A recent article I read quoted some shocking research findings…94% of employees who leave a company do so because they were dissatisfied or had a desire to leave NOT because of the attraction or availability of an outside job opportunity. (See Infographic and link to article below)
But what about salespeople specifically – why do they leave? Is it for the same reasons or different ones? Over the years as I’ve interviewed and coached salespeople, I noticed that their answers to why they left a job are usually for one of the reasons listed below. You’ll notice that most of them start with, “My Manager…” That isn’t a coincidence. Even the reasons that aren’t directly sales manager related are still issues that a sales manager has influence over, or at least could acknowledge and look for ways to improve or work around them. As Marcus Buckingham said, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”
My Manager Was A Bully – Descriptions of this sales manager usually revolve around the sales manager who constantly threatens or tries to intimidate salespeople into performing. You know, the “Coffee is for closers!” type.
My Manager Was A Control Freak – One of the top reasons salespeople are drawn to sales in the first place is the opportunity to work independently and feel they have control over their business. They are entrepreneurial and look at sales as running their own small business operation. If they feel their manager is watching every move they make, it feels insulting and implies you don’t trust them. Holding people accountable? Absolutely. But that does not mean micro-managing. Micro-management just does not work with top performing salespeople.
My Manager Was Worthless – Ouch! The examples I usually hear on this one are about management ineptness or inability to help a salesperson get things accomplished. Top salespeople look to their manager to help them cut through the company bureaucracy, be their supporter and cheerleader, be a sounding board, and offer advice or ideas when needed. If salespeople don’t see their manager as a resource and someone who can help them meet their goals, you’re dead to them. (Click HERE for “Tips For Coaching Your Salespeople”)
My Manager Was Constantly Changing My Goals/Compensation – Sales managers that continually change commission structures, budgets, or goals, quickly gain the ire of their salespeople. Not only does it make you look indecisive, it makes the salesperson feel powerless. And it’s just as de-motivating to constantly be changing a salesperson’s focus and priorities. Managers who have a new “flavor-of-the-week” priority they want a salesperson to concentrate on selling, frustrate their salespeople and diminish their effectiveness.
My Manager Didn’t Appreciate Me – Sound egotistical? Maybe, but a strong ego drive is crucial to successful selling so why are so many sales managers surprised that their salespeople need ego stroking? Recognition and praise are critical components to managing people successfully but I think this is particularly important with salespeople who deal with far more rejection than successes. They need to know their manager understands what they face each day, and appreciates it. Sure praising a great sale is good – but that is expected. Praise and recognition for other aspects of the job like creating a great presentation, helping the client achieve an objective, developing strong client relationships, even getting paperwork in on time – now that, a salesperson will remember. Keeping a salesperson engaged and motivated is paramount and is a direct indicator of how long that person will be with you, and more important – how effective! (Click HERE for “Keeping Employees Engaged”)
My Manager Played Favorites – Sure this might sound a little like “teacher’s pet” finger pointing, but perception is reality. Salespeople do tend to be hyper-alert to whether or not they are on a level playing field with their fellow sellers. I think this is because salespeople are usually quite competitive by nature. And, wouldn’t you be frustrated if you thought the person(s) you are competing against had an unfair advantage over you?
My Manager Only Cared About Himself/Herself – Often I hear stories from salespeople about how their sales manager wasn’t invested in making the salesperson a success, it was all about the sales manager looking good. Examples of this include the sales manager who is a “credit hog” and takes the credit for a salesperson’s success; the egotistical sales manager who is all about being “the boss” – you know the type, they refer to the sales team as “MY sales team”; and the sales manager who positions everything to upper management in a way that makes him or her look like the hero. When coaching new sales managers I tell them if you shine the spotlight on yourself you’ll soon be playing to an empty house, shine the spotlight on the achievements of your salespeople and they will make you a star.
My Manager Was A Liar – This one is simple to avoid. Don’t make promises unless you are 100% sure you can keep them. And if you make a promise, back it up 100%. Salespeople are expert at nailing people down and getting an answer. It’s called closing! As a sales manager, you are spinning a lot of plates and it is easy to give a quick “yes” to get something resolved quickly. But that can come back to haunt you and cause problems later if you can’t deliver. It’s better to say, “I’m not sure” and set a time to revisit the issue than to be seen by your salespeople as someone who doesn’t live up to his commitments.
No Growth Opportunities – Salespeople are entrepreneurial, and a characteristic of being entrepreneurial is wanting to continue to grow, learn, and do new things. When salespeople leave because they say there were no growth opportunities it doesn’t just mean management jobs. Take the time to find out what each of your salespeople are interested in learning and doing. Many times, it ISN’T a management position. It may be additional training, learning a new product to sell, mentoring rookies, collaborating or learning about other parts of the company, etc.
Compensation – When a salesperson leaves because of money (although numerous research studies have shown that this is RARELY the top reason a salesperson quits) it is usually because he or she feels they are being stifled or “capped” on their income potential. Most salespeople are motivated by the concept of “the harder I work, the more I sell, the more money I make.” If that is taken away (whether it is perception or in reality) it can severely de-motivate the salesperson.
The Sales Team Sucked – No, no one has actually said it to me quite that way. But, top performing salespeople will leave if they feel they are working with sub-par sellers. Quite simply, talented people want to work with talented people. If a salesperson feels that they are surrounded by other salespeople who are not as motivated to achieve, the salesperson starts to wonder, “Why am I here?” Top salespeople are energized by other successful salespeople because they like to measure their success against what their co-workers have achieved. It doesn’t feel like a win if you are Michael Jordan and you slam dunk on a high school kid.
Lack of Tools, Training, or Leadership – It is important to salespeople that they work in a culture where they feel the company is investing in them. This means having the tools and support they need to be effective salespeople. And, that includes having an Onboarding Program to get a salesperson started off on the right path – and the right training tailored to each individual. (Click HERE for “How To Keep Your New Salesperson From Circling The Drain”)
It also means having a management team that is able to articulate and implement a vision for where they are headed. Having strong management leadership is a critical component to long-term sales team stability. If the company is in continual chaos, sales turnover is always the end result.
“Training and development (of employees) must be built into a company on all levels – training and development that never stops.” -Peter Drucker
Infographic courtesy of Paycom. (click here to read full article)