Don’t Lose the Good Ones: Six things You Must Do to Retain Your Best Salespeople


By Alice Heiman

How well are you doing when it comes to retaining your best salespeople? The economy has changed – and, with that, people are more willing to change jobs. Several clients have shared with me that they have lost some very good salespeople. If you have top-notch salespeople, you know recruiters are calling them. It’s never been easy to hire great salespeople but, today, it seems to be very hard. They are in high demand and there just don’t seem to be enough of them.

Is There a Shortage of Salespeople?

There is currently a shortage of workers in general, and it is affecting your ability to hire and retain salespeople. According to the December 2015 article “3 ways to survive the B2B sales talent shortage,” there are two main factors influencing the sales talent shortage. First, pre-IPO enterprise companies are recruiting on a massive scale. Second is the pervasive negative stereotype that sales is slimy and manipulative. This is very old school, but it prevails. The shortage of workers overall combined with the shortage of people willing to do sales means it’s time to get a retention strategy in place.

Do You Have a Retention Strategy?

If you have good salespeople, I recommend you make a plan and actively work to retain them. If you have great salespeople, I recommend you have a talk with them and learn about their satisfaction level and discuss what it will take to keep them happy and onboard.  

Will They Leave Because of Their Boss?

Keep in mind: Surveys tell us conclusively that most employees leave because of their boss. Your retention strategy needs to look heavily at your sales leadership and what they need to do to develop themselves into great leaders.

Build a Retention Plan

  1. Compensate: Confirm that your compensation plan is in line with industry standards for your area. Although it’s not the main reason someone will stay, all the benefits, empowering workplace and great environment won’t keep someone if your compensation is not in line. Don’t believe it? It happened to my client recently. Many companies have not adjusted their wages since the recession. Now that the economy has changed, everyone is hiring. Do a wage survey. Larger global companies will usually pay more than local or regional. Those larger global companies are luring people with significantly larger salaries.
  2. Train and Coach: Training and coaching are not just for new hires. It’s an ongoing process. You are constantly assessing skills to find areas for improvement. Consistently provide training, practice, and coaching. There should be training quarterly that everyone attends and then each salesperson should have a development plan and get the individual training they need. Does it cost money to provide training? You bet it does! But it will come back in increased revenue if you are focused on the right things. Product training and sales training are the most obvious kinds of training, but it goes beyond that. Do they need to improve their writing skills? What about their presentation skills? How about dealing with difficult situations? Find out their challenges and provide training. It doesn’t always have to be expensive. Book clubs are a great way to learn new things. Peers can share in the areas of their strengths. There are tons of free and low-cost webinars. There is simply no excuse for not continually developing your sales team.
  3. Provide Tools: Great salespeople want to go out and sell. Are you making it easy or hard for them to do that? What tools do you provide to help them sell efficiently? Do they have sufficient training to use those tools efficiently? Do they have a working laptop or tablet that allows them to quickly and easily access information? Are you providing software that works and makes their jobs easier? Talk to your best salespeople and ask them what tools they need.
  4. Generate Leads: Are you generating leads for them or are they spending time doing your marketing function – trying to find lists of your target audience and building their own messaging and materials? It’s frustrating for a salesperson to be told, “Just go out and sell.” They have no collateral; the Website is lacking; and there is no brand awareness. This is not a position anyone wants to be in,  yet I see it all the time. Salespeople are not trained to do marketing. Yes, there are many ways salespeople can participate in lead generation, but don’t get marketing and sales confused – get them aligned!
  5. Support: Support them, their work goals, and their life dreams. Make sure they support each other. Provide a team environment that, although competitive, helps individuals win. Encourage them to get to know each other. Consider a peer mentoring program. Make sure there is organizational support. Look around – do you have a “Sales Prevention Department” lurking in your company? What does your company as a whole do to support the salespeople? What is your sales culture? Is there a pervasive negative attitude about sales? Determine how you can impact the sales culture so it is a positive, supportive culture. Do they have the marketing and administrative support they need? Make sure they have what they need so they can spend 90 percent of their time selling.
  6. Appreciate: This is probably one of the most important points. Do your salespeople feel appreciated? If you don’t know, ask them. Figure out what drives each of them and show appreciation to each in the way they prefer. Overall, one of the best ways to show you appreciate them is to focus on the positive. Most of the sales leaders I know are very quick to criticize and point out the problems. On any given day, your salespeople do more good things than bad. Yet it is so easy to go for the problems and harp on those. It’s very discouraging. Why not point out the positive things throughout the day? Focus on and encourage the positive behaviors and you will see more of them. Focus on the negative behaviors and you limit everyone’s ability to be successful. Yes, you will still have to handle the problems, but it will be much easier if everyone has a positive attitude and is feeling good.

Hard Reality

The reality is, you need to retain your good salespeople. I don’t mean at all costs – and I don’t mean you should retain anyone who is not doing their job or who has a negative attitude.

Assess your sales team and be critical. Who has a great attitude and is meeting or exceeding your expectations? Those are the people in whom you want to invest. Those are the people you want to keep. In fact, another reason salespeople leave is because they don’t want to work with others they feel are not doing a good job. They want to work with others like themselves that will push them and help them excel.

Do More

My suggestion is, don’t just retain them – help them become great.

  1. Figure out how to get them to their next level. In doing that act alone, you will build loyalty, which increases your retention rate.
  2. Celebrate their successes. Encourage them. Motivate them with positive words and appreciation.
  3. Help them improve by making a plan, training them, coaching them, and giving them thoughtful feedback.  

Call Us

For more information on retaining, hiring, training, or managing salespeople, please call 775/852-5020. We are always happy to spend 30 minutes on the phone with you solving your biggest sales challenge.

AliceHeiman_75x100Alice Heiman is Founder & Chief Sales Officer of Alice Heiman, LLC.

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