Leading, managing, directing, teaching, motivating and inspiring a group of sales executives with different levels of experience, skills sets & egos, to attain both their individual goals and the objectives for the company is NOT a task for the weak-minded or ill-informed leader. Successful Director Of Sales and VP of Sales leaders know that their job becomes most challenging when they are constantly experiencing turnover with their middle and high performers. One of the critical success factors in retaining this segment of salespeople is to first understand 7 reasons they leave in the first place. Followed by instituting the necessary processes and culture changes that will inspire them, increase their loyalty to the company and the mission that lies before them.
Competition (the bad kind)
Your best salespeople LOVE competition. They LOVE to win, to get the awards, the trips, and the recognition. They LOVE winning the deal against their competition. External competition fuels their desires to win. Well managed internal contests between teams can also, create a lively, fun environment as it produces comradery while also, having a positive impact on both the individual and team performance. However, when internal competition becomes so fierce as to demean the individuals or teams that did not win the contest or weren’t the top performers it will have a negative impact on the culture and long-term sales performance. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: The fiercest level of competition should be saved for the companies and competitors that are lined up across from the reps on a daily basis - not the teammates who are lined up beside them. Make sure your Internal competition fun, rewarding and motivating and also make sure that it increases comradery and does not endorse any type of divisiveness.
Feeling That Their Value Fluctuates Based on How Much or how Little they Sell
At the beginning of every year, a sales manager I know gave his team a different motivating talk filled with stories about the successes and challenges the team overcame during the previous year, his expectations for the upcoming year and his appreciation for them as a team. He would also provide the following value statement to his team every year – “your value to me has nothing to do with how much you sell. Your value to me as a person is based on, how you conduct yourself, how you treat your internal teammates and customers. Your value to me is based on you consistently doing the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons and in the right way. We are all adults here and we all know that if we don’t sell enough stuff - we will be forced to sell stuff for someone else, somewhere else. You don’t need me to remind you of this every day or month.” WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: The manager in this example is someone well known for his high social intelligence with his direct reports and clients. He knows what personally drives each individual and motivates each of them based on their goals and aspirations - not his.Likewise, the most important thing for you as the leader of the team or organization is to; get to know your people. What are their passions and interests? What do you know about their family, their upbringing?What gets them out of bed each morning? Charter your management team and yourself to learn as much as you can about the heartbeat of each individual. One way to do this is to ask each of the team members to write a bio or personal essay about themselves. The most valuable asset your company has - is the human assets that are comprised of your employees and your clients. If you want to increase performance know WHO your people are as individuals & what’s important to them. Do you know their birthdays, important dates such as their wedding anniversary, etc.? It doesn't have to be a big party of an event - a simple note or comment of recognition will do. Take care of your people and the profits & the performance will follow.
Assuming that Giving Them Money fixes Everything
Sales are not easy. It can be lonely, frustrating, challenging, laborious. It’s not easy being a road warrior constantly on planes, trains. and automobiles or at times being a punching bag for an unhappy client or internal departments day in and day out. Senior Management will often listen to the complaints of their sales organization and in a panic - quickly provide a quick fix with “let’s pay them more commissions/spiffs/bonuses and worry about their client concerns, support issues, etc. next fiscal year." WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT -There will always be situations where the "just pay ‘em more strategy is appropriate." However doing so to appease them - instead of addressing their frustrations (i.e. support or inventory challenges, product or deliverable challenges) is like the serial cheating husband who keeps buying his wife a diamond every time he is unfaithful, instead of eliminating his cheating. Listen to their concerns, make changes immediately where and when you can. This solution will increase the sales organization's trust in you, reduce their stress and ultimately increase loyalty and production. On the other hand…
Arbitrary Negative Changes to Their Compensation
“Money isn’t everything but it isn’t nothing either,” said a sales executive at one of our clients in the merchant services industry. This particular salesperson was not happy that during a recent sales promotion the company reduced the commission amount for the salespeople on the promo services. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT - Once a pay plan is rolled out don’t get into the habit of having “buyer’s remorse” because you now think your salespeople are making more money than you believe they deserve. You made the deal when you rolled it out. Now it is time to keep your word. Your lack of confidence in their ability to over perform is not a good reason to change the plan mid-stream. In fact, if you as a member of management have faced this problem repeatedly I would suggest that you might be the problem. Reducing their commissionable earnings for any reason mid-stream of the year won’t be good for business. Don’t do it.
Lack of Upward Mobility
Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up. Likewise, not every successful salesperson that has a desire to be a manager or part of the Senior executive team will get to do so because frankly, there are usually more people who want to move up to management than available management opportunities in a given year. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT - Companies such as ADP and CDK Global address this by creating mentors to work with the newer sales hires. This relationship does not end after new hire orientation but continues for at least a year and in some instances the career life of the mentor and mentee. Creating mentors allows those selected as mentors to gain management-like experience and knowledge of what it takes to be a successful leader. Equally important; a system such as this gives your managers and Senior executive team the opportunity to see how the future management candidate performs, while in the mentor role and can further validate (or show where they need to improve) their future candidacy for management.
Most salespeople like the feeling of independence that being in sales affords them. However, not having the ability to make decisions when they are in front of a customer can be frustrating. If the sales executive repeatedly has to say “I will have to check with my manager” the credibility of that sales executive is diminished. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT - Salespeople work smarter and better when they are empowered to make unilateral decisions when dealing directly with a customer. Trust and relinquishing control can be a little scary for some of the managers reading this. However, the days of salespeople just selling stuff are over. The successful sales rep today is, dealing with a myriad of internal and external factors that have nothing to do with selling. Empowering your salespeople, to make as many decisions as possible when dealing directly with a customer in negotiations, regarding service or even billing related matters, can have a strong, positive impact on the relationship between sales executive and the customer. Of course, your sales executives should also be given parameters of how much they can commit to the customer. However empowering them to make more decisions are critical factors to improving client retention, increasing the customer lifetime value and heightening the job satisfaction of the sales executive.
Being Lied To
With all the progressive studies done during the past 20 years regarding how bad this is, one would think it is a “no-brainer” to not lie to an associate. Truth be told (no pun intended), in many cases, the manager did not lie. Rather promises were given in earnest but due to unforeseen circumstances, the manager was unable to fulfill the promise. With all that you do as a leader of the team, the promises that are made during the heat of the daily battles such as "get this deal and I promise - you are on your way to that promotion, I’ll give you more accounts next year, I will make sure your quota is lower next time" can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, or forgotten. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT- Sometimes situations change and the promise can’t be fulfilled. When this occurs, you need to make it known to the sales executive that you won’t be able to make it happen. Be transparent and if YOU are the reason it can’t happen then own up to it directly with the rep, followed by a plan to make the promise a reality - if not now than in the future. It is important to remember, when issues like this arise, your ENTIRE team is watching - not just the team member who was personally impacted.
Applying an offensive strategy to, combat these 7 reasons before your best and brightest become unhappy is essential to, making your team stronger, their sales performance higher & job satisfaction better. Most importantly it will make your job and your life a little easier.