“You Can’t Sell What You Don’t Know;” Getting Serious About Reducing Sales Staff Turnover
Having hired/fired, coached, trained, managed, developed compensation plans for and nearly everything else for thousands of salespeople and consulted with tens of companies, there are some common concepts that are critical to success and business ROI. While many just look at sales revenues, others measure hire/fire ratio as this is a very real cost in terms of gaining-retaining staff.
In addition, revenue gaps from one person quitting or running out the door and waiting for another person to be hired can be significant. Adding more untrained staff and putting them in front of customers, whether on the telephone, email or live does not by itself increase sales or customer satisfaction. See Chart.
As a sad footnote during the Battle of Britain due to the lack of sufficient pilot training, some pilots in Fighter Command were killed in battle even before they unpacked their luggage. Lack of in-depth training also happens today in technology sales with many reports of salespeople leaving in less than a month and overall staff turnover exceeding 100% in six months or less. Also, customers who are evaluating, closing, using and expanding their solution use view staff turnover generally negatively.
Here are a few thoughts to consider in building a long-term sales staff retention program:
- No one kind of person is born or becomes a salesperson
- Charm, charisma, guile and competitive spirit is not always a guide to success
- Compensation plans are generally not productive to direct sales efforts
- Like in sports, practice and more practice builds team efforts
- Knowledge is power and more knowledge means more success
- Career development is critical to staff development and retention
There is much more, however, a favorite quote often used is commonly associated with Sir Richard Branson, who reportedly was asked about training staff, “what if we train them and they leave? He responded by saying “what if we don’t and they stay.”
It was more about finding the critical success factor(s) that people really want to stay with the company. An increasing number of companies use college tuition scholarships, career path development, mental health benefits, in-depth training, personal coaching and other personalized goal coaching to retain an ever-more complex workforce.
Selling customers is also more complex that ranges from self-service to sales-service as customer buying behaviors are more demanding. Coupled with increasing complex technologies makes sales even harder.
This means the company sales force needs to focus on critical customer buying markets and build comprehensive ROI sales models based on overall company goals not just sales revenues. In conversations with small business owners to large business CIOs, there are also some common concepts they are looking for from providers such as:
- One-stop shopping seeking something on the order of the Geek Squad for any size business for implementation and repair
- Working with trained sales professionals not just tech staff
- Someone to take responsibility for “finger-pointing” issues
- Coordinated services for multi-vendor environments
- Affordable technology advisory services for future planning separate from daily operations
- In-depth internal user training and support
- Better cost analysis, ROI and audit
Summary – Selling will not get less complex, only more so. Training sales staff on selling complex technology will also not get easier. By increasing investment in training increases sales and ROI but also reduces staff turnover costs and customer concern. Coupled with a complete career certification brings even greater long-term benefits to both the company and customer satisfaction.
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