Today’s post is by Sharon Gillenwater, founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market – from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits – to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.
One of the biggest challenges faced by today’s technology companies is the constant changing of sales representatives. Our customers tell us that roughly 20 to 30 percent of their sales teams change accounts annually – largely because they are let go or reassigned due to underperformance.
This type of turnover is typical, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are the top five reasons sales reps are fired or reassigned – and what you can do to help new reps succeed faster.
1. Under-Penetrated Accounts
We are all guilty of chasing after that shiny new idea, product, or service instead of making use of what we already have. Sales reps are guilty of the same thing. Often, they will have fantastic leads in their queue that go unnoticed because they are chasing whatever new lead comes through at the moment. Too often, these leads are looked at briefly, but – when traction doesn’t happen immediately – they are passed by for something with a greater perceived closing probability. As a result, the account may be rotated to another sales rep in hopes of greater penetration. By providing sales reps with greater insights into the leads in their pipeline, you can suddenly make those leads look even better than a fresh lead. Sometimes all a rep needs are the right tools to feel confident they can make a sale.
Sales teams are used to a great deal of competition – from competitor sales reps to the reps on their team. Sales leadership will often use a variety of metrics to compare their sales reps to each other to determine who should be incentivized and who should be let go. Sometimes these metrics are valid and useful, but, other times, they are subjective and not thought through – such as comparing the number of accounts each rep has. Quantity does not equal quality, and the value of one large account may surpass multiple smaller accounts. Make sure, when assigning value to reps and their associate accounts, you look at the entire picture.
New sales reps are often saddled with a pile of rejected accounts from current sales reps – or goliath accounts given to them by management in the hopes that a fresh face can finally close the deal, even if every other rep has tried and failed. These difficult accounts not only make it hard for new reps to meet sales goals and expectations, but also discourage them and can lead to early rep turnover, even for otherwise spectacular sales reps. Make sure to assign new reps with opportunities that can bring them some early successes, then start adding in the more challenging accounts.
4. Unrealistic Goals
There is no greater way to discourage top performers than to place unrealistic expectations on them once they have found success. This is truest after a year of incredible success. Sales management may look at the success achieved in the previous year and attach a goal to increase those accounts by 10 percent in the next year. Depending on the business, goals like this can be unrealistic and incredibly discouraging for top performers used to surpassing sales goals – as they may not be able to surpass, or even hit, those goals in the subsequent year. Make sure to set goals that are attainable and realistic to keep your sales staff motivated and constantly achieving success.
The personalities employed in the sales profession are notorious for chasing after the biggest, best opportunities – including those that result in a personal career change. Do not operate under a delusion that your top sales reps are not being recruited by your competitors. They are. All it takes is a competitor offering more money, more opportunities, a greater product, or better sales tools, and your star sales rep will be placing a letter of resignation on your desk. Keep your sales reps from defecting by providing not only a good compensation structure, but also superior sales tools that will help them achieve their goals. Compensation opportunities without the ability to achieve them are worthless, and your sales reps will quickly learn whether or not the success they seek is attainable.
Sales rep turnover affects a technology company in a number of ways – ranging from decreased company morale and sales to increased customer dissatisfaction and hiring costs. But, with the proper goals, expectations, and sales tools, you can motivate and encourage your sales reps to succeed faster and further than your wildest expectations.