Secrets to Talent Retention of Your Sales Staff

September 28, 20158:15 am397 views

Selling is a tough job and sales people are under ever more pressure: overwhelmed by aggressive targets; struggling to give customers the extra attention they demand; kept from their selling activities by endless meetings. And of course the same is true for sales managers.

Staff turnover in sales departments is rocketing and, to make matters worse, it’s often simply accepted as inevitable. How can companies ensure talent retention of sales staff?

The cost of losing a good sales staff is high: the cost of the recruitment process, the cost of knowledge transferred to competitors, the cost of missed revenue while recruiting and training new people, not to mention the effect on staff morale.

However, it needn’t be this way. International sales consultancy, Whitten & Roy Partnership contend that the key to countering talent drain in sales caused by high levels of pressure can be countered by equipping sales managers with better leadership and team management skills.

Recent research from CEB Sales Leadership Council finds that 63% of sales managers lack specific management skills. Managers can help companies transform their sales teams by managing three fundamental success factors: attitude, competence and execution.

Dr Roy Whitten, joint chief executive officer of Whitten & Roy Partnership says, “While it is true that any manager or director will benefit from management training, this is particularly true for sales managers as they generally operate in a much higher-pressure environment, providing the life line of the business.”

Every sales person can improve their performance by addressing their own attitude, competence and execution. The manager’s role is to support this transformation addressing all three of these elements at the same time. It’s an incredibly powerful leadership tool for sales managers to transform the sales results in their organisations.

See: Top 6 Questions HR Experts Should Ask to Retain Talent

The businesses ranging from blue chip companies to start-ups in the developing world, sales directors and managers are transforming their sales staff by helping them make fundamental changes in these three different areas:

  • Attitude – managing people’s mindset, moment-by-moment, staying proactive and in charge, no matter what happens.
  • Competence – leading their customers through a process in which they are educated instead of manipulated.
  • Execution – ceasing to do the things that distracts people from their sales goals, and start planning the key steps to make things progress.

“What we shouldn’t forget is that most sales managers have been appointed because they were good sales people. But more often than not they are thrown into a new, more senior role without having been equipped with the right skills to lead a team of people. Sadly, this skills gap frequently leads to unwanted consequences,” assesses Scott Roy, joint chief executive officer of Whitten & Roy Partnership.

Dr Roy adds: “It’s a result of zero training in sales management at some of the most influential companies in the world. Sales managers need training if they are going to lead their teams forward. Some promoted sales managers have a natural gift for managing and inspiring others. Sadly, most do not have this natural gift.”

“They need to be trained, and, in the absence of training, they vacillate between (a) trying to be understanding, trying to coach, trying to inspire and coach, and (b) laying down the law, being ‘realistic,’ and taking a hard line on ‘perform or move on.’ Neither of these approaches work.”

The primary role of the sales manager is to support their team and help them develop professionally. To this end, manager and staff should not only discuss business matters on a regular basis but also make sure that there is time to talk about personal development, with the latter being as important as the former.

Also regular meetings should be scheduled between the manager and account representative, on a fortnightly basis, just to talk about the development of the skills required to succeed in the role and to progress to the next one. In the long run this is time well spent, for it produces increased sales results.

These simple steps are aimed at creating a work environment where people feel positive about themselves and the work they are doing. Scott Roy concludes: “A positive and happy work environment is contagious. As humans we can smell positivity but also negativity and react accordingly. A positive environment is the space where ideas are generated and results are produced.”

Quoting businessman Spencer Hays, Scott Roy says, “Build your people and your people build your business.”

Also read: 7 Interesting Tips for HR Leaders to Overcome Talent Crisis

Image credit: flickr.com

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