Retention of Sales Staff

Retention Practices for your Sales People

By Chafic Kharma

16th May

Many of my senior executive clients I spoke to have one concern in common; turnover rate of their sales people. This pressing challenge is not uncommon, most of the studies I came across pegs the annual rate of turnover at around 20 percent. Most companies recognize this challenge yet they don’t have specific plans in place to retain their sales people or even address the root causes of why they are leaving.

The sales team is company’s soul where they put their sweat and tears into growing its revenue and they are naturally sought-after by competitors. So, it is critical to understand why they leave and to take necessary actions to keep them focused on selling and to retain them. One thing for sure is that it is not all about money! Studies validate that money is the last reason for them to leave a company – they want to feel part of something bigger than themselves. They leave when a set of other factors come into play. The good news is that many of these factors are within company’s control. I will address these practices within the context of EMPLOYEE ENAGEGEMENT. Why is that?

Engagement is when the sales people are enthusiastic to perform and are committed to work to achieve the company’s goals. It is when relationships become stronger, when happiness levels rise and when they are willing to contribute their knowledge, skills, abilities and efforts toward the success of the company.  

When an organization and its sales people embrace the principles of engagement, staff performance and retention rise. A sales team that is engaged can be incredibly productive. The Sales Management Association found that organizations with fully engaged sales team have 70 percent higher win rates. Therefore, companies must institute certain practices, as we will see, to make their sales people too engaged to consider leaving a company. All are within the context of the ‘Universal Factors’ I mentioned in my earlier post – Building a Culture of Organizational Citizenship.

Team Effectiveness. Developing effective teams is to get its members to set aside their individual agendas and to commit to a common objective in an environment of mutual trust and respect. When operating effectively as a team, sales people will perform at their best because of the support and collegial competition that they get from teams. To do so, they need to know each other and to collaborate on commitment and trust. When team members collaborate, they share creative ideas without fear that another team member will take credit for their ideas. This keeps them involved with each other and the organization, making retention easier.

Support Leadership. Sales people have pretty developed radar and antennas when it comes to management’s leadership. This leadership is seen in managers’ behavior and activities, like discussing and mutually agreeing with their sales team members on team’s goals and objectives. They should both have buy in to what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and what resources will be required to deliver the results.

Managers should also spend time with their sales people in the field, make joint sales calls and attend sales meetings. They should take the success of their sales people personally and put it above their own. They should have regular private conversations with them, keeping in touch with their wishes and dreams and their problems. Sales people need to believe that managers are the captain who goes into battles in front of the troops leading them. If they feel that the organization and its managers support them, they will be more willing to stay on to make a contribution.

Development and Growth. Sales people tend to be deeply career focused and want to see that they have a career path mapped for them; they want to be in an environment where they can grow long term. Organizations should invest in the professional development of its people and support their vertical growth. It should have incremental promotion steps and succession plan that will make sale people have something to work for all the time. Meanwhile, managers will have to know what each of their sales people would like to do better in and take the necessary approach in coaching on those areas. They should help them identify a mentor within the organization who will help them get to the next level in their career. That way, sales people know the organization is committed to their development and growth making them more loyal when other opportunities come knocking.

Recognition. Sales people want to know that the work they’re doing is being appreciated. Recognizing their work makes them feel good about themselves and what they do. It inspires them to invent, create and discover. Managers should Keep an eye on the progress made by their sales people and should take the time to celebrate successes and milestones along the way — not just when the team hits the quarterly numbers. Meaningful recognition is a certain thing to do but it is important to let them know why they have been recognized and make it a point in public. Sales people will stay in place when they know that their contributions are vital to the organization.

Conclusion

Make your organization a great place to work. Provide your sales people with the support and collaboration they need to perform their work. And give them a sense of purpose and belonging, recognizing accomplishments, and providing career development and growth opportunities. Your sales people are extremely valuable so don’t let a competitor steal them away because you didn’t institute these practices. Losing from your sales workforce can be harmful to your organization’s morale, profitability, and productivity.

We work alongside managers to uncover the optimum practices to achieve lasting engagement and high-levels of retention. Our approach model throughout this journey involves:

  • surveying team members to gain insights on focus areas
  • engaging team members to act on survey results and drive action plans
  • partnering with managers to achieve an engaged organization culture providing them necessary guidance and tools

Contact us for details.

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