5 Ways to Prevent Sales Reps from Saying “I Quit!”

There is nothing more frustrating for a sales manager than to have a senior-tenured sales rep resign.

Many companies are coming to realize that the #1 reason why productive salespeople leave is because of their relationship with their sales manager. The decision sales reps make to quit your company doesn’t occur in an instant. When there is too little coaching from the sales manager and very little feedback (other than negative), a salesperson becomes gradually disengaged with what is going on. He or she perceives they are not growing and they begin to wonder if the grass may be greener somewhere else.

Here are five things sales managers can do to prevent sales rep attrition:

1. Adopt a teaching mindset

How do you do that? Simple: you just do it. Decide that, going forward, you will coach at least one rep every day before lunchtime. Make it a priority and do it now! To make time for more coaching, limit the amount of time you spend on your email. Or, better yet, delay looking at your email until after you have coached somebody.

2. Provide more accurate feedback

Nothing can be more destructive to a relationship than to make vague generalizations or judgments during a one-on-one. Be specific in your comments. If a salesperson is not updating CRM on a daily basis then that is what you need to say to him or her—not something like, “You are not supportive of company management.” Stick to the facts and you will be a better sales coach.

An effective coaching conversation is based on what you actually observed, not on generalizations. If you make general statements, you sound judgmental, which will tend to make people defensive.

3. Instruct your new hires to ask you for coaching when they need it

Since your goal is to speed up the development of each salesperson, you want more coaching moments. That means don’t limit coaching to only when you want to provide it. Teach your salespeople, and especially new hires, that they should be comfortable asking for coaching whenever they are unsure or simply want help thinking through their strategies.

4. Support your “B” players

Think about a salesperson you would consider a solid “B” player on your team. Can you remember the most recent occasion in which you provided this rep with one-on-one developmental coaching?

Your B players have the energy and skill-set to be selling enough so many sales managers don’t consider them performance problems, so it’s likely you don’t work with them as much as the poorest performers (who need the most help) or perhaps even the best performers (who are working the biggest sales opportunities). But B players are the hungriest for coaching and development, and can become disengaged if they don’t get it. Not good.

5. Teach your admin people to be very careful about the information they share with callers

Here is how a headhunter/recruiter once obtained the names of the top salespeople in my sales office:

He called my receptionist and said to her, “I’m a lawyer downtown and one of your salespeople was out here a few months ago to demonstrate your copier to me. Now, I think we’re finally ready to do something. Trouble is, I misplaced your salesperson’s card and can’t remember his name. But I do recall that he told me he was the #1 producing rep in your office. Do you know who that is?”

Receptionist: “Does the name Ed Jones ring a bell?”

Recruiter: “No, it doesn’t. Perhaps the person I met with was your #2 rep. Any suggestions?”

Thereafter, every time a new receptionist started for us (which for many businesses is quite often) we made sure to share the above story, and emphasize the importance of keeping information regarding the sales team secret.

Losing good performers is bad for any business. Use these five strategies to help prevent it in your company. And think like a leader: As Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) described in Jack: Straight From the Gut, “In GE every day, there’s an informal, unspoken personnel review – in the lunchroom, the hallway, and in every business meeting.” That’s because GE wants to make sure that their employees have the feedback they need in time to use it for the customers’ benefit.

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Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.