Your agency has been going through some changes. In the last few months one of your sales directors has pulled out all the stops, taken on extra work, generated prospects and sales leads, and won some great accounts. And then suddenly…they quit, leaving you to comb through their resignation email for clues and ask the team members that remain what happened.
Broadly speaking, sales people leave jobs for the same reasons as anyone else: loss of confidence in their company’s ability to fulfill their needs in their current role. But sales people are different from accountants and developers because they’re expected to publicly put their reputation on the line with their customers.
High performing sales reps will always be in demand, so if you want to keep your best sales reps happy, steer clear of these behaviors and situations.
Micromanagement or lack of autonomy
You went through a long hiring process to find the right candidate. They came to several rounds of interviews, wowed you with their results and attitude, and convinced you they were the perfect fit. So why, given all that, do you suddenly not trust them to be a productive member of your team now they’re actually a member of your team?
The things that motivate top performers aren’t always what you expect, as this tongue-in-cheek blog post says. But what almost never motivates is a lack of autonomy or the feeling that every move is being watched and scrutinized. As this Salesforce blog on the difference between sales coaching and micromanagement points out, sales managers should focus their efforts on identifying the things that they can control when managing their reps.
Lack of support
Few sales people do their most productive sales prospecting with a manager hovering over them. While being under the microscope isn’t something sales people like, that doesn’t mean they want their manager to be disengaged and unsupportive, either. Indeed, high performing sales people acknowledge that they rely on software tools, administrative staff and sales and marketing personnel to help them reach the heights.
Support can come in a variety of forms: from a little recognition for good work at the monthly sales meeting to assistance with lead qualification to software that can help you find verified decision makers quickly.
If a member of your sales team feels like they’ve been left spinning in the wind with no support systems available to them, they’ll have to switch some of their focus from selling to creating collateral or filing or compiling call lists—which brings us to our next point...
Too many non-sales activities
When you hired your sales team, you gave them an idea of how much income they could make with their base and commissions, and you probably based that on a 40-hour week. But your sales people don’t make commissions on research activities, and you probably didn’t take those hours out of their compensation calculation. If a sales director spends just one hour a day researching instead of selling, you’re cutting into their earning potential by 12.5 percent.
And that’s not just annoying to your sales directors, it prevents your company from making more sales.
Sales reps aren’t motivated by putting out a carefully crafted piece of collateral, they’re motivated by signatures on the line. It’s about the thrill of the chase, not filling the car with gas.
Ask yourself whether you’re using your team members for their highest and best purpose. If your sales team aren’t spending time selling, they’re likely doing a job that doesn’t generate revenue and could be accomplished by someone earning much less. Not every sales rep is a born researcher or collateral writer, and making them do activities that keep them away from selling is an activity that prevents them from earning money for you and for themselves.
Overloading and burnout
As a good manager, you try to develop your team, taking care not to overload individuals while they learn. That’s great if you have limits, but all too often, we’re too busy to loop back on those team members who temporarily need a lower workload.
This is how we end up taking work away from under-performers and overloading the high achievers.
From one perspective, the work is getting done, so all’s well. From another, 20 percent of your team are closing 80 percent of the deals while everyone else coasts—and that should have alarm bells ringing in your head.
Picking up the slack is part of being a team player, but don’t expect your high achievers to put up with that for very long. If you’re moving work off someone’s plate, it should be part of a development program that you’re documenting, and as a temporary reassignment. Maybe you’re avoiding that difficult conversation because that employee isn’t a bad person, they’re just maybe not cut out for sales. But heed this warning: if you don’t fire your bad employees, your good ones will leave.
The remedy for this ailment is to hire better sales people in the first place, and be brutally honest about what they’re achieving. You want your sales people to make sales. If they’re not doing that, they’re not sales people and shouldn’t be in the position.
Loss of faith
Don’t ask people to sell malfunction, dysfunction or lack of function. When someone is selling on behalf of your company, they’re putting their personal reputation behind it. They want to feel good about the product they’re selling and they want to feel like they are living up to their ideals of integrity. A poor customer experience reflects badly on them personally.
It’s not unusual for sales people to sell something that isn’t actually a minimum viable product yet, especially in technology. But when that product goes to market, it needs to live up to all the promises your sales team made—just as existing products need to do the things your sales people claim.
Tee your sales team up for success by always providing a product they can not only defend, but feel good about offering. If you need some pointers on making your team feel passionate about what they’re selling, here’s a great blog about how to do that.
Instability makes everyone a little more twitchy, and the things that cause instability can be alarmingly simple—and devastating.
Perception is reality, as they say, and company instability affects everyone’s sense of security. That’s why, if you go through a round of layoffs, you’ll also see a round of people leaving. Nobody wants to have their head on the block if there’s another round of layoffs coming.
In this regard, sales people are no different from anyone else: they want to make sure they have the best opportunity to grow in their career, earn enough money to live the life they want and work toward a future they can plan for. Instability undermines all this.
The problem with losing your new business team when things get rocky, is that they’re the people who bring in the new customers and clients, and help steady the ship. If they leave, it’s exponentially more difficult to prevent future cuts. It’s possible to reduce the risk—and the potential cost—of your new business activities by using a service like Catapult New Business.