Retaining your best sales people is essential

Google announced that it was giving all of its employees a $1,000 bonus and a 10% pay rise, effective from January 2011. The official reason provided was that Google wanted to make its employees feel rewarded for their hard work. Whilst this is likely, it has been rumoured that Google’s action was also a direct response to a number of recent high-profile defections, especially to Facebook.
As the South African economy continues to strengthen, recruiting top talent will become ever more difficult and this means that, in turn, failing to retain your key sales people could prove very costly. Whilst sales is, in its very nature, a division that is likely to feature above average levels of staff turnover, many organisations still find they need to make more effort to retain their best sales people.
As a sales business ourselves, we know this only too well. Our experience, coupled with working with a wide range of sales clients, means we can share a few tips along the way. Here’s a guide retaining top sales talent.
  • Money typically ranks very high in importance among sales people and it is usually their key motivator. It is essential, therefore, to maintain the right mix of base salary/benefits and earnings related pay. Ensure that the mix is suitable for each type of role, i.e. new business versus account management. Make the effort to benchmark your base and OTE levels against the rest of the market to stay competitive.
  • The products or services that you expect your sales teams to be selling need to seem compelling. Whilst great sales people can sell almost anything, most quickly grow tired of selling things that they do not believe in - so make them believe in what they’re selling! Ensure they have access to the right sales support, tools and training. The better the platform provided, the more they enjoy selling.
  • Whilst sales professionals are often attracted to the flexibility and autonomy that many sales roles provide, it is imperative that they do not feel removed from the company they work for. Effective and frequent communication is vital, especially around celebrating success and recognising standout performance.
  • Be open and clear with regards to setting expectations related to performance. Ensure that the sales environment is fair, transparent and consistent. Unexpected changes to incentive schemes and moving financial goalposts during the year doesn’t encourage staff retention! 
  • Career progression for sales people is frequently overlooked, as financial performance and earnings tend to dominate performance reviews and management meetings. A large proportion of sales professionals who contact us seeking a new job cite the lack of visible career progression as one of their reasons for leaving.  Ensure that your sales force is motivated by the potential for progression, as well as financial rewards.
  • Training and development is also often overlooked, especially after an initial training course or induction process. However, sales people tend to be ambitious, driven and keen to develop and training on subjects such as negotiation, conflict resolution and people management is usually appreciated. Also, given the frequency with which they interact with current and prospective customers, additional soft-skills training will help protect brand perceptions, as well as helping with retention.
Above all else, the key to retaining sales staff is to ensure you hire the right people in the first place. If you succeed in attracting people of the right calibre who have a natural fit with the culture of your organisation, retention becomes far more straightforward to manage.
To understand how we can help you recruit the best sales people, get in touch with Michael Page Sales.