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Managing Your Sales Team During the Great Resignation

Managing Your Sales Team During The Great Resignation

Has the Great Resignation caused you to re-think your sales team hiring practices? If so, you are not alone. In the last 18 months, millions of employees have voluntarily quit their jobs for other opportunities. And the sales department is not immune to this phenomenon. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*, 4 million Americans left their jobs in July 2021. To reach your sales goals in 2022 preventing a sales talent exodus is critical. In this article we will explore what the Great Resignation is, how it will impact sales departments, and what you can do about it now.

What is the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is the trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs. It started with the pandemic and has continued into the recovery. Here’s the scary news. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey conducted in August 2021, 65% of employees said they are looking for a new job while 88% of executives said their company is experiencing an unusually high turnover rate.

What is the impact on sales departments?

If these numbers are even close to being accurate, half of all salespeople are looking for their next job now. If your sales compensation plan is tied to Q4 or annual performance, most salespeople will not switch jobs until after they receive their commissions or annual bonus. But they are looking.

Think about what losing a portion of your best salespeople will do to your numbers in Q1. It is likely a setback your team could not recover from in 2022. Hiring new talent and getting up to speed can take months. Losing proven producers to the competition can make for a difficult start to the new year. It’s imperative that sales leaders plan for this possibility now and address it before it ruins your 2022 sales goals.

What Can You Do Now?

The first step is to address the issue candidly. Ignoring the possibility your team is looking at their employment options is wishful thinking at best and dereliction of duty at worst. Hoping your sales team does not leave is not a strategy. Performing an internal SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) with the team can provide insights into your organization. As a leader, it will also provide areas you can focus on improving while providing your team input and showing their opinions matter. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

The funny thing about asking a team of 10 people the same question, you get 10 different answers.  For example, imagine you asked your sales team for just one idea on how they would improve the sales department. Of course, you wouldn’t ask them to say the answer out loud, but give them 5 minutes to think about their answers and write them down. This is not a gripe session, so you want to listen to each individual and provide feedback that you understand their position. This meeting will provide a list of opportunities you can prioritize and work on in the future. A big part of being a leader is solving problems. Having regular workshops on improving your company’s process and procedures demonstrates to your team their opinions matter and their feedback is important.

Provide a Plan for a Better Future

It does not require a Harvard study to figure out why salespeople would be looking for a new sales position.

  • Financial Opportunity
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Lack of Growth/Stagnation

Financial opportunity is the most obvious. If a salesperson feels they are not being compensated equitably they will find a more generous employer. The current market is shifting in favor of salespeople. High-performing sales talent are always in demand and your best producers will know what their market value is. Now is a good time to review the compensation plan and address any issues that need to be fixed. You don’t want to wait until it’s too late and receive a resignation letter from your top performer in January. That is not the way any sales leader wants to start the new year.

The work-life balance can be trickier. The pandemic provided sales reps the chance to work from home. And there is a lot to like for a sales rep to be on a virtual team. Asking your virtual team to return to work, or “going back to the old ways of doing things,” can turn some employees off. When employees get a taste of the work-from-home model, going back to the in-office everyday model can be a challenge for some people. Ask yourself, “Why would a person want to spend time in traffic every day if they can find a similar position they can perform from their home office?”

The main reason a company would want to return to the in-office sales team model is that performance suffered. When you look at the numbers and see sales are down 15% since you shifted to virtual selling, that first thought is, “Let’s go back to the way we did things before the Pandemic.” Unfortunately, not every company is struggling with the virtual model, hence the over 88,000 remote sales positions listed on Indeed. Going back to the old way may not be the best option. A hybrid option may be worth exploring for a team that is struggling with the decision. Getting better at virtual selling might be another option your team could consider.

The third obvious reason for sales talent to leave their current position is about growth or lack thereof. Nobody wants to feel like their career is stagnated. Progress and future opportunities are what business in America is based on. What employees don’t want is to be asked to maintain or improve their current performance with less support and fewer opportunities. That is a huge perception problem for employers. Instead of their employees being happy to have a job, they feel like they are overworked and underappreciated. This is what leads to burnout and high turnover.

The solution is simple but not necessarily easy—prove to your people you care. Just reassuring them that, “things are going to be different next year” is not going to get it done. Having uncomfortable conversations, obtaining feedback, and mapping out a detailed plan requires effort.

For example, let’s say you talk to the team this month. In November you map out your plan and in December you share with your team the Talent Acceleration Program you created to get your people to where they want to by the end of 2022. This is a detailed plan that provides structure, training, and the action steps to get there. This creates mutual buy-in and the ability for lasting positive change. Now you have a team that is focused on the new year and not a job hunter among them.

Unfortunately, many companies are busy reacting to current problems, they do not have time to work on solutions that create lasting positive change. Imagine if you took the time to create a plan that everyone on your team provides input, and outlined the road map to get there. How much better would your sales team perform? Instead of spending time looking for a new job opportunity they would be working on the plan achieve the opportunity they currently have.  

If you are busy reacting to today’s problems and wait until January to develop your plan, it will likely be too late. Losing your salespeople in January to the Great Resignation is preventable. Sitting down with your team, getting honest about where you are at now, where you want to be in the future, and developing a mutually agreed-upon plan to get there is not easy, but worth the investment.

*https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm