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In business, there’s an expression: To have and to hold, from this day forward. … Oh, wait, that’s a marriage vow. And even then it doesn’t bind. Here in the sales-verse, people coming and going like serial monogamists can sting your bottom line: Onboarding new hires is costly and time-consuming. Organizations must pay to find and vet potential new hires; they also need to invest at least six months and many person hours getting the newby up to speed and transformed into a contributing member of the organization. That initial investment can include helping them up and over the steep learning curve to know your product/services line by heart, as well as helping them understand how to sell to what could be an unfamiliar demographic for them.
Ultimately, you’d like your new hires to be whistling while they work to bring in business and increase your earnings. But if your organization suffers from RDS (Revolving Door Syndrome), you’ll squander company dollars making up for your attrition rate. In other words, until you get to the source of your retention problem and remedy it, you’ll keep feeding monster.com.
On average, it takes seven months and around $30K to find and onboard a new sales rep, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group. Such associated costs should be expected if your organization is in growth mode. Growth is a good problem to have! But if turnover is high year over year in your sales department, you’ve got a systemic problem. Even worse is losing top performers when they decide to move on to a better opportunity. Suddenly you’re busy trying to plug leaks in a ship from which everyone’s jumping.
From the Get-Go, Be Honest About Expectations
Just as you need to know who your prospective sales reps are, they need to know what sort of work environment they might be bringing their lunch box and framed family photos to. Signing them on to what they hadn’t bargained for will hurt you as they grow disgruntled and cynical on the job and/or quit in frustration. Instead of that fiasco, set realistic expectations at the interview stage, being honest with prospective hires about the workplace. You don’t need to scare them off, just be upfront about challenging aspects they might face at your company. If they’re good, they’ll understand that no sales opportunity is without its pros and cons.
Setting Realistic Goals and Monitoring Progress
Because sales folks are a competitive bunch, you can set goals for them that are challenging—but also attainable. And in doing so, don’t fail to provide the resources necessary to reach those goals. Keep tabs on individual contributors’ progress, and hold supportive one-on-one’s in which you discuss their performance. What you’re doing here is opening the lines of communication regarding job performance, and revealing where improvement and coaching are needed. Ever-competitive, your sales reps will take up the gauntlet.
Outline Realistic Goals and Coach Accordingly
While we’re on the topic of coaching … one of the best investments you can make in your new hires is to coach them. Coaching benefits the company by increasing staff competency rate, while at the same time signaling to your workforce that they are worth investing in. Coaching is something we’ve blogged and “articled” about before because it’s so important for the health of a company. Failing to nurture reps through ongoing coaching will result in a workforce that’s frustrated at being underprepared and under-supported when doing their job.
Reexamine Your Compensation Package
Money is on the mind of top-performing sales reps. They’re not coming to work for the free instant cocoa in the breakroom (with or without mini marshmallows). Casual Friday isn’t tooting their horn. If not properly compensated, they’re likely to shop their résumé around to more generous companies. Reexamine your compensation package on an annual basis, taking into account what’s being offered at competing organizations. Tiered plans with rewards for top performers can attract stronger candidates, as can additional compensation for lower-performing but still valuable reps. Put this question through the thought mill: How much are you saving with your slim-pickings compensation compared to how much you’re losing in attrition costs each year?
Engage in Incentivizing
Developing fun and creative ways to show your appreciation for your valuable staff will further motivate them to stay with you. Incentives such as gym memberships, flex time, additional time off, even an in-house concierge will build loyalty; they also promote a more stress-free work environment. Holding weekly, monthly, or quarterly sales contests will additionally motivate your naturally competitive sales staff to do their best.
Exit Interview: What Went Wrong?
Sometimes despite a company doing everything right for their employees, they lose top people. That’s just a difficult reality you face in business. But these days too many companies fail to take advantage of a relatively painless datamining tool: the exit interview. If you want to know why Jane or John Doe is “breaking up with you,” sit them down one on one and ask why they’re resigning. And don’t have their direct supervisor be the one doing the asking—you don’t want those on the way out to hold back anything. Ideally, the exit interview should be conducted by a member of the HR team.
Remember, when it comes to employee retention, it’s one thing to get them to say “I do”; it’s another to hold them and keep them.