continue over dinner tables forevermore and there is a very serious truth behind it, particularly now as our home and work lives continue to merge like never before.
As budgets shrink and pressure grows to close deals it is easy to add to pressure on sales teams by increasing targets or reducing resources while expecting similar or increased returns on sales.
At the end of the day, there are no two ways about this one – a company lives and dies by its sales function; without income, a business will become stagnant. If your top performers are burnt out or stressed due to their working environment, results will suffer.
Those responsible for a business cannot afford to let a sales team fail and when things are tough they should consider investing in the team. Be that additional or more senior people, extra training or increased incentives. it will only serve to spread the burden and grow returns.
Choose your team carefully
For the soccer fans out there, the words of Alan Hansen in reference to Manchester United in 92 will always be remembered – “you’ll never win anything with kids.” How wrong he was! The perfect employee is the holy grail of talent acquisition and just like the holy grail, is yet to be found.
This doesn’t mean you should settle for second or third best, stepping up to a sales role or progressing to a senior sales role requires an employee who can manage all the relevant relationships, build trust from all and successfully fulfil their budgets.
Don’t be afraid to try new talent, graduates and those with little experience. Junior salespeople often bring hunger to succeed, similarly seasoned professionals may cost a little more but will bring that in-game experience which can be the difference between one point or three.
The bottom line
Nobody works in sales with a sense of benevolence, they are there to earn a living and hopefully a good one. It is vital to make incentivisation attractive and attainable.
You need to make sure that your sales team targets are not unrealistic. A strong basic salary will give a feeling of security and stop initial thoughts of moving on. Achievable goals and staged commissions or bonuses will motivate them to work harder and sell more – making everyone a winner.
Not all reward is monetary, however, and highlighting or rewarding success via other avenues is just as important. If the team has performed well as a group reward them as a group – be it an early finish on a bank holiday, a meal together or a night away. Make them feel like they are making a difference, let them walk tall.
How can we stop losing our best people? Invest. I am not suggesting that throwing money at a problem will make it go away, but shrewd investment will and that may require a top-down examination of your sales function.
The important questions to remember are – do you have the right structure? Is your team being engaged, motivated and managed correctly? Do you have the right salespeople? Are they realising their worth?
If your sales team isn’t achieving to the level you need them to then maybe it’s time to shake it up from the inside out. Cpl Sales specialise in helping businesses grow their teams from the top down, we can help identify and secure the right talent to lead your teams as well as bolster them.