You did it! You finally built a great sales team! They are destroying their budgets, the team challenges each other but gets along beautifully and they are a delight to manage. And then… someone quits. Maybe more than one. What happened?!
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 31, 2023, there were 9.8 million job openings across industries, and the number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs rose to 4 million.
In April 2023, LinkedIn reported a shocking 61% of American workers are considering leaving their jobs in 2023. This number is especially high among the younger generations, Millennials (66%) and Gen Z (72%).
Perhaps worse from a management standpoint, top sellers are being headhunted more than ever. One top seller I know said it was a bad week if they got less than three job offers. Competition for talent is fierce since the talent pool over the last few years has not fully recovered from COVID and “the Great Resignation.”
With those terrifying statistics in mind, let’s discuss ways to keep your top talent happy and wanting to be long-term employees.
It’s Not Me; It’s Definitely You!
We all know the cliché, “People join a company but leave a boss.”
It’s a cliché for a reason. I often hear new hires mention that they had worked with the hiring manager before, loved them, and moved when they moved.
Create a plan to make yourself the type of leader that sellers just can’t leave. There are a lot of aspects that make a great leader, but here are just a few:
- Regularly recognizing and rewarding seller’s unique contributions to the team and the company. It can’t be stated enough. A little, or preferably a lot, of personalized recognition goes a long way!
- Support their autonomy. Give sellers the freedom to decide how they are going to do their work. Give them the Rules, Guidelines, Timelines, and Deadlines, and then take your hands off the wheel and let them do it their way as much as possible. No one likes a micromanager.
- Create opportunities for sellers to develop and demonstrate competence. Sellers need to feel competent and see the impact their efforts have on the team and company. Give them projects that align with their talents, but maybe outside their comfort zone, give them feedback and encouragement, and allow them to develop new skills to help them shine in their job.
Listen Up People!
Sellers, and everyone else, are more likely to stay in a position and with a company and manager if they feel heard, so leaders all need to practice active listening.
One definition of active listening is: “Fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker."
Active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening - otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.
Interest can be conveyed to the speaker through verbal and non-verbal messages such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue. By providing this 'feedback' the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and communicate more easily, openly, and honestly.”
Active listening is a skill and like all skills, some people are naturally better at it than others, but it’s a skill that anyone can learn with practice.
Here are a few ideas to try:
- Listen with purpose. Focus on the seller, stay alert to their body language, and don’t talk until they are done talking.
- Ask questions, repeat what you heard to show you were listening, and take notes to make sure you didn’t miss anything important.
- Practice your non-verbal communication skills. Put away anything that might distract you, make great eye contact, and pay attention to your body language, staying open and interested.
According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees said they would stay longer if the company was invested in their career development.
Everyone, and sellers more than most, crave recognition and upward mobility. They want to learn, grow, and be challenged and that often involves moving up in the company. What is their version of moving up? Ask them!
To facilitate this conversation, ask them the following questions:
- What is their dream? What do they see in their future, not just professionally, but personally. Understanding their vision can give you clues as to what drives them and where and how they see themselves and their future. Do their dreams align with the career trajectory that they are on?
- What is their beacon? What do they see as the pinnacle of their future career? There is a good chance that no one has ever asked that question, but helping them to define, for you and themselves, what they see as their professional high point can give them purpose and direction.
- Once you both understand their vision, what is the first thing they need to do to get closer to that becoming a reality?
Once you have answers to these questions, the next step is to discuss a career action plan for them. If they don’t see that next step with your company, there’s a good chance they will look for a company that can provide it. Help them see their next steps are with you!
Spend some time brainstorming how you can become a strong leader, one who creates long term team members that just won’t leave.