News and advice for software sales professionals and employers.

Retain Top Sales Talent – 7 Challenges Series

To continue our series on the challenges hiring managers face, we are considering how to retain top sales talent once the candidate has accepted an offer and joined the team. If you missed part 4 of the series, we discussed How To Make An Offer.

Now that you have your team, it’s essential to make sure they want to stay.

Every day recruiters are meeting with people who are looking to make a transition in their careers. In those meetings, we hear a litany of reasons why people are unhappy, unsatisfied, or disgruntled in their current environment. This information is clearly some of the most valuable information a company can have.

It is critical to assess that information and make decisions about how to improve retention rates. Although employees have many good reasons to explore other opportunities, not all employees are worth retaining. The following applies only to employees worth an employer’s time and effort.

The reasons employees explore other opportunities fall into two categories: those an employer has direct control over, and those an employer has indirect or no control over.

Employers have direct control over lack of challenge, lack of recognition, perception of no growth or promotion potential, the perception that the employee’s voice is not heard (or has no say in matters that affect the employee), perception of unacceptable pay, and most important, perception of no ownership/loyalty/buy-in.

Employers either have indirect control or no control over relocation, merger/acquisition, personality conflicts, lack of faith in product/service of the company, change of leadership, lack of security/perception of stability, commute, and burnout or desire to change function/industry.

There are ways to address each of those in some way, but chances are the hiring manager has little or no control over making major shifts to satisfy employees. The following suggestions about those less controllable issues are based on communication with current employees.

Disputes over fair pay are not always in an employer’s immediate control, but low pay is not a problem for someone who feels some form of ownership in the company and therefore understands that higher pay might hurt the company in the short and long term. Job security is often worth more to an employee than what they are paid. Employees name pay as their main reason for leaving only when they believe their pay is unfair or that they have been taken advantage of.

Lack of challenge can be addressed in several ways, but the simplest answer is that an employer can add responsibility without immediately having to add pay. What manager does not want to do this? Whether it’s giving an employee a mentor role, having him/her run certain meetings, or giving him/her a strong voice in critical decisions—any of these can have the desired effect.

Lack of recognition is self-explanatory and is still one of the most common reasons for turnover. If an employer isn’t a natural at delivering praise, try the old method of “five coins in your left pocket”, passing one coin to the right pocket each time you praise someone on your team. When praise is deserved, do it in public.

“Criticize in private, praise in public” may not seem like rocket science, but many managers do not follow this simple principle. Visible symbols such as plaques, trophies, and T-shirts are extremely effective in achieving this desired result.

To dispel concerns over growth potential and possible promotions, establish a clear vision of which criteria are used to evaluate promotions, added responsibility, and/or raises in pay. Explain concepts in great detail and no employee will claim the employer used different standards for different people.

By far the most important topic is the perception of employee ownership in a company and its vision. Buy-in to the company’s ideas is absolutely critical to have a team dedicated to the same goals. This is the number-one reason for employee retention/turnover.

The first step in gaining loyalty/ownership from team members is giving them a forum where their voices will be heard. Want to know what keeps employees excited and stimulated? ASK THEM!!! It seems so simple, yet it is almost never applied. Ask employees their concerns, their ideas, and how they think the company could make significant improvements. When team members feel that they have a say in policy, they are much more likely to follow it.

The goal of every manager should be to create an environment where the team is encouraged to innovate, improve current processes, and work as hard or harder when their manager is not watching. The only way this happens is if they feel a strong sense of ownership in their company or group. Before implementing a new policy, advise the group why a new policy is necessary, and encourage their ideas on a possible solution. Often employees will come up with a stronger solution than what you originally had in mind. Employees will feel that they were part of the decision-making process, thus are obligated to follow new procedures to the best of their ability.