Although there have been some positive signs for the U.S. economy thus far in 2022, many businesses are still reeling from last year’s “Great Resignation.” This trend of a historic number of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs, combined with the difficulty of hiring new employees, didn’t spare sales teams. However, one could say that the Great Resignation only threw gasoline on an existing fire. Historically, sales departments have always trended toward higher turnover rates. Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to salespeople coming and going, and you believe there’s not much you can do about it. Or can you? By leaning into sales staff retention a little harder, you could avoid the worst of today’s uncomfortably tight job market and hang on to your top sellers.
Improve hiring and onboarding. Retention efforts shouldn’t begin with those already on the payroll; it should start during hiring and ramp-up when onboarding. A rushed, confusing or cold approach to hiring can get things off on a bad foot. In such cases, new hires tend to enter the workplace cautiously or skeptically, with their eyes on the exit sign rather than the “upper floors” of a company. Onboarding is also immensely important. Many salespeople can tell horror stories of being shown to a cubicle with nothing but a telephone on the desk and told to “Get to it.” Today, with so many people working remotely, a new sales hire might not even get that much attention. Welcome new employees warmly, provide ample training, and perhaps give them a mentor to help them get comfortable with your business and its culture.
Reward loyalty. Even when hiring and onboarding go well, most employees will still consider a competitor’s offer if the price is right. So, to improve your chances of retaining top sales producers and their customers, consider financial incentives. Offering retention bonuses and rewards for maintaining and increasing sales — in addition to existing compensation plans — can help. Make such incentives easy to understand and clearly achievable. Although interim bonus programs might be expensive in the near term, they can stabilize sales and prevent sharp declines. When successful, a bonus program will help you generate more long-term revenue to offset the immediate costs.
Encourage ideas. Because they work in the trenches, salespeople often have good ideas for capitalizing on your company’s strengths and shoring up its weaknesses. Look into forming a sales leadership team to evaluate the potential benefits and risks of strategic objectives. The team should include two to four top sellers who are taken off their regular responsibilities and tasked with retaining customers and maintaining sales momentum during strategic planning efforts. The sales leadership team can also serve as a clearinghouse for customer concerns and competitor strategies. It could help with communications to clear up confusion over current or upcoming product or service offerings. And it might be able to contribute to the development of new products or services based on customer feedback and demand.
Buck the trend. Sales departments in many industries will likely continue to have relatively high turnover rates, but that doesn’t mean your business can’t buck the trend. Give your salespeople a little more attention and input, and you could retain the staff needed to maintain and improve your company’s competitive edge. © 2022