Guest Post: Sales Teams Have More to Worry About Than Just Losing Clients

If you conduct searches on Google and look at popular sales blogs, you will find plenty of articles about what it takes to locate the perfect sales representatives. You will also find information about how to write the best job description for a sales position and how to boost customer retention. Why is it easy to see all this stuff?

You could go to the  HubSpot Sales Blog and find articles about finding and hiring the best Sales Development Rep (SDR). There are two specific blog posts which perform better than any others on there. The titles are “10 Common Sales Job Interview Questions” and “40 Sales Interview Questions to Recruit the Best Reps.” If you were to check the analytics of these posts, you would see they have organic views in the thousands per month. Organic views are people who find the posts through search engine searches.

Companies worry so much about interviewing to find the best sales representatives. Maybe this is not such a good thing to do. It might be wiser for them to spend more money and time on improving the performance of the sales representatives they currently have. Losing clients may not be as bad as losing fellow teammates and sales representatives of the company.

According to a Bridge Group report from 2018, the average sales representative will have a tenure of 1 ½ years. This is not that great because the average sales development representative will need 3.2 months to achieve maximum productivity. How to reach the highest level of productivity – you definitely should have a look at our tips.

In the year 2010, a survey was conducted on the average tenure for sales representatives, and it revealed that 44% of them had a 3-year tenure. In 2018, only 8% of sales representatives reportedly have this much tenure.

What Makes Sales Representatives Want to Leave?

The main reason they are leaving is that they have very little job satisfaction. According to a study in which Marc Wayshak conducted this year, merely 17.6% of the people surveyed had indicated they have “outstanding” job satisfaction. Another 47.1% of the respondents said they have “good” job satisfaction. The study also revealed that salespeople like their jobs more when they can devote more of their time to activities related to sales. The sales representatives who got to spend 4 hours or more on sales-related activities per day were more satisfied with their jobs than sales representatives who spend only 3 hours or less. The former gave their job satisfaction a 3.8 / 5 rating.

Big Expectations for Management and Culture 

Going further into this study, we found out that salespeople care a lot about the effectiveness of management and organizational culture. Sales representatives indicated these things are more important than job flexibility, commission, compensation, and job role.

There are still sales stereotypes in companies. Sales representatives already realize that people don’t like them. In the study by Wayshak, we saw that salespeople used the following words to describe how customers perceive them:

Greedy

Annoying

Untrustworthy

Pushy

The average salesperson’s tenure does not last if it takes to get a decent promotion. This is probably a big reason that sales representatives don’t stay very long.  Sales representatives will have an 18-month tenure on average. As a sales development representative, they will spend about 13 to 18 months before getting a promotion to an account executive position. Most sales representatives are too impatient to wait this long for a promotion. They will leave the company before their bosses consider them for it.

How Can Sales Managers Retain More Sales? The quick answer is to hire additional sales representatives who have a lot of experience.

In a report from Bridge Group, it revealed that hiring sales representatives with additional experience increased their average tenure. It also increased the amount of time they maintained full productivity on the job. Don’t make the mistake of hiring some new business development representative who just graduated from college because they will work for less money. It is smarter to invest more money in hiring an experienced sales representative. That way, they will know how to make you money faster without needing any on the job training.

Train Your Reps on Organizational Management and Culture

When Wayshak did his study, he discovered that sales representatives find the most value in having great managers to work with and a great organizational culture. Meanwhile, he saw that sales representatives were not concerned so much about compensation. Therefore, salespeople need to be trained in a way that makes them support the culture of the company and the sales team.

According to a CSO Insights survey, a sales leader will devote 20% of their day to assisting their sales team with closings. This is a no-win scenario because the sales representatives don’t feel like their careers will develop this way. The deals may not even work out either.

Promotion Communication

Your sales representatives must be regularly informed about their work performance and chances for promotion. The millennial generation makes up the current sales representatives out there right now. According to a survey by Deloitte, 25% of millennial sales representatives want to quit their current sales position within 12 months. Another 44% indicated they want to quit within 24 months.

You need to try to retain your sales representatives. Always let them know how they’re doing so they don’t wonder about it. Talk to them in person and give them feedback on a regular basis. If they know you’re considering them for a promotion, they will want to stay.

Managing the Performance of Sales Reps

According to a sales executive named Norman Behar, sales performance management is more important than leadership and sales coaching skills.

