Sales rep turnover is a big problem for outbound sales companies. If you’ve got a team you’ve tried to manage or build, you know exactly what we’re talking about. You’ve probably tried to recruit quality reps just to see them disappear after the season, if they even stick around that long. Or you’ve had guys start to improve and leave to another company just as you were starting to get excited about them. You may feel like you’re getting out-recruited or can’t compete with the incentives other companies offer. Whatever your situation, employee churn is frustrating.
Don’t get us wrong– not all turnover is bad. Sometimes the people leaving are the people that you want leaving. They can be lazy, toxic, and obviously not invested in the goals of the company.
On the other hand, turnover is a huge expense. Maybe even your biggest expense. When you factor everything it takes to replace someone (including time looking for a new rep, onboarding and training them, taking care of all the HR, and of course all the sales opportunities you lose during the process) you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars. And that’s what sales-driven companies are losing, year after year.
How can you stop the bleeding and get your reps to stay? It starts with understanding why they leave.
Why Reps Leave
There are a lot of studies and articles out there on the subject, and most of them agree: most employees leave because of a lack of growth opportunities. This makes them feel restless and bored as a result.
Unfortunately, most of the reps that leave for these reasons are top performers. It makes sense, doesn’t it? They’ve become top performers because they’re hungry and they push themselves to achieve more. They’re going to expect to be rewarded for those efforts, and not just with money. They care about their work and want to be respected like the elite performer they are, usually through promotions or other forms of appreciation from their employers.
These top performers also hate anything that they feel gets in the way of their work, especially pointless meetings and other administrative tasks. They just want to sell. The more you interrupt or interfere with that process, the more frustrated they get. After a while, they’ll lose motivation. Why should they stay motivated and work hard? In their minds, there’s no point. The result is the same regardless of their efforts.
Another motivation-killer is discouragement. If reps aren’t top-performers, they’re probably leaving your company because they don’t feel like they can become a top performer at your company. Maybe they don’t feel like you’re willing to invest in them, or maybe they just feel overwhelmed by their jobs and don’t know where to turn for help.
All these reasons have a common root, and that’s our natural psychological need for progress. If a rep feels either that they can’t make progress at your company or that they can’t be rewarded for their progress, then they’re going to look for somewhere that provides those things.
How to Keep Them
Simply put, create an environment that both provides and rewards progress.
Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- Do you have a training system/culture in place that helps reps improve?
- Do you appropriately reward employees when they do improve?
- Do you have a strategy to motivate your reps?
- Do you stay out of their way and limit administrative demands?
- Do you have a company narrative or narratives for your employee’s career trajectories?
If you’re lacking in these areas, how can you improve them?
A lot of this starts with onboarding. This is a crucial time to make a great first impression and increase employee buy-in by showing your buy-in. Do this by providing them with a bigger company narrative and showing that you want to help them be successful at their jobs.
There are a lot of ways that you can do this. Try developing a set of company values and make them a core part of your company culture. When new employees join, show them that those values actually matter. You can bring in highly successful reps to show them both what can be accomplished at your company and how vibrant the company culture is.
Training should be a part of your onboarding process, but it definitely shouldn’t stop there. Smart training is a great way for you to show employees that you care about helping them be more successful. Great training platforms significantly increase sales numbers. Check out our Learn platform, which lets you upload your own content and watch sales training from elite trainers. You can also track your teams through the process to make sure they’re following the modules, completing activities, and training regularly.
Once your teams are performing better, make sure they’re recognized for it. Psychologically speaking, social recognition is still the most powerful form of reward. Develop a system where you’re constantly celebrating high-selling and high-improving reps. This is made easy with a company-wide communication tool.
Finally, make sure you’re providing each employee with a personal narrative for their time with your company. Meet with your reps one-on-one, especially if they’re struggling. Find out what their goals are and help provide encouragement for them. If they’re struggling, it’s a guarantee that they’ve got a bad internal narrative in their mind. They could be saying “I’m not making as much money as I thought I would,” or “I can’t keep up with those other guys.” Maybe they have aspirations to leadership or other opportunities that aren’t being offered them. If you don’t talk to them, you’ll probably never know.
Once you do talk to them, however, it is a huge boost. They know that you know about their frustrations and hopes. You can help generate a personal narrative. You could say something like “I don’t want you to compare yourself to top performers. I want you to compare yourself to your old self. Let’s get you on this training circuit, and if you can raise your sales by ten percent this month, we’ll figure out a prize for you.” Or, show a potential leader he’s got a path: “You’re doing great and we want to help you keep growing. We’ve got a rep on your team who is really struggling. I want you to work with him and show us that you can lead others. If we can see a significant bump in his numbers, you’re on the fast track to manager in the next two or three months.”
These kinds of conversations can completely change the trajectory of an employee’s experience with your company, and you’ll start to see the kind of performance that far surpasses your initial expectations about them.
If you’re a seasonal company you may feel that you’ve got a unique problem; you’ll hire someone for a summer but then have to worry about retaining them for 8 or 9 months during an offseason. While that may seem like a different problem entirely, it’s actually the same. You’ve just got to be sure that you’re implementing the above solutions effectively enough that they can last during the offseason. Just because they aren’t actively selling door-to-door doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities for them to improve and build the company.
Bottom line: make sure that your reps have the opportunities and tools they need to keep developing and you’ll find retention rises.