by Dr. Christopher Croner, principal at SalesDrive and coauthor of “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again: Selecting Candidates Who Are Absolutely Driven to Succeed“
As the pandemic winds down, two big trends are converging that should concern leaders everywhere. First, a mass exodus of talent is coming as burned out, frustrated employees seek greener pastures and better work-life balance. Second, as companies ratchet up their efforts to get back in the game full force, they are launching a talent war — and guess who is squarely in their line of sight?
Competitors are looking to poach your top-performing salespeople — those rare, revenue-generating superstars known as “Hunters.” And you can’t afford to lose them.
On average, 8 percent of salespeople are responsible for 80 percent of the sales at your company. Everyone is sniffing out these salespeople and making big offers to lure them away. And Hunters are tough to find. Losing even one of them from your team could be devastating.
If you’re fortunate enough to have one or more of these high-performing salespeople on your team, you want to do all you can to hang onto them. If you can tap into the factors that feed their Drive and create a culture around them, they’re much more likely to stick around. (HINT: While compensation is important, it isn’t a primary driver for Hunters.)
Here are some tips:
In interviews, be real about your culture.
When we’re trying to recruit great employees, we tend to exaggerate the benefits of our company and downplay the negatives. Resist the urge. A driven salesperson won’t be scared off by the truth. They know every opportunity comes with advantages and disadvantages. If you fail to set the right expectations up front, you will likely find that your salespeople end up frustrated and unhappy on the job because they did not know what they were getting themselves into.
Top salespeople want to be in an exciting, high-performance, sales-driven environment. The whole company should be obsessed with sales. If your culture is lacking, focus on creating a place where top performers want to be. That way you won’t need to stretch the truth during job interviews.
Understand that Hunters have a real need for achievement.
Set the bar high. Give them the tools and conditions they need to do their job well. And create a culture that allows them to excel — one where the quality of the product is high, where orders ship on time, and where people are dedicated to delighting the customer. High performers want to work with other high performers.
Pay them well (obviously).
Hunters are internally motivated, meaning they have a burning desire to improve and be the best they can be. Appealing to this desire for achievement is more powerful than dangling monetary incentives in front of them. However, an attractive compensation package must be part of the picture. Top salespeople will often leave a company if their commission structure and/or compensation package is not consistent.
While offering an attractive compensation package will cost your company money, it is worth it if it means you will keep top-performing salespeople around. Chances are that the revenue that those salespeople generate for the business will more than make up for the money spent on offering a superior salary and commission structure. And make it a cardinal rule to pay commissions fast and on time!
Appeal to their sense of competition by setting goals that are realistic but challenging.
High-Drive salespeople love competition. Set up contests along the way and make sure the salespeople know how they are doing relative to each other. Find ways to reward performance with special recognition and rewards.
Create a positive workplace culture.
High performers are optimists. They need a workplace that nurtures that quality, not one that tears it down. Show appreciation to salespeople (and all employees) regularly. Celebrate their achievements. Hold events and gatherings that foster camaraderie. Do all you can to keep people engaged and excited about coming to work.
Offer creative sales incentives.
One example I suggest is a top-performer’s office chair. The salesperson who sells the most each week gets to sit in the special chair. Other options are rewarding the top performer each week with a gift card or cash prize, and offering an extra day off work to the salesperson who sells the most by the end of each month.
Invest in coaching or training so they can become even MORE high performing.
High-achieving salespeople are ambitious and want to learn how to sell even more effectively than they already are. So, have one-on-one sessions with your top salespeople to talk about any areas that they could improve in, and make sure you are providing feedback on a regular basis. That way, they will feel like they are growing at work instead of stagnating.
Conduct exit interviews and listen to what departing salespeople say.
If you really want to learn why your top salespeople are leaving, one of the best things you can do is simply ask them. While this seems like a no-brainer, it is a step that many companies do not take. As a result, those companies continue operating the same way and losing salespeople for the same reasons.
Hold a confidential interview, one-on-one in private, preferably with an employee from HR. Ask about the culture/morale in the sales department, the salesperson’s relationship with their coworkers and supervisors, and the general pros and cons of working at the company. Listen attentively and take good notes. Then, you can look for similarities in the answers of top performers who resign and make positive changes based on those answers.
Of course, the best way to keep a good quotient of Hunters is to decide that from now on you hire only high-potential sales athletes. If you take a scientifically proven approach to stocking your team with high-Drive salespeople, you’re automatically ahead of the game, even if one were to leave.
You can train on industry specifics, the sales process, and everything else, but you can’t teach Drive. So yes, it pays to focus on retention, but it’s even better when you apply today’s science and technology to your assessment and interview platforms to find people who have the deep traits and potential to truly produce for you.
Dr. Christopher Croner is principal at SalesDrive and coauthor (along with Richard Abraham) of the book “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again: Selecting Candidates Who Are Absolutely Driven to Succeed“, which details his research and practice in identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers. He developed the proprietary DriveTest® online sales test and The Drive Interview®, both used for hiring “Hunter” salespeople.