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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Ten Ways to Retain Top Performers and Improve Performance


After spending over a decade helping sales organizations select highly talented employees and coaching those salespeople and sales managers to turn talent into performance, I have discovered what I believe are two undisputable truths:

  • A shockingly high number of people are not engaged at work.
  • Talented people who leave their jobs usually point to their manager as the problem.

The latest numbers from Gallup tell us that 70% of our employees are disengaged in their jobs and a recent study by SAP and Oxford Economics revealed that one in five of our top performers are likely to leave their jobs in the next six months!

This means it’s not enough to hire highly talented people into your organization and it’s not even enough to put them in the right positions so they can effectively use their talents (although both of these things are critical!).

Once hired, these talented people need much more from their manager in order to consistently feel engaged and fully realize their potential.

So what can you do to increase employee retention and maximize the performance of your people?

  1. Assign accounts and responsibilities that line up best with each individual’s natural strengths and behaviors. Fill their plate with things that are a great match and will inspire them.
  2. Make sure that your company and your team has a very clear mission that everyone can get behind and articulate. When asked about their job or their company, team members should find they feel a strong sense of inspiration as they provide the answer.
  3. Find out what is truly motivating employees to get out of bed and come to work every day. For every seller, it is something different. Are they motivated by money, recognition, or being #1? Once you determine what really motivates them, you can create incentives that tie in with their motivations.
  4. Ask employees how they want to be treated. Make a list of the things you will need to know in order to individualize your coaching, and then ask them every question on the list. How do they like to celebrate successes? When they are struggling, how do they want you to offer your help? Will they come to you with things that are on their mind or should you make it a point to ask them instead? What do they expect of you as their manager this year? What do you they think you expect of them?
  5. Work with them to set meaningful goals and help them to track their progress. Show them how invested you are in their success.
  6. Inform them. Don’t just tell them “what” they need to do; talk with them about “why.” Get their buy-in, ask their thoughts, and show them that they are a critical piece in the bigger picture of what you are trying to accomplish.
  7. Pay attention to them. Attention and retention go hand in hand. Let them know they are important to you and to the mission of the organization.
  8. Spend time with them to develop their natural strengths. Don’t try to coach them from behind your desk; go out in the field and watch them in action.
  9. Don’t let them stagnate. Once you firmly understand their strengths and weaknesses, push them outside of their comfort zones in areas where they are sure to succeed. Recognize their success and reward their growth.
  10. Give them specific feedback on what they are doing right. And do that often. Did you know that the average person needs five positive comments before they are really open for one piece of constructive coaching? They also need to hear positive feedback from you at least once every seven days. We call that the “5-7 Happy Hour Rule.”

By consciously giving some attention on strategies to retain top performers and help them boost their performance even higher, you'll discover that you're able to grow not only your team, but also your revenue.

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Topics: sales performance Sales