Improve Your Managers’ Skills to Increase Retention

BY Kathy Crosett
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Sales managers in companies of all sizes spend up to a year hiring and training each new sales rep. They also report turnover rates that exceed 40%. To see employees leave an organization following the huge investment made in hiring and onboarding is disappointing and expensive. Employees depart for many reasons, but their relationship with their manager may drive their final decision to depart. That’s why improving managers’ skills will also increase retention.

Why Managers’ Skills Need Improvement

Many sales managers moved into their role because they demonstrated great success as sales professionals. Lack of training means they struggle to operate their department. Their top priority is to set up their reps to be successful, but managers often know little about what motivates each employee. A good psychometric platform, like TeamTraitTM, can help them understand key behavioral aspects about their employees and aid them in enhancing skills identified as being critical to their role. In our most recent Voice of the Sales Manager Survey, managers pointed out that setting goals and keeping reps accountable (72%), improving the sales process (69%) and coaching their reps (69%) are all tasks that require their best efforts.

While sales managers are improving these skills, they’re encountering friction with their reps. These daily occurrences may happen when they hold a rep accountable for a specific aspect of their work behavior. In today’s economic climate, managers won’t succeed if they order a rep to do something with a “because I said so” attitude. Reps deserve to be respected, and they expect professionalism while interacting with their manager. If they don’t get it, they will quickly find another position.

What are the key areas of friction between sales managers and their direct reports? Sales managers revealed that time commitment (39%), work responsibilities (37%) and fairness in work assignments (34%) all play a role in their most challenging interactions with employees.

Some team members push back when a sales manager asks them to put in extra hours or take on a task that isn’t in their job description. Other reps track who’s being assigned to the best accounts and point out unfairness to the manager. Sound familiar?

What Employees Want

Overworked and stressed-​out sales managers, especially those without sufficient training, may not always focus on what employees want. But they should remember that their team members are not drones. They are not waiting for orders on how and when to make sales calls.

In fact, 35% of sales professionals have told us they want their manager to do a better job of motivating the team. Reps are reminding managers that selling is a tough job, and they’re counting on the boss to help them stay motivated after they hear “no” too many times.

Reps also know which prospects are more likely to place orders. Often, their variable pay depends, in some part, on the quality of the leads they’re given. As a result, they want to be sure the boss’ sales rep buddy doesn’t get all the amazing accounts. That’s why 32% of reps want their managers to be fair when assigning leads.

Improving Managers’ Skills

Both managers and reps have pointed out ongoing frustration regarding work responsibilities.

Our survey results make it clear that this topic needs attention. Outlining responsibilities during the interview process and reiterating them during onboarding will help. Managers must also review each aspect of job performance with team members during one-​on-​one meetings and offer guidance. The best motivator and retention strategy is positivity — when managers point out how a team member’s work contributes to the greater good.

Additional training to upgrade a manager’s skills, especially communication with reps, can improve retention. Every manager-​employee relationship represents a unique dynamic. When managers learn how to effectively communicate, tension with their employees can be significantly reduced. Psychometric assessments from TeamTrait reveal valuable insights about how to communicate with reps and should be incorporated into every meeting.

Boosting Retention Rates

Business leaders can also improve retention rates by requiring managers to attend regular training. Taking managers out of their daily routine and encouraging them to think on a different level about team interaction can be a powerful change agent.

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