Most companies assume that their managers can manage sales performance effectively. This is not a good thing for them to do, though.

People may perform well as sales representatives, but that doesn’t mean they will perform well as sales managers. It takes an extraordinary ability to motivate sales teams to generate more sales and revenue.

Companies spend too much time worrying about sales results instead of sales behaviors. It takes certain behaviors to make the results happen. In the survey by Wayshak, 81.6% of the best-earning sales representatives spent 4 hours or more doing activities related to sales. These activities included sales meetings, prospecting, follow-ups, and referrals. These are all behaviors, not results.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are what drive this issue today. The systems conduct measurements in real-time, and the results get reported afterward. Majority of salespeople prefer a transformative way of using CRMs – automation tool, sales bots which regularly allow getting reports about sales deals closed, show which deals are the most promising and update any necessary information easily due to chat interface.

Closer bot can become a great assistant for you, so you can leave all routine work for it and focus on the most important – on closing deals.

It can be helpful to watch this data as it comes in. However, the information is based on things that have already happened. It doesn’t measure underlying behaviors which affect future outcomes.

Behavior Management

Sales representatives typically set goals for how many pitches to make in a given period. You should not track this behavior, though. The survey by Wayshak showed that a mere 7% of the best-performing sales representatives indicated they pitch often. Meanwhile, 19% of other lower performers reported they often pitch too. Therefore, pitching is not a behavior that will determine your level of success.

Sales organizations need to consider the primary objectives they should watch for and which behaviors will help achieve them. Just remember to monitor results while managing and monitoring behaviors. After all, the results are the lagging indicators, and the behaviors are the leading indicators.

To help you understand what makes behaviors and results differ from one another, consider the following example:

If the result that your company wants to achieve is “acquiring new customers,” then your key behaviors will be:

– Establishing meetings for the first time with potential customers.

– Providing the sales pipeline with more opportunities.

– Planning out the territory and making a thorough list of potential customers (for example Closer bot shows on who to focus, what the most promising deals are).

– Making plans for accounts which outline the primary influencers and decision makers.

Make sure you place limitations on the number of primary results that you wish to watch. If there are a lot of outcomes that you want to happen, that will cause many more behaviors. Let’s see an example of this. Suppose a sales company wants to watch 15 results. If each one of these results is connected to 4 behaviors, then sales managers must manage and monitor as many as 60 responses. This could never be maintainable.

If you want to be practical about this, direct your attention to 2 or 3 of the results that are most crucial. From there, you can manage the 8 or 12 behaviors that correspond with these results and drive them forward.

The 4 Ways to Practice Performance Management

After you have achieved the results you wanted and identified the behaviors which correspond with them, sales managers should focus on performance management.

Here are the four steps they need to do this:

1) Tell the salespeople what the expectations of their performance are.

2) All specific behaviors should be managed and monitored.

3) The results need to be monitored.

4) Standard feedback should be given.

Regarding the new customer acquisition example, the sales manager is now able to tell their salespeople how many customers they are expected to obtain, and which behaviors will allow them to achieve these results. And, of course, they will be told the timeframe in which they are supposed to do this.

Sales managers need to give feedback to their salespeople on a regular basis. The input should encourage the salespeople based on the key behaviors they have attained and/or the gaps which exist in their performance. For instance, a fundamental behavior could be something like setting 20 appointments for the first time in one week. Differences in performance might be failing to provide account plans to the sales manager.

In the end, sales managers still care about results. They need to realize that behavior management is how those results will be achieved. If you can tell the difference between results and behavior, then it will be easier for your sales team to succeed at keeping sales representatives happy.

Author: Vlad Goloshuk is a serial entrepreneur with a focus on B2B sales tech. He is the founder of Closer.bot (a slack bot designed to minimize sales reps time on CRM updates) and also a CEO at Brightestminds.io (a B2B lead generation agency).

Should you work in a High Turnover Sales Department?

high turnover in a sales department is like riding a roller coasterAfter months of job hunting, you finally landed what you think is a good sales job. No more interviews. No more sending out resumes. No more writing cover letters. No more attending network events. No siree Bob, you finally arrived and are now ready to start earning serious money and move on with your life.

But after working at your new job for a few months, you begin to see a pattern.

High turnover.

