When it comes to that quarterly sales report, there’s an awful lot sales manager can to do to move the needle. But what if we told you one of your best options has nothing to do with getting improved leads from marketing or bringing more maple bars to your kickoff meetings on Monday mornings?
We hate to be the one to break it to you, but your company’s sales turnover rate may be what’s really killing your bottom line.
For instance, one survey of 342 B2B SaaS companies found that turnover for sales teams hovers around 34 percent. Equally alarming, 51 percent of millennials say they’ll look for another job within the next year, which means sales leaders are going to have to spend even more time backfilling when employees leave and training new hires to get them up to speed.
So what exactly is killing your retention rate, particularly among the millennial workforce? And what actionable steps can you take to change course?
Drill down into why your people are leaving
The average stretch of time a salesperson stays at a job is 1.5 years—and when you consider the fact that it takes upwards of six to nine months to fully onboard a single sales rep, that’s not exactly a lot of bang for your hiring buck. So, why do so many sales reps seem to be operating with one foot already out the door?
For starters, it’s a hard job. In fact, 61 percent of salespeople think that selling is much harder than it was five years ago, and only 17.6 percent rate their level of job satisfaction as “outstanding.” Often, the problem is that they’re working on unrealistic sales quotas or spending a third of their day updating CRM databases—rather than actually selling. Whether you’re selling enterprise software or slinging shower curtain rings to schlubs, keeping sales teams happy and engaged is no easy task.
Take steps to increase your retention rate
Retention begins and ends with company culture: It’s how you’ll not only attract the best candidates, but also keep them over the long haul. This is especially true when it comes to millennial talent, a full 80 percent of whom say that a company culture that emphasizes personal growth is very important to them, according to some studies.
What can you do to improve the culture of your sales team? For starters, transparency in everything you do is essential, especially when it comes to communicating your plans and goals to team members. Try to include employees in decision-making processes as much as possible: They might not get to have the final say when it comes to quotas or revenue goals, but working collaboratively with your team to build consensus will generally make employees feel far more engaged.
You should consider restructuring your approach to performance reviews, too, because the old model of annual five-minute-long sit-downs simply doesn’t cut it any more. Instead, foster ongoing dialogue around performance, have regularly scheduled check-ins, and be sure to praise team members whenever they deserve it. At companies where every employee feels like they have a clear blueprint for their success, retention is seldom an issue. On the other hand, 46 percent of millennials say they have left jobs in the past due to the lack of opportunities for growth. So if you can’t offer all of your reps a path to a healthy, lasting career, they’re going to seek out openings elsewhere.
Another avenue for improving retention is encouraging your fellow executives to mentor your junior colleagues.
“I had a mentor, and every time I was around him, he made me feel like I was the most important part of his day,” said Thomas Martin, an Emissary and former GE exec. “One time, I was outside his office, and I could tell he was on a very tense call with leadership. But when he walked out, he acted as if it had never happened. He didn’t allow that meeting to impact ours, and still treated me like I was the most important part of the day.”
“Care about people,” he added. “Put your people and your team first, and really live it. If you take care of your team, they’ll take care of you. Give people the best opportunities to shine—and your team will be stronger for it.”
Showing your sellers that they’re valued through long-term mentorships is great way to decrease turnover, increase engagement, and even improve performance. And it won’t cost you a dime.
Set your team up for success
While there’s no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution for improving employee retention, arming sales teams with actionable insights is another way that sales leaders can increase employee engagement—and help everyone on the team make their number.
That means your sales team needs to have the right tools at their disposal. For instance, do your sales reps understand what their goals should be at industry events and conferences, how to craft outreach, or how to get the most value out of sales intelligence data? They certainly should. At the end of the day, every member of your team wants to feel that theirs is the winning team.
Clearly, sales leaders have some work cut out for them. But if you can provide your team with a collaborative work environment, instill the right culture, and hold out opportunities for advancement, you’ll begin to make progress on that turnover rate that’s been eating away at your sales numbers.
Plus, your team will thank you.
Your sellers aren’t going to be with you for a decade, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make every effort to retain them for as long as possible. And since so many of them are probably already looking for an exit, there’s no time like the present to get started. With a little work and a bit of insider insight, you can create a sales team that’s engaged, loyal, and successful. If you don’t, you might be left in the lurch when your best closers depart.