Digital Transformation, Sales Force Turnover


10 July 2017


Delphine Duclos


sales force transformation

Sales force turnover is the dark matter of your annual report. Despite being everywhere and touching everything, it’s tough to measure the extent of its impact—or who’s measuring it. HR refers you to Sales, Sales to HR, an exasperated HR to C-Suite. While that cycle repeats, let’s look at some hard numbers:

Fact: A single turnover constrains sales productivity for up to 2 years. Tweet This Stat!

Fact: One lost salesperson can cost 1.5 – 2x their annual comp. Tweet This Stat!

Fact: Sales force turnover is at a 5-year high—and growing. Tweet This Stat!

Even when faced with eye-popping stats, fingers point, progress stalls, and team members eat each other. That’s because turnover isn’t a budget line item. Buried and dispersed between departments, the buck stops with management. Here are 3 reality checks to turn recognition into reform:

1. Who you lose is more important than how many you lose

Before you act, ask yourself: who’s leaving? Are they your star employees or the bottom of the barrel? Not all turnover is created equal. High turnover of low performers indicates a need to reevaluate your selection and training processes. High turnover of high performers means your company is losing its best to your competition.

Either scenario should make a leader sweat. But the latter is worse. You’re reduced to a funnel, recruiting top-tier salespeople for your rivals. Chances are those very employees are generating 80 percent of sales. If you think losing top talent is the whole iceberg, think again. They’ll take a chunk of your clients with them, because sales rep turnover is client turnover. You’ve incentivized them to close deals, now incentivize them to stay.

2. Corporate turnover ≠ sales turnover

Your business depends on selling your product or service. So why is sales turnover held to a lower standard than other departments? If 15 percent of your engineers resigned, the board would call an emergency meeting and heads would roll. The same crisis in sales receives a sigh.

Employee retention efforts cannot afford departmental exceptions. Assume responsibility at the top (attn: VP Sales, CEO), learn what’s motivating and discouraging your team on the ground, and act. Fix the system, and you fix retention.

3. Investing in automation is not the same as investing in people

Robotics and artificial intelligence have done wonders for streamlining business operations. Set aside the debate on employee displacement: you still have a lot of humans. Many of them are stuck using equipment and practices predating the smartphone. Rudderless trial-and-error sandwiched between convoluted spreadsheets fosters dissatisfaction and—you guessed it—turnover.

Modern salespeople require modern thinking. Modern thinking requires modern solutions. Digital coaches, gamified objectives, microlearning, and streamlined best practice sharing are the future. Partnering with a sales accelerator combines tech with a human touch to achieve them all. Watch your productivity skyrocket and turnover decline. Because when sales teams succeed, they stay.