At first, you don’t notice it because you’re too busy learning about the products and services, getting to know your co-workers, and adjusting to your new work environment. Plus, you wanted to find out where the best coffee shops and fast food restaurants were located near your company.

But then, about every other week or so, you start reading emails that begin with “Joe Smith is no longer working at this company. He has moved on to other opportunities.”

And then you notice the guy who helped mentor you leave. And then the sales manager, who you thought was a good guy, is no longer coming to work. He’s been replaced by an outsider who is clueless about what your company is doing or what you’re selling. You see small groups of other salespeople meeting quietly, talking in whispers, and glancing over their shoulders to ensure no one is listening. The HR director is always meeting behind closed doors, and rarely makes eye contact when you walk by.

Employees come. Employees go. It’s a swinging door.

Congratulations. You have stumbled upon the classic high turnover sales department.

Now what?

Most salespeople stay where they have a good opportunity to earn a good living. But when there is high turnover among a sales staff, it’s usually a bad sign that something is wrong. Unlike most employees, the sales team is serving on the front lines. That means if something good or bad happens to a company, they are the first ones to feel the impact.

High turnover occurs for several reasons, including

1). The products or services are bad, or little improvement has been made in recent years. This could occur because the company isn’t reinvesting in product development, or there is too much infighting within the development team.

2). The compensation package is lousy. Every other month, you receive a new comp plan, or “adjustments” are repeatedly made.

3). Management is terrible, which usually turns into a serious moral problem. The managers could be incompetent, lazy, too demanding, etc. You get the picture.

4). The Marketing Department isn’t providing you with enough good or qualified leads. For example, inbound marketing is nonexistent, or the department is not effectively using social media to enhance better branding and name recognition. There could also be cutbacks in attending a key trade show or other events.

4). The company isn’t doing a good job of hiring and qualifying candidates or isn’t setting the right expectations about its sales positions.

To learn more about the causes of high turnover, please read the following articles –

“What Are the Causes of a High Turnover Rate of Sales Personnel?” by Chris Joseph, Demand Media
“10 Causes of High Sales Rep Turnover – Which One is Yours?” by Steve Loftness

Some companies may tell you that turnover occurs because they have “high expectations” of salespeople; if they don’t achieve their goals, they are asked to leave.

What they are really telling you is that the quotas are extremely or unrealistically high, and frankly may be out of reach for most salespeople. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some companies are looking for the crème de la crème. If you can’t hack it, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Selling is hard work. Maybe they are not looking for glorified order takers, but real hunters and aggressive closers. Maybe they are looking for salespeople to work late hours or be road warriors and travel to all parts of the country or world. Just know that if you accept this job, you had been warned up front about the high turnover. Be prepared for a major sales workout.

But is high turnover always a bad thing? Not necessarily.

High turnover may open up room for quick advancement, or a chance to grab some large accounts or good sales territories. Just be prepared for the stress and anxiety that may follow in a high-turnover situation. If you can ride the storm and come out ahead, more power to you.

sales woman on top of victoryI once knew a woman in sales who had worked for a small family-owned business that was struggling financially and had high turnover. In fact, the entire sales staff left except her. She was the last woman standing. The other salespeople who left the company were dumbfounded when she decided to stay on. To make a long story short, the business slowly turned around, and the owner made her the sales manager. He was grateful that she had stuck it out through the bad times. As you may now guess, as the company grew, she acquired most of the larger accounts and earned a commission based on both her own sales and those of her sales team. Financially speaking, she was on top of the world. All because the other sales reps left, she was able to take advantage of a very chaotic situation, and earn herself a good living for several years. (The company was later acquired by a large competitor and the entire sales team was laid off).

High turnover is not for the faint-hearted. But if you can endure the ride, you may turn chaos into your success.

If you want to take a gamble and find a company with high turnover, make a habit of reading the help-wanted ads about once or twice a month. Look at the “sales jobs” column. If you find a pattern of companies advertising for the same position repeatedly throughout the year, chances are you found a high-turnover company. You may also want to regularly read Glassdoor.com, which provides anonymous reviews of companies. If you read a lot of negative comments from salespeople, that’s usually a good sign of high turnover.

Once you found your high turnover sales department, enjoy the bumpy ride.

However, for most of us, a high turnover rate is too nerve-wracking to deal with. If you can’t stomach the pressure and anxiety, don’t waste your time. Move on.

Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.