How to Avoid Losing Salespeople

Kara Atkinson | Recruitment Expert | SPARC

How to Avoid Losing Salespeople

I believe in the idea of a meritocracy, where top-performers are handsomely rewarded, low performers quickly exit and new blood are sought out. Any organisation can change into a culture of high-performance given enough time and organisational will to let the wrong people go.

Top-performers are always in demand; they are contacted with other employment opportunities on average 4.3 times per year (Qualtrics).  The key question is - how do you keep your high sales performers?

Be the steward of a Rockstar culture

Salespeople want to work for high performing sales leaders. One of the earliest lessons I learned in the headhunting game was that people don't work for jobs. People work for people. People don't quit their jobs. They quit their leaders. B and C players don't mind working for other B and C players. They prefer it because it allows them to fly under the radar.

High performing salespeople are a different breed. They are thoroughbreds and working for B, or C-player managers are anathema to them. They're going to get frustrated and lose their inspiration for their work. They're going to feel held back, and when salespeople built for success leave when they are held back. Exiting weak managers should be a new executive's mission number one when taking over the reins of an organisation.

High performing salespeople will keep you honest. If you want your team to be high performing, you better bring your A-game and be constantly improving. High performers will keep you accountable and will call you out on your bullsh*t. They will make you a better leader over time, but you need the stomach for honesty.

Hire those that are so good that it's almost intimidating. High performers will force you out of your comfort zone and stretch your leadership capacity.

Compensate aggressively

While money may not be the number one thing keeping a salesperson on your team (because let's face it, there will always be someone willing to pay more), it is certainly a high priority. The problem I see with many remuneration structures is that if performance is capped, companies don't offer enough variable compensation to motivate sales people truly.

If we know that salespeople will leave an organisation for a 15-25 per cent increase in annual salary, then why are most organisations insistent on giving 3-5 per cent annual salary increases? Instead of giving everyone a paltry increase that will satisfy no one, give your high performing salespeople the 15-25 per cent increase; funded by not giving increases to the low and middle-of-the-road performers.

Uncapped compensation, tied to performance, shows salespeople that you believe in and value them, and keeps them from being lured into ‘the grass is always greener’ mentality that so many workers have in today's economic boom.

Provide challenge and a career path

Salespeople have an innate need for self-actualisation. Even if they're highly compensated, if you don't provide a career path, they will have a wandering eye. Salespeople get bored easily, and while average and low performers are more interested in long-term stability, true top-performers find monotony, punctuated by an occasional Hawaiian shirt Friday to be a fate worse than death.

High performing salespeople want to blow past the basic goals and to be handsomely rewarded for it, and have the opportunity to be challenged more. Along with challenge comes a clear career path. They want new job titles, new skills and new responsibilities.  A 2018 study by the Australian Government said the number one reason people leave their jobs is because of lack of career growth.

With the rise of the internet and specifically social media, we have a world where the divide between the best and the rest has never been more profound. We know who the best are, and good headhunters can easily find them.

Conversely, these salespeople have more open access to salaries, market worth and employer reviews than ever before. They know what you're paying and with unemployment at historic lows, with an economy that's running on all cylinders, competition for talent has never been higher; it will keep increasing over the next 12 years as 40 per cent of the current workforce retires.

Right now, the good headhunters are:

  • Crafting client's EVPs to make them no-brainers; mapping out every salesperson in your city.
  • Sourcing contact info (social media handles, phone numbers, work and personal emails, addresses).
  • developing a plan of attack to get that EVP out to every salesperson through social media, email, phone calls, texts, direct mail, even smoke signals if need be.

Headhunters have their sights set on your salespeople. Don't give them a reason to leave. When they call, you want your salesperson to say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks, I've got too good of a thing going on here to give it up.’

Kara Atkinson is an expert in recruitment and founder of SPARC - The Sales Leader Network. With over 18 years in the industry, Kara created her own recruitment business 10 years ago, fuelled by the opportunity to help people continue to build and transform themselves through their career. Kara specialises in Sales & Marketing Executive Roles, recruiting across all industries and business sizes. To find out more visit www.karaatkinson.com and www.sparc-network.com