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Sales Team Retention: How to Keep Your Top Performers?

Every sales organization on the planet has dealt with, and continues to deal with, the issue of rep retention. Nobody wants to lose their top performer, let alone for preventable reasons.

This post could go into how to build and maintain sales teams, and keep great employees from jumping ship. It might also go into factors beyond your control and when it’s best to let someone move on. 

But that’s not where it should go. 

I’m going to go right to the heart of the matter, with real feedback from folks on the front lines every day. I’ve spent nearly two decades trying to tackle this problem. I’ve failed as many times as I’ve been successful, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. I’ve pushed too hard. I’ve been too unavailable. I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

It took me a long time to realize the whole thing stems from asking the wrong question! Instead of asking “how to keep top performers?”, we should be asking “how can I help everybody on my team get what they want and go where they want to go?”

You don’t keep top performers. They choose to stay. And the reasons are so much less complicated than we think they might be.

They choose to stay because:

  1. They are paid at or above market, and have achievable goals.
  2. They feel valued, heard and appreciated.
  3. They are treated like adults with outside interests and responsibilities and it’s ok.
  4. They feel like they’re making a difference – in the lives of customers, and at the company.
  5. They are doing fun, challenging and rewarding work; but believe the opportunity for growth and advancement is real.

Sure I could add a bunch of other reasons to this list, but why? It’s pretty simple really.

As a Sales Leader, you must do your part to facilitate the things I just mentioned above. You will need to fight for a solid compensation package on your teams behalf. As a shock to virtually no one, there will be those above you who prefer to pay as little as possible for sales talent. Fight this battle hard. 

You must work hard to create a culture in the sales org where your team members feel valued and your leadership skills can make or break this. Create a regular feedback cadence where you have consistent ample opportunity to praise and give constructive criticism. Share customer wins and company milestones regularly so the sales team understands the impact they’re having.

You want to upset your top performers and get them thinking about leaving?

  1. Mess with their money. 
  2. Ignore their ideas and feedback.
  3. Provide limited [if any] flexibility.
  4. Fail to be transparent about the impact of their work.
  5. Dangle the carrot of advancement but never let them take a bite.

Here is the reality of the situation though…and leaders should listen closely to this. If you are coaching your team members properly, and they continue to perform at the highest levels, it’s possible your company might not be able to keep up and provide the next role for them.

AND THAT’S OK. You will have done your job. Like I said before, you don’t retain people. You create an environment where they choose to stay. That’s the best you can do. Trust me, that employee will have nothing but good things to say about you as a boss and a leader; and is likely to have similar positive feelings towards the company in general. 

Remember, your job is to help people get where they want to go. 

Sometimes, the right thing to do is to help people move on.

Scott Leese has spent his entire career building and scaling  sales orgs at SaaS companies, wrote a bestselling book “Addicted to the Process”,   is currently the CEO/Founder of Scott Leese consulting and the Founder of the Surf and Sales Summit. You can find out more over on LinkedIn.