Ten years ago, the average tenure for a sales professional in one company was three years. Two years ago in 2018, that number had dipped down to 18 months. And I would argue that most sales reps don’t fully understand what they’re doing for the first six to nine months anyways. So that means the average company is really only getting about one good year out of their sales reps before they hand in their resignation.
In the world of sales and sales leadership, salesforce retention is the biggest problem facing your company. There’s a talent war going on, and it’s an expensive war. There are so many opportunities for sales professionals to land great jobs. Sales professionals have a high income skill, and they’re always going to be a valuable resource.
But as a sales leader and as a sales manager, it’s your job to retain your sales team. Sales leader have to learn how to move that retention rate from 18 months back to three years and longer. To do that, you’ll need a three-part strategy centered around vision, development and gratitude.
To increase your salesforce retention, you have to be able to sell a vision. A vision is simply the belief that your sales team has in you as the sales leader. You have to create a vision where the sales rep sees himself with your company for the long term because it will be worthwhile for him to do so. You want them to buy into the vision you create for them. It could be that you want to be the most dynamic sales team in your company or your industry. As the manager, you want to make reps understand that you are going to be there for them, and help them earn huge commissions over the first two years in their role with you. Give them the faith that you will help them reach levels they never even thought possible. But you can’t just paint that vision. You need to follow through on it. If you don’t, your team will jump ship.
The second part to improving your retention with your salesforce is development. Every company claims that they develop sales leaders. I’ve seen it at a million companies and heard enough stories about it; it’s boring actually. Developing sales leaders, developing people, isn’t about creating “future leaders” group. A company does need to groom the next level of sales managers and executives. That type of development satisfies the company’s need to say they value professional development. I’m talking about personal development. For example, you want to develop people to be their best version of themselves. Two areas that I like to do this are finances and real estate. If I have somebody in my organization who’s making a significant amount of money, I make sure that they fully understand how they can make their money grow and work for them, and how they can create passive streams of income. I’m going to develop this person as a whole person, so that they feel confident regardless of who they work for. Another good way to help develop people is with real estate. If you have someone in your organization who’s making money, but doesn’t understand the real estate process, help them out. Get them connected with a good realtor, teach them about property ownership, and share other homeowner tips with them. There’s lot of opportunity to do this type of outside-the-workplace personal development. It could be as simple as “Hey, man, I’m a great hunter. I’ma teach you to hunt.” This type of personal development helps build relationships between you and your reps, which increases the likelihood that they will buy into the vision you create for them. Of course you need to do both— professional and personal development. But personal development is the step most leaders ignore, and I think that’s a mistake that’s causing retention issues. When you spend time with people and you develop them to be the best version of themselves, you find a little bit more retention.
Expressing gratitude is the last and most important step to increase retention. You have to express a level of gratitude to your people who work for you. You want them to know you are in debt to them for their hard work. This can come in many different forms. Most of us have no trouble acknowledging and expressing gratitude to top performers. That’s easy the easy part. But the cost of turnover is significantly higher for the bottom performers. Now, there is a point in time where you have to get rid of someone who is underperforming. That’s not what this is about. This is about making everybody on your team feel appreciated for the work they do. You don’t need to send a card with stickers or smiley faces; but you do need to express genuine appreciation in a way that feels authentic to you. Sometimes it might be a short phone conversation. You set aside time to call every single person on your team and simply thank them for the hard work they’re doing. Or you take time to send them an unexpected small token of appreciation, just to say, “Hey, I appreciate what doing.” People want to feel appreciated for the work they’re doing regardless if they’re the number one rep or they’re the last place rep. And when you express a level of gratitude, people want to stay; you’ll start see those retention numbers rise as a result