One of the biggest headaches for sales managers these days is trying to find and hire good salespeople. I often get asked about the best places to find sales talent and how to reel in the best candidates. But it’s more productive to look at the problem from a different angle.
The best way to deal with losing good salespeople is to not have to deal with it at all. That means keeping them and keeping them happy.
73% of sales reps have, at some point in their career, left a company of their own accord, according to a January 2017 survey of 725 U.S. sales representatives by my firm SalesFuel. These people left voluntarily, not because they were laid off, terminated or feared that they soon would be.
Here are the top five reasons sales reps have voluntarily left their previous employers – and your sales stars might be next if you fail to address these issues.
- They feel there’s a lack of realistic opportunities to make money. Yes, this is NUMBER FIVE on the list. It’s not uncommon for a sales rep, whether new or experienced, to complain about their commission or the need for more incentives. While fewer than a third of sales reps have left for “greener” pastures elsewhere, it’s still very important to make sure your compensation plan rewards the behavior you want to reinforce.
- They don’t like the work environment or co-workers. This is particularly important for younger reps. 38% of millennials said this was a reason they’ve left an employer despite being earlier in their careers than Gen Xers and Boomers (only 28%.) It’s not the ping pong tables or fancy office furniture that matters, it’s hiring more competent co-workers who will contribute to make the team stronger. It’s also about quickly getting rid of toxic, negative and condescending employees who demoralize your entire team – easier said than done these days, I know.
- They don’t like the company culture, purpose or values. A mere 18% of all sales reps say their current employer “cares more about people than profit.” And only 1 in 4 says the employer invests significantly in the training of employees. If you’re a manager in a publicly owned corporation, that may not be a point of view you can change. Despite this, whether your reps feel the COMPANY cares about them is not nearly as important as some things you CAN change. Start by making sure your team feels you care about them and their well being.
- They become frustrated by the lack of opportunities for advancement. This is the #1 reason millennials leave companies. 44% of them have already left a previous employer for this reason – which is 30% higher than older reps. While it’s dangerous to paint any large group of people with the same brush, many millennials not only want to advance quickly, they expect it. So don’t grouse about it, clear a path! This means coaching and talent development are critical for keeping your younger stars. Identify what “next job” will suit them best and talk to them realistically about the possibilities. It’s better to groom them than to lose them.
What’s the number one reason good sales reps leave?
- They become dissatisfied in some way with their direct manager. It’s not the COMPANY culture that matters. It’s the culture of YOUR TEAM. This is the #1 reason why Gen Xers and Boomers leave. In fact, 43% of them are detractors of their current boss. And only 23% of all sales reps say their manager is a role model for how a manager should act. Ouch!
Your more experienced reps are more likely to say they don’t get enough praise and recognition for a job well done. They also complain about their manager’s lack of communication in general.
4 out of every 5 reps, regardless of age or experience, say their coaching sessions aren’t personalized for their individual needs. Before you can fix this problem, you first you have to know the needs of each individual. Even though they won’t admit it to your face, they don’t think you care enough to know them as individuals – just conduits to driving sales numbers.
The bad news was very obvious in our survey. The good news is more important and I’ll share the details in a future column. The best news is, as a manager, you have the power to improve retention more than anyone else in the company.