Businesses only grow by making it rain, and you need a team of rainmakers to keep sales from running dry. Take a look at the highest-grossing companies, and you’ll notice that most of them approach sales with that exact mentality.
Part of this has to do with revenue, of course. You can directly tie it to business growth, but sales also has a way of widening your company’s exposure. Each time a salesperson engages with a new customer, he or she is increasing awareness, strengthening credibility, and creating more opportunities for growth.
That’s why it’s so critical to retain your highest performers. They act as the foundation of your business. Without them, you have no place to build that framework for a strong, solid business.
High performers, to borrow another metaphor, are like a fine wine — they just get better with time. Through repetition and the refining of their approaches, pitches, and interpersonal skills, standout salespeople have a chance to mature. In other words, getting in the field and getting reps matters.
By that same token, tenure often provides extensive know-how. With time, salespeople become experts on your products or services — and this is especially important when dealing with more complex or expensive merchandise. Customers want to feel comfortable with their purchase. If a salesperson can’t speak with confidence about your wares, you’ve just lost a sale.
Taking your company to the heights you always imagined means having a sales team that can push the product and the business’s overall vision. Retaining that team — and keeping it intact — needs to be a top priority for company leadership.
Top Talent in High Demand
Keeping talented salespeople engaged and loyal isn’t always easy — in fact, it’s off-the-charts competitive right now. In certain markets and industries, you’re not just competing with the big boys that can fork over a bucket full of dough. You also have those startups and incubators to contend with. And, after all, what talented youth doesn’t dream of working for the next Google or Facebook?
For example, take the software industry. It’s always had a strong sales motion and attracts really good salespeople. Even if success isn’t a statistical probability, these companies have sales strategies that are appealing to top talent, which can make it difficult for other industries to compete.
That doesn’t mean you can’t. I’d suggest doing the following to not only retain, but also inspire your high-performing salespeople:
- Bring staff into the fold. Most salespeople are all about accountability; they want to know what they need to do to contribute to the big picture. Make sure they understand not only the specifics of their role, but also their goals and how those objectives contribute to the company’s mission.
In fact, a structured and closely monitored sales process will help improve performance. Get clear on ambitions and targets, set concrete criteria for their measurement, and review sales performance on a regular basis. Oftentimes, it can mean the difference between a good sales team and a great one.
- Make compensation scalable. Salespeople are a lot like independent contractors. Even with a base salary, most get into the field for the opportunity to make significantly more money than with a fixed wage. Uncap compensation to encourage more revenue-driving activities.
At our company, salespeople can earn 50 percent of their monthly pay through leverage comp plans. By uncapping compensation, we get really motivated hunters who never take their foot off the gas. Month after month, they break records in their sales performance.
But don’t get too complicated with your compensation plans; you don’t need to address every potential scenario. Clearly communicate what’s in it for your team. Make it simple and aligned with your business goals to yield the necessary results.
- Give sales room to collaborate. In the past, leads were a lot like chum. Throw them in the water, and a feeding frenzy soon follows. But this approach isn’t sustainable — at least not for longer or more complex sales cycles. Collaboration is simply a much better option.
Share how each person contributes to the broader goals of the team. If you can instill this idea in your people, you’ll encourage peer coaching. The best salespeople will help those on the bubble, sharing contacts, insights, or whatever else junior members need in order to get to the next level.
What’s more, “group” sales can keep a deal from stalling. People will pick up the slack and be more apt to weigh in on a difficult prospect. When working with high performers, you’re three times more likely to see sales as the responsibility of the entire organization. It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach.
- Be generous with feedback. You can never give enough advice. Share your insights often, and get into the specifics. Go so far as to think of yourself as a coach, tell staff what you observed, and explain or demonstrate what you’d like them to do in the future. You always want to connect feedback with something tangible.
Our company asks direct supervisors to provide pointers based on observations and not vague language that a team can’t put into action. We also do peer feedback, bringing people into a room to listen to sales calls. After that, the floor is open for critiques. It’s been essential to getting the most out of our salespeople.
- Recognize high performers. Further incentivize results by publicly recognizing top sellers, be it daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The acknowledgement will fuel the fire of not only your achievers, but also those who are still lagging in sales.
You may also want to prompt a little healthy competition by throwing the name of anyone who’s hit his or her target into a hat for a reward or prize. After all, sales can be a difficult undertaking, one in which you’re told “no” more than “yes.” The more fun you can inject into the process, the more fire you can stoke within your sales team.
If you fail to see what’s important to salespeople, you have bigger problems than retention. Your talent won’t be motivated to grow your business, and that’s not something you’ll ever see in a team of rainmakers — or a high-growth company, at that.
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Written by: Judi Hand, President and General Manager of Revana.
Previously, she served as senior vice president of enterprise sales with AT&T, vice president of AT&T Business Services for small- and mid-sized markets, senior vice president of sales and customer care at Qwest for small business and consumer markets, CMO for US West Dex, and executive director of solutions marketing and director of market strategy development for US West.