Acquiring and keeping the best sales talent is a priority for most organizations. With all the time, energy, and money that go into perfecting the hiring formula, the reality is that turnover still happens. The good news is that there is a way to reduce it.
Before we look at some ways to get the upper hand on turnover, let’s consider both ends of the spectrum when hiring salespeople, starting with new college graduates. In this case, companies take on the full responsibility of shaping these young professionals. Providing them with the nuts and bolts of a sales process and training them on how to have effective client conversations can be a heavy lift, and it is tempting to shortcut it.
While the work is different, the level of effort to onboard a tenured salesperson is just as robust. When an experienced salesperson who has achieved success at another organization joins a new company, it can be easy to assume that he or she will hit the ground running.
The truth is that most selection and interview processes aren’t designed to truly dig beneath the surface to understand where this person comes from. What made this candidate successful in his or her last organization? Was it the culture, the industry, the processes and systems, or coaches? Does he or she thrive better in an entrepreneurial environment or a more established organization with set sales goals?
Without gaining that level of understanding and grafting it into the company’s onboarding process, a new salesperson joining your organization may think, “Wow, without the support I had in the past, I might not have the same success at this new company.”
Or this new hire might feel unprepared and inadequately trained, potentially using that as an excuse for lackluster performance. In either scenario, you’re at the risk of losing talent. With this in mind, let’s consider the following practical ways to reduce sales turnover.
6 Steps to Reduce Sales Turnover
1. Conduct an in-depth role analysis. It is important to have a solid outline of what is required for the sales role you are hiring for. It begins by conducting an in-depth role analysis. Consider how your company goes to market and the types of sales necessary to win business—is it a complex sale, solutions sale, or transactional sale?
Additionally, determine if the role requires the skills of a hunter, an account manager, or a farmer. It is common for companies to want versatile people who can do all three, but staying focused and realistic about what is required for success in that role will help you find the right fit.
Next, think of the culture within your organization. What do current employees have that help them succeed? What helps them fit in? It is important to not only look at the team that this salesperson will be joining but also widen the lens to look at the manager, team members, and geographical area.
Also, think about environment. Will this new hire be working at an office on-site or from home across the country? You need to understand all these things when looking to hire a new salesperson.
2. Ask structured, behavioral-based interview questions. A structured interview process should consist of not only people who will be directly responsible for working with the new hire, such as a hiring manager or potential team members, but also members from a functional group related to the role.
Invite someone from marketing or operations to interview the high-potential hire. Creating a cross-functional team approach with behavioral interview questions allows you to get to the core of why someone is successful.
Encourage the cross-functional interviewing team to compare notes rather than just log their notes into an applicant tracking system. Create an opportunity for a live group debriefing wherein notes and perspectives can be exchanged to gather a well-balanced view of the potential candidate.
3. Interject objective data. Another highly successful aspect of the interview process is to interject objective data by using a personality assessment, specifically one that is validated in the world of sales. A scientifically validated assessment for job matching provides reliable results that allow you to make a confident hiring decision.
The objective data will pinpoint if the potential employee has the right competencies and behaviors to succeed in a sales role for your organization. Personality assessments are specifically created to measure areas of strength, areas of limitations, and areas of development in a workplace. These data are also important to have during the entire life cycle of the employee, from selection to development and growth opportunities down the road.
4. Consider the environment. Take the time to think about the environment the salesperson will be working in. For example, if you are hiring someone who has worked at an on-site location previously but you are now expecting him or her to work solely from home, chances are, you are going to want to look at assessment results.
Once you review his or her assessment data, compare notes in a behavioral interview to understand a person’s ability to self-structure. Ask questions like, how resourceful is he or she? Can assertiveness get what is needed when working remotely? Does he or she have time management skills? Has he or she developed a fine-tuned communications strategy to build relationships from afar?
If the prospective candidate comes from an office environment, think about how he or she builds relationships with clients and coworkers. Does the candidate make the effort to meet someone in another office? Is building internal relationships, alliances, and partnerships a priority like building client relationships?
This is something to pay attention to because sometimes, it does not cut both ways. Environment is a vital factor to think about, so take the time to uncover what a successful environment is for a potential salesperson and align that to company expectations.
5. Tackle onboarding. Steps one through four conclude the initial hiring process, after which comes the vital step of onboarding. The best way to reduce the amount of time from new hire to productive team member is to tailor a potential “one-size-fits-all” onboarding program to the unique needs of the new hire.
One way to do this is to review the answers provided to behavioral-based interviewing questions and assessment data. This will provide visibility into where the new hire may be lacking in a core behavior or selling skill set. Based on this insight, take steps to layer in specific coaching and training tools early on in the onboarding process to address gaps.
6. Review. After the onboarding program, guide managers to schedule a formal time so that they can gauge the new hire’s performance. Observe some of his or her interactions with both clients and colleagues. From there, managers and their new hire should cocreate a 90-day development plan that continues to work through gaps and opportunities that are vital for success in the role. This is also a great opportunity to recognize the things the new hire is doing well, which will build confidence.
While salesperson turnover continues to be a challenge, the more you can lean on structure, process, and data, the more it is possible to lead in the area of acquiring the best talent, reducing turnover, and ultimately elevating your sales organization to its next level of success.
Dayna Williams is the Vice President of Training Solutions at Caliper.