Are your top sales reps going to jump ship?

Think your top salespeople are about to be poached by competition? Here's what you can do to keep them loyal

BY JAMIE SCARBOROUGH

In the inaugural edition of our “Great Canadian Sales Survey”, salespeople across Canada were asked: “Would you ever go to work for your company’s biggest competitor?”  The results showed that 58% of sales people would do just that. This raises 3 important questions:

  1. What are the impacts of losing a top performer to the competition?
  2. How do you identify which of your reps is most vulnerable to be wooed away?
  3. How do you ensure your best people stay loyal to your company?

1. Top sales performers are your organization’s most prized possessions (and your competition’s biggest threat). Losing a top performer means losing profits, market share, proprietary business intelligence, and competitive edge. However, before you start to get anxious, know that your highest performers are the least likely to leave. Their top accounts, long tenure, and hefty paycheques are not something your competition can easily outmatch. They can be vulnerable to leaving for increased responsibility, so be sure to have a career path worked out.

2. There are many factors that influence an employee’s decision to work for the competition: a better boss, a better product to sell, more sales support, a step up in career level, and most importantly, money. Your poorest performers are certainly vulnerable (they tend to get passed from company to company every 18 months), but aside from some treasured internal secrets, the only thing they can take to your competition is a poor work ethic and a future problem. Let them go and be grateful for the open headcount.

That leaves us with those salespeople in the middle. These individuals may have the top skills, but not the best opportunity for financial or professional growth within your organization. The sales profession should be a meritocracy in its purest form: those who perform deserve (and demand) to advance. If an opportunity for a better territory/account portfolio or increased responsibility is well deserved but isn’t available, that salesperson will begin to look for greener grass.

3. Keeping your top performers loyal is all about making them feel properly rewarded and appreciated. By recognizing achievement and having a competitive compensation structure, salespeople are motivated to give their all. When it comes to career advancement, not all sales reps aspire to become a manager. Often times they prefer becoming a lone ranger with prestigious accounts. The only way to know your employees’ aspirations, are by simply asking them. It’s also your duty to know what your competitors are paying their salespeople – be proactive to make adjustments as your compensation model becomes outdated.

Another strategic way of maintaining loyalty is by breeding contempt for the competition. A person would not begin to support the Habs after years of Maple Leafs support. Same premise.

Non-compete agreements are the most obvious prevention method. These can prevent your salespeople for working for the competition, but it is highly advisable to pay a lawyer to draft one.  You must also consider how that agreement will affect an employee’s career potential – too many stipulations may deter new sales employees altogether.

Ultimately your sales employees are your organization’s soul; bringing energy and enthusiasm to the work environment.  Although they’ll always be coveted by your major competitors, treating them like partners and not revenue lifelines will motivate them to stay loyal to you.

For the love of sales!


Read the version of this article published in ProfitGuide:  How to Stop Your Sales Reps from Jumping Ship