Sales team turnover is one of the biggest problems facing today’s businesses, especially in high-growth markets. Qualified sales professionals are scarce, and they demand top dollar. At the same time, selling can be one of the toughest and most discouraging professions, and good salespeople will seek out jobs where they feel welcomed and nurtured, in addition to being well-compensated. With a little insight and imagination, you can buck the trend and hire and retain great salespeople who can help your business grow.
According to Harvard Business Review, sales team turnover at U.S. companies runs as high as 27 percent—twice as high as the churn rate for the overall workforce. Research reports show that the high performers don’t usually quit: they have a sense of job security. It’s the average performers who tend to leave because they feel frustrated. Research also shows that many companies simply fail to challenge sales reps, so rather than working harder or smarter, they just find a new job.
No matter how many sales reps leave your organization each year, sales team turnover costs your business money. Even before they start on the job, new sales reps cost you time and money in executive search and hiring costs. Research from the Aberdeen Group reveals that onboarding a new sales rep costs nearly $30,000 on average and takes seven months. It can take even longer for a company to recoup expenses for a new sales hire; for Sales as a Service (SaaS) companies, for example, the break-even point is estimated to be between 12 and 18 months. And think of all of the hard-won (and potentially expensive) leads that are squandered by sales reps who are not yet up-to-speed.
So how do you tackle the sales team turnover problem and find and retain top performers so your business can grow? The simplest answer is to challenge your sales reps and give them the tools they need to succeed. To minimize sales turnover and build your business, you need to nurture your sales team in various ways:
Offer competitive salary
Understand where you stand in the employment market and be sure to offer a competitive compensation package. Also, be consistent in your compensation plan. For example, if your compensation is 50 percent base/50 percent commission, don’t suddenly change the split or boost the sales quota without notice; that’s a clear red flag for any sales rep. Talk to the sales reps, explain your strategy, and solicit their buy-in before you make any changes.
Every employee needs recognition. Provide praise when it is due. You don’t have to put a bell in the sales department to ring in every new contract (truth be told, I’ve seen that work at one sales organization!), but you do want to create a positive work environment. Salespeople want their achievements to be acknowledged. When they feel respected and appreciated, they are motivated to work harder.
Provide measurable sales metrics
Every company must measure employee performance. For salespeople, it’s usually measured in relation to a preset sales quota; however, simply hitting one’s sales quota is not a true reflection of performance. Use multiple performance metrics, such as call effectiveness, the number of meetings or appointments scheduled, the number of proposals sent, the number of decision-makers contacted, and so on. Many of these skills can be improved with the right sales training, and tracking the outcomes of these types of activities helps the company grow.
Offer a clear career path
One sure way to reduce sales team turnover is to provide a path for career growth. No one wants to be in a dead-end job, so providing a clear path for advancement will encourage people to stay. Advancement doesn’t need to be only upward. The reward could be more responsibility or a lateral move; however, providing goals for advancement along with the training opportunities necessary to reach those goals is a strong incentive for an employee to stay.
Provide the necessary tools
One of the biggest complaints among sales reps is that they lack the tools to do their job. Those seemingly missing tools could be the necessary technology, such as Salesforce or mobile access to sales data, or they could be the coaching and support that many sales reps need to overcome sales obstacles. Providing the right sales tools for the job is another indicator that you value your sales team and are committed to ensuring their success.
Provide ongoing sales training
Sales training can benefit the team in a number of ways. For example, the right training can help sales reps achieve performance metrics or lay a foundation for career advancement. Sales training can also be a tangible perk that shows you value your sales team and want to help them hone their skills. A well-planned sales training program can revitalize your sales team, helping your people feel engaged with the company and the selling process. And sales training should be ongoing, with frequent coaching and refresher sessions to keep the sales team fresh.