Finding good salespeople is hard enough. Losing a good one can really sting. According to Harvard Business Review: Estimates of annual turnover among U.S. salespeople run as high as 27%—twice the rate in the overall labor force. Of course, that statistic includes both good and bad salespeople. Your top performers are the anchors by which you continue building a sales team. They’re the ones who supply the revenue for expansion. Losing good salespeople has a very strong ripple effect on sales, margins, morale and growth opportunities.
Since you want to keep the good salespeople, I’ve listed 9 things for you to consider that cause them to leave.
1. Cognitive dissonance
Anything that violates fundamental virtues can cause a superstar to exit. Avoid such things as: micromanagement, ethical issues within senior management, violation of trust, etc. Remember, top performers have plenty of employment options. Customers, vendors and competitors are always looking for good reps, so be careful to do the right things. Otherwise, you’re stuck managing mediocre reps who won’t leave.
2. Failure to pay out commissions as promised
Sometimes it’s necessary to adjust compensation plans under extreme economic or market conditions. However, in most cases the violation occurs like this: a CFO walks into the CEO’s office and claims that some salespeople are “making too much money.” My thought is: well, if they didn’t sell, commissions would be the least of your worries! Any change in comp plan, change in sales territory, change in expense accounts can lead to a top sales rep seeking employment elsewhere. Think through your comp plan very carefully, then stick to it.
3. Treating every sales rep the same
Yes, you read that right. You don’t treat everyone the same. You treat everyone fairly. Your salespeople are all different, unique individuals. It’s your job as a sales leader to know them individually (not necessarily personally). You need to know their goals, their preferred methods of work, what drives them, etc. I know they want money, but why do they want money over and above paying bills and caring for their families? Some reps want a closer relationship with their boss. Others do not. In fact, they can perceive it as micromanagement and quit. Unless you know your sales reps’ passions, drivers and goals, they can leave and you’ll never really know why.
4. No sales coaching
Every quarterback in the NFL has a quarterback coach. So does every other position. It’s no different for sales reps. Regardless of someone’s talent, all sales reps need a good sales coach. They want to make more money and it’s your job to help them. Watch, listen and learn how they engage in the sales process. Identify their areas of development and work with them to improve their skills. See it more as a partnership than a management function.
5. Lack of sales support
I’ve worked with companies all over the world. This one really creates a burden on sales reps – too much time wasted on non-sales activities (CRM, data entry, list building, order entry, etc.). Top sales reps realize the limited selling time they have. Therefore, they want to pursue as much high quality business as possible (and you want them to as well). Do you best to continually remove low level tasks and non-sales activities from them. Help them gain as much time selling as possible. They make more money, are happier and will stay much longer.
6. Failing to fix problems
Many executives and sales leaders fail to listen and then act on advice from the top performers. They know how to sell. You need to fix problems that prevent them from successfully accomplishing their sales goals. Let’ say your company has a customer service issue that makes your sales reps look bad (post sale). As a result, they get apprehensive about selling to a new client. They need to be confident your product will be serviced well. Top salespeople hate to be embarrassed in front of a customer. Never let that happen. Therefore, stay in open communication with the other department leaders. Be sure a seamless customer experience so your salespeople are confident when selling to new buyers.
7. Uncompetitive pricing model
Check your pricing. Many competitors make offers, lower prices and try to underbid your reps. Selling value is always the best approach. However, in some cases, the executive team sets prices so much higher than the competition, no amount of solution selling will be able to make up for the higher price. This is not about discounting. This is about pricing models that are competitive and still retain your margins.
8. Failure to onboard properly
When you hire a new sales rep, your goal is to graft them into the company quickly and make them feel part of the family. You need a well-defined and executed on-boarding program. There are many mistakes companies make: no plan, no business cards the first day, computer equipment not set up, no phone, no lists, no formal introductions with key members of the team, etc. Whatever gaps there are in your on-boarding program, they communicate to the sales rep, “You’re not valuable to us.” Good reps find employment where they will be treated with respect.
9. Lack of strategic direction by senior management
When superstars see indecision or constant changes in company direction, they start looking for a new job. They need to know that the executive team is making good decisions, has a plan and they are part of it. Without that confidence, your superstars that drive most of your revenue will leave. Short periods of uncertainty are expected in business. However, constant changes in strategy because the CEO can’t make up his/her mind about where the company is headed makes for quick exists by superstars.