If you google ‘reasons sales people leave’, you’ll find about 7,110,000 results. Turnover of salespeople is a common problem with about 16% leaving each year voluntarily. Considering the significant costs of recruiting and developing new hires, most sales managers continuously strive to find ways to retain team members. As you might expect, with such a plethora of articles about the reasons salespeople leave, there are dozens and dozens of specific factors that might contribute to departures.
We’ve noticed a common thread applies more frequently: A salesperson’s view of the future doesn’t match his or her vision of where they want to be in the future. Take compensation for example. While a person might find a current compensation package inadequate, if she sees a reasonable probability that will change in the future, she’s less likely to leave. What about unrealistic objectives? Again, if a sales person sees a path to achieving quotas in the future, he’s more likely to be patient with current circumstances. Voluntary departures almost always result when salespeople just can’t see what’s in it for them with their current employer.
Unless your company and the products you sell are akin to buggy-whips in the past century, as an effective sales leader, you should be able to help every member of your team see far more reasons to grow with your team than depart for seemingly greener pastures. It starts with a good understanding of the difference between rewards and motivation. Often, sales people tell us they left their last job because they just weren’t motivated. If we ask sales managers what they do to motivate their team, we often hear “We offer the best commissions in the business. It’s up to them to motivate themselves!”
Reward vs. Motivation
It’s true. To be successful, sales people certainly must be self-motivated. But that apparent difference in perception about motivation shows why some salespeople leave – even when they have tremendous earnings potential. The reason? Money is a reward – not necessarily a motivation. In this series of leadership articles, we’ve highlighted that most successful teams focus management efforts on creating an environment that encourages self-motivation rather than simply throwing money out as an incentive.
While compensation is a necessary component of an environment that stimulates and motivates, progressive sales leaders understand that many other intangible factors may influence motivation more than money. When we drill down on issues with folks who left their team, we often hear references to ‘training’, ‘support’, and ‘personal growth’. Some salespeople tell us they may have been willing to stay with their previous employer if the company devoted more time and investment to help them develop skills to achieve more sales. Others tell us they probably would not have left their previous team if their leader spent more of his time supporting their efforts. Still others say they would have stayed with their previous company if they saw an opportunity to grow there.
A Path for Personal Growth
What is personal growth? Of course, the most common interpretation of that term relates to promotions and advancement. And, inevitably some team members seek an opportunity to climb the company ladder of responsibility. Perhaps surprisingly, that’s not always the case. Salespeople quite often tell us personal growth means different things to them. Often, it means an opportunity to learn new skills and advance their education. Sometimes, their search for personal growth is a desire for more interaction and communication with other sections of the company like shipping, accounting or customer service.
Today’s most successful sales leaders take the time to learn what motivates every member of their team and then manages accordingly. If a salesperson’s goal is to earn more money, they discuss and agree upon a reasonable strategy to help him identify a path to achieve goals. If the objective is to grow with more responsibilities, they seek ways to involve her more in hiring, mentoring, training and leadership development experiences.
Sharing and Delegating Responsibility
Welcoming subordinates into the leadership process is often the most powerful way to create a self-motivating environment. Perhaps you can assign pricing approvals to a trusted and experienced team member. Maybe you can make a good salesperson responsible for screening potential new candidates for management consideration. Or, can you give an interested salesperson responsibility for liaison with the marketing and sales promotion functions?
Every business will be different, and each company will have its own comfort zones, but one tendency is evident. The more management encourages salespeople to participate in leadership, the greater the probability team members can experience ‘personal growth’ and remain loyal team members.
There’s another big benefit to sales leaders who share management activities and delegate responsibilities to subordinates. Not only do subordinates tend to remain more loyal, they also become more effective in their roles. That usually translates into better sales results for the entire team. It also helps sales leadership to advance. Senior management is generally on the lookout for talent who create an environment that motivates. Often, sales leadership will be rewarded with added responsibilities or promotions providing even greater opportunities for personal growth with the sales team!